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Kids learn 'Christian Charm' at school

April 17, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Learning to respect yourself and others is a lesson not always taught to children at home or in school.

To show area children and teens the importance of pride and the social graces, members of the Zion Baptist Church in Hagerstown sponsor the co-ed "Christian Charm" school each year.

The charm school sessions are open to anyone from 7 to 18 years old, said Cassandra Campbell, who runs the program along with other parishioners from the church's youth group.

"It's the stuff that parents and teachers used to teach children but now don't or don't have time," said Campbell.

During the 10 to 12 weeks of the program, participants learn such things as proper grooming, table manners and how to hold a polite conversation. Older students also tackle more weighty issues such as dating, diet, exercise and money management, she said.

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Talks about dating from both male and female perspectives teach teens that they should hold themselves in high esteem and treat others the same way, said Campbell.

The program is based on Christian etiquette books by Wayne and Emily Hunter, she said.

Roniece Petway, 15, of Hagerstown, said she knows that first impressions count and that the charm school curriculum will help give her good foundation.

"Sometimes people won't look any further if they are turned off by how you look on the outside," she said.

"I like (learning about) the hair and make-up the best, said 14-year-old Corina Campbell of Hagerstown, who is completing her second year of the program.

Programs such as the charm school help keep young people's interest and excitement in the church, said Zion Baptist Pastor Haru Carter.

The church's congregation of more than 150 includes about 30 youth members.

In its third year, the charm school starts every March and ends in June. It culminates in a final celebration dinner and fashion show which will be held at the Maugansville Community Center on June 24 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The public is invited and tickets cost $8.

This year there are 23 participants who meet at the church the first and third Fridays of the month for two-hour sessions, Cassandra Campbell said.

First-time participants pay a $15 fee, which includes the cost of the textbook. Those in their second or third years pay a reduced fee. Financial assistance is available.

The classes are split up into three levels for different age groups. Children from 7 to 11 years old are in the first level and receive instruction on elocution, public speaking, posture and hygiene.

The second level is for students from 12 to 14, and the same topics are discussed but to a more advanced degree, she said.

"They learn to walk and talk and have actual conversations in a more formal setting," Cassandra Campbell said.

The third level is designated for ages 15 to 18, and participants focus on more adult topics such as how to balance a checkbook, interviewing techniques, how to dress professionally and dating. Students complete one level and then move on to the next. Students are also taken picnicking, bowling and roller skating to practice their skills.

A test is given at the end of the program to reinforce important points, she said.

The program is taught by several male and female church members who act as role models for the youth, Cassandra Campbell said.

"For the older girls and boys, it helps show them direction and the importance of loving themselves," she said.

Regular rap sessions in which the participants can discuss anything on their minds are also held. During the talks it is important for instructors to listen more than lecture, Cassandra Campbell said.

"Some of these kids don't have anybody listen to what they have to say," she said.

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