Thursday, May 21, 2009

Teaching Etiquette & Self Respect To Students Through Ballroom Dance

From (Flint, Michigan):

Unique programs teach etiquette, self-respect to students in Flint Schools of Choice

Posted by Kristin Longley The Flint Journal May 20, 2009 16:29 PM

FLINT, Michigan -- Elegant in a floor-length purple gown, 19-year-old Chinanna Brown spins around the makeshift ballroom floor, her hand held gently by 15-year-old Joshua Odums.
Chandelier earrings dangle down her neck, and she giggles delicately as they practice the box step minutes before their upcoming performance Wednesday.

"The most important thing is to lead the lady, but you also have to be the lady," instructs Joshua, his seriousness belying his youth. "You have to be the soft gentleman she wants you to be."

Ballroom dance lessons aren't a usual occurrence for Flint Schools of Choice students. But these teens belong to two unique programs designed to teach etiquette and self-respect. The young women are part of the DIVAS class -- Developing Inner Values to Achieve Success -- which is offered through the school's teen pregnancy Continuation Program. The male students belong to Men of Standard, an at-risk teen mentoring program.
The students in the two programs came together Wednesday for a formal tea and dance demonstration at St. Michael Catholic Church.

The programs teach the teens how to interact positively and treat each other with respect. The young women also learn life skills that will help them support their families.

"This program is awesome," said LaQuinta Boone, 17, dressed for the occasion in a long violet gown. "People treat us differently sometimes just because we're Schools of Choice and we have kids. Yeah, we have kids, but we have standards as well."

The ballroom dance lessons taught student Cameron Watkins, president of Men of Standard, how to be "smooth," he said as he executed a slide across the dance floor.

"Some women say 'Just because you put on a suit doesn't make you a gentleman,'" he said. "But after being in the program, you can't say that no more because I'm a gentleman all the way. I know how to treat a lady."
The women in the program are primarily taught by Yaisha Lockett-McCants, known as "Mama Ya" by her students. Her main goal is to help them be independent and successful.

Part of the lessons include telephone etiquette, dining etiquette and business know-how.

"A lot of people look down on young parents so we teach them self-esteem," she said. "We're telling them 'Believe in yourself. These are tools that nobody can take away from you.'"

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