Mayor’s Youth Council takes on etiquette

Published 12:02 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A course on etiquette and protocol, sponsored by the Mayor’s Youth Council, kicked into session Monday as about 50 youngsters arrived ready to learn how to be model citizens.

The council’s Youth Leadership Core Training Program is presenting the six-week course in Vicksburg in hopes that other places in the state will follow suit.

“It’s not just about talking the talk,” said Mayor Paul Winfield, who formed the youth council when he took office in 2009, “it’s about walking the walk. This is an important part of youth development and every community that is going to move forward has to always be mindful of its youths.”

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The course is offered in two age categories — 7 to 12 and 13 to 18 — and students will be trained by instructors from the Jackson-based Mississippi School of Protocol & Etiquette. They will cover social and communication skills, self-esteem and confidence building, interviewing skills and table manners. Registration ended Friday.

“One of the first things we teach the students is the difference between hearing and listening,” said Jay Pearson, director of MSPE and a certified graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, accredited through the U.S. Department of Education. “Very few people know the difference. Listening is actually when you repeat every word your teacher is saying to yourself in your mind. You’re able to retain more information that way. Just that one powerful technique can truly change someone’s learning habits to increase their learning abilities for the rest of their lives.”

During the classes, business and city leaders will be introduced to the students. The state’s first lady, Marsha Barbour, is scheduled to make an appearance at one of the classes.

The pilot program is offered at a cost of $58.95 to the student.

The City of Vicksburg in Monday’s board meeting agreed to pay $400 to the Vicksburg Convention Center, where classes are being held for the first four weeks. Classes will also be conducted at the Old Court House Museum and City Hall.

About 15 local businesses have signed on as sponsors, and costs are offset by a $6,500 matching grant via Mississippi’s First Lady Marsha Barbour Scholarship for Protocol and Etiquette, said Marie Thompson, adviser for the Mayor’s Youth Council.

So far, Thompson said the council has raised about $5,100.

On Monday, parents were eager to see changes promised in the classes.

“It’s reinforcement from outside the home,” said Polly Smith, whose son, now 11, attended a similar course in Vicksburg four years ago. “When my son went through it, we were really impressed. Because my son was so young when he went through it, it shaped what kind of young man he is.”

This year, Smith enrolled her 8-year-old daughter, Abigail, and hopes for the same outcome.

“When you have someone else show them, they understand it,” she said.