Pietzsch-MacArthur students put etiquette lessons into action

Elliot Sanders

Pietzsch-MacArthur Elementary schoolteacher Melody McClain says about 89 percent of students who attend the school are living below the poverty level. School lunch programs and other endeavors assist these students in getting the nourishment and education they need, but regular class work leaves little time for other lessons in subjects like etiquette.

McClain and a group of mentors took it upon themselves to teach students proper manners and social skills with etiquette lessons for interested boys and girls, and on May 28 those students put their newly learned skills to the test at a “Ladies’ Tea Party and Gentleman’s Soiree.”

Hundreds of elementary school students decked out in their finest finery joined McClain, Communities in Schools volunteers, other educators and parents at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont for the grand event, which featured Lamar University Coach Tic Price as the keynote speaker.

Albert “AJ” Turner of Turner Red Carpet Events literally rolled out the red carpet for the young ladies and gents as they arrived at the party, each student stopping to strike a movie-star pose in front of the backdrop.

Beaumont City Councilwoman Robin Mouton elegantly decorated the tables where boys and girls sat to sip punch, lemonade or water (rather than highly caffeinated tea). They were treated to burgers and sides before enjoying a piece of celebratory cake for dessert.

Price cautioned students to stay away from drugs and encouraged them to always present themselves in the best possible way, teaching a valuable lesson about image and perception.

“The way you get respect is your appearance,” Price said. “That carries a lot of weight.

“All of you have greatness within.”

Parents Cathleen Alarcon and Derek Chandarjit Sr. were present at the event with their three children, Derek Jr., Destinee Ranee and Derell. Chanarjit praised McClain and her initiative.

“I think the program’s great,” said Chandarjit. “The kids love Ms. McClain. They are very close to her. I think what they put together today is great. It’s something positive for the kids, and it makes them feel special.”

Alarcon said she too has observed the benefits of McClain’s mentoring program.

“It’s gotten them more interested and involved in school,” she said. “They’re improving in school and doing a lot better.”

West Brook students have been helping McClain mentor the children in etiquette, and her own niece, Erin Turk, a 22-year-old LIT graduate headed to Lamar University, also participated. She mentored 11-year-old Kailen Lewis, and although the etiquette program is complete, she is staying on to tutor Kailen in reading.

McClain’s nephew Devon Turk is a Loyola graduate and holds basketball records for three-point scoring as a freshman and overall at the university. He showed up to the event to support his aunt and inspire the elementary school students.

Elliot Sanders, 6, was dressed to the nines in his black and red suit, his school’s colors. He said the same thing about his favorite teacher as all of the other students encountered at the party: “I love Ms. McClain.”

McClain said she loves her student too, and she recognizes what they accomplished in the program.

“I want my kids to be the best they can be,” she said. “My kids worked so hard to be here. They worked on manners, on etiquette and on doing the right thing. They’re amazing, and I am so proud of them!”