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Class to teach manners

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NATCHEZ — From now on, some Adams County students will know exactly which fork to use when their salads are served.

Jay Pearson, director of the Mississippi School of Protocol and Etiquette, pitched the idea of incorporating the classes into the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Core Training Program to the Natchez Board of Aldermen in late June.

In the last week of September, up to 120 Adams County students will begin etiquette and dining classes, Pearson said Wednesday.

Twenty-nine communities in Mississippi are already participating with MSOPE, including Vicksburg, Meridian, Columbus, Tupelo, Starkville and Southaven, he said.

Adams County students will be divided into two classes, according to information provided by MSOPE. One class will be for ages 7-12, with another dedicated to ages 13-18.

“Kids are so hungry for this wealth of knowledge, and the sad thing is, they’re not getting it anywhere else,” Pearson said.

Participants will learn life skills such as public cell phone etiquette, conversation and listening skills, limousine and prom protocol for teens, interviewing skills for teens, college-bound protocol for teens and an entire section of the program will be dedicated to dining, according to an MSOPE pamphlet.

“When we talk about limousine protocol, we actually bring in a fleet of limousines,” Pearson said. “When we talk about proper introductions, we actually bring in elected officials. When we talk about interviewing skills, we go through mock interviews. When we talk about cell phone interviews, we record their voices and play it back so they can get a sincere understanding of how they’re communicating.”

Pearson said the value of the course per student is $1,350, but the cost has been offset through scholarship funding on MSOPE’s part and through local vendors and community leaders.

Since funds are still being generated for the classes in Natchez, he said, he’s not yet sure which corporate sponsors will be participating or how much the overall cost will be per child, but hopefully, it will be less than $48.

“We’re hoping it will be around $32,” Pearson said. “We won’t know until we know the level of corporate support.

“The reason there is a small investment is we’ve learned that if you give it away, it’s not as valued.”

Generally, he said, the cost is $42 per student, and that is all-inclusive for workbooks and for two meals, including the five-course meal at the end of the class that’s worth $50 per person.

In 11 years of practice, Pearson said, a child has never been turned away for the inability to pay — there’s always been a sponsor who’s willing to pay for a child who wants to step up to take the class to be a leader.

The cost also mandates two hours of training for the participant’s parents, he said.

“If (people) are investing, we also want parents to invest by learning so they can enforce it at home,” Pearson said.

At the end of the classes, which will meet once a week for six weeks, he said, a Mayor’s Youth Council will be chosen from the 13-18 age group.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, which hasn’t existed in Natchez in nearly three years, will represent Natchez across the state and the U.S. in activities in which students will work toward winning scholarships and grant funding opportunities, Pearson said.

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said in the past, a Natchez Mayor’s Youth Council won an award for coming up with a project to better Natchez race relations.

Arceneaux-Mathis said she’d be acting as the liaison between the city and the program this year, and she’s excited to see it get started.

Adams County students who are interested in registering for MSOPE classes can find the application on MSOPE’s website, msope.com, and Pearson said questions should be directed to 769-218-3854.

A local registration day will be announced at a later date, he said.