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Etiquette Proteges Graduates Display Finer Points Of Their Education

August 24, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ The best way for kids to escape poverty is to act like they’re not poor, says an alderman who handed out diplomas and $50 checks to inner-city youngsters enrolled in a summer-long manners workshop.

Alderman William C. Henry created his 11-week course in etiquette because he thinks manners are a good way to break the poverty cycle.

″If young ladies and gentlemen don’t know how to act, they can’t ever feel right about leaving the neighborhood to which they were born,″ Henry said before Saturday’s graduation ceremony at a public library.

Five of the workshop’s top students received $50 checks along with their diplomas, ″to give them a start on their clothing,″ he said.

Twenty-two young ladies and 11 young gentlemen politely offered their learned impressions of the finer points of table manners, personal grooming and general regard for others.

″Like when you’re out in a restaurant, you should eat chicken with a knife and fork and not with your fingers - that’s not mannerable,″ said Laquita Crockett, 12.

″I dress like I respect myself now,″ said Ronald Tinsley, 14.

″You don’t want to chew gum out in public because you might have to spit it out on the ground and somebody could step in it,″ said Sharay Brown, 12.

The 33 students joined the class, launched last spring, at their parents’ urging, Henry said. The alderman and a friend, Carolyn Shelton, a professional etiquette consultant, taught the classes at his West Side ward office.

Several classes involved trips to downtown restaurants, where workshop members started ″from the ground up, so to speak,″ with knife, fork and general dining etiquette, Henry said.

The meals were paid for by the Illinois Restaurant Association, while Henry estimates he spent about $2,000 of his own money on transportation and odds and ends, including ″a few hundred″ dollars in tips.

″You can’t learn graciousness without being in a position of bestowing grace,″ he said.

The class gradually moved on to more complicated principles, such as good dressing rules, proper courtesy at job interviews and respect for one’s peers.

″If somebody asks me something now, I try to be helpful,″ Sharay explained.

Henry said he was generally pleased with his proteges’ progress.

″We teach them things that they can use in their own homes and later use to break out of the poverty cycle,″ he said. ″I believe they’re ready to do that.″

He said he plans to start a new class this fall, to be held after school and paid for by contributions.

″Word’s getting around,″ he said.

There may be one drawback to the lessons, according to Sharay, who says people now have higher expectations of the students.

″If I talk back now, I probably get in more trouble than I did before,″ she said.

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