Wisconsin class teaches manners, respect
By ANNA MARIE LUX
Mar. 31, 2018
MILTON, Wis. (AP) — When 17-year-old Davis Turk extends his arm for a handshake, he now does it with new confidence.
Turk recently learned how to properly shake hands.
He also learned a thing or two about tying a double Windsor knot and talking to parents when picking up a date.
The Milton High School junior is not alone.
Schoolmates Cullen Kovach, Tyler Hughes and Austin Mathews also have practiced these skills in a class designed to polish their traditional manners and be better people.
The Janesville Gazette reports that "Gentlemen 101" is the brainchild of 35-year-old Derek Henze, who got tired of the decline of simple etiquette and respect while out and about in the area.
Henze, who spent eight years in the Army, is not the kind of guy who complains about things.
Instead, he did something.
"I had an epiphany," Henze said. "I decided to conduct a class on how to treat people with respect and manners."
He drew up a curriculum and linked the free three-hour class to prom. He included information on how to dance respectfully with a young woman and how to reassure her father that his daughter will come home safely. He also offered free tux rentals, prom meals, haircuts, corsages and boutonnieres.
Henze was prepared to foot the bill himself, but so far 12 businesses in Milton, Whitewater and Janesville have donated to the cause.
Prom is a real-life application of good manners.
But Henze wants the basic concepts of respect, how to handle conflict and the belief that no human is better than any other human to stay with his students for a lifetime.
Henze started the class last year in Milton and Whitewater and recently held classes again in both communities. He offered his hands-on instruction to three or four teens per class with the help of mentors from the Milton Masonic Lodge.
A Mason himself, Henze said the class fits well with the Mason decree of "making good men become better men."
"We break the discussion into sections," Henze explained. "We talk about what respect is and how to show respect. We talk about personal confidence and how to build it. We talk about greetings and how to handle conflict as a gentleman."
Cullen Kovach, 16, said he signed up to prepare for prom in May.
"I feel more confident," Kovach said. "I learned how to take a compliment and to be a leader."
Henze keeps the classes small because he must stay within a budget, and he likes the intimacy of a small setting.
He called the class "self-selecting."
Young men who sign up must be motivated.
They must reach out to Henze and explain why they want to be part of the class. Henze then asks for follow-up information.
Later, Henze with other Masons deliver packages about the class to homes of the teens.
"It's a great investment of time and resources that we are committing to these young people," Henze said. "I want to make sure they are truly committed and invested in the course, so when they get here they are ready to learn."
Mason Pat Garvin, who helps mentor the class, called the course fantastic.
"This is not a trap to get them to become Masons," he said. "We have no hidden agenda. The students made an effort to get here, and they want to learn. Derek is not only doing these young men a favor, but their families as well."
After the class, Henze sees a difference in the young men.
"I usually see nervousness when they come in," he said. "When they leave, they are relaxed, more engaged and confident. I've had several parents come up to me and thank me. That's how you know you've made an impact."
A "Ladies 101" class may be taught in the future but not by Henze.
"A couple of women in the community have expressed interest in teaching it," he said, calling "Gentlemen 101" ''very gender neutral."
"At the end of the day, it is about teaching the Golden Rule," he said. "Treat people the way you want to be treated."
Information from: The Janesville Gazette, http://www.gazetteextra.com