A highly successful tradition that began at Jackson High School in 2002 continued on Thursday, January 15 as the Class of 2009 took part in the Senior Seminar planned and coordinated by the Career Technical Agriculture Education (CTAE) Department of JHS.
“We wanted to teach you something you can’t get in the classroom,” said Karin Melvin, CTAE Administrator and driving force behind the Senior Seminar. “After eight years, we know it’s a major success.”
Senior Seminar is about preparing these about-to-graduate seniors for the world beyond high school, particularly the business world. As Principal Duane Kline reminded the students in his welcome to the 2009 Senior Seminar, “You have 84 days at Jackson High School before graduation.” After that 84th day, when they walk off the field after the graduation ceremony, these approximately 200 seniors will become alumni rather than students and will be expected to fulfill the roles of adult citizens.
“When you have it right, you don’t change it,” said Melvin. “Two things we have right at Senior Seminar are two wonderful people-Dr. Earl Suttle and Debra Lassiter.”
Dr. Suttle is the international motivational speaker who provides the message to the seniors in the Senior Seminar assembly; Lassiter is the CEO of Perfectly Polished, who spends at least two days at Jackson High School even before the day of the Seminar teaching the students the social graces they will all need at some point in the adult world. Lassiter pleasantly and succinctly instructs the young men and women in the arts of formal dining, business dress, social conversation, and general etiquette.
She clearly explains the purpose behind the customs, states the rules, and gently explains the assets of avoiding embarrassment and gaining an advantage by impressing others with a knowledge of proper etiquette, whether the others represent prospective employment, scholarship, or social opportunities.
On Monday morning, January 12 Lassiter was at JHS before 8 a.m. and spent the entire day teaching classes and fielding questions in the media center. Lassiter formed her owned company to offer etiquette instruction 24 years ago and currently has 700 students in her regular program of instruction, which includes formal dance.
“If an interview over lunch determines who will be hired, will you get the job?” Lassiter asked the seniors. Later she said, “Body language is 58 percent of communication. If you slump, you tell your dining companions that you don’t want to be there or don’t want to be sitting with them.”
“Everyone can learn to be nice, kind, and respectful,” explained Lassiter. “I love the ‘ta-da’ moment at the luncheon when the students get to use the skills they have practiced; it is the culmination of the hard work that goes before.” Perhaps Lassiter’s strongest teaching tool is her own example of professional attire and grace. On Tuesday, she taught classes on how to tie neckties and instructed the 28 juniors who worked as servers at the luncheon.
Dr. Suttle, who routinely motivates NBA and NFL athletes and corporate executives, launched the 2009 Senior Seminar at the Jackson First Baptist Church with his characteristic high level of energy and interaction with his audience. He urged the seniors to take notes because otherwise 90 percent of information taken in is forgotten.