Learning etiquette

An upside-down coffee cup led to big opportunities for students at West Mecklenburg High. It was the catalyst for teachers Sherri Moore and Raymond Beamon to apply for a $4,000 Charlotte Hornets Innovation Grant.

When Moore and Beamon were starting the Academies of Hospitality and Tourism and Business and Entrepreneurship, they were invited to the Partners in Tourism Awards Banquet in 2017. They brought one student from each academy with them. At the banquet, Beamon turned his coffee cup upside down before coffee was served. One of the students asked him why he did that. Beamon explained it was because he didn't want coffee. Moore said similar questions came from the students at that breakfast and they realized the students needed etiquette lessons for career success.

"This was a pivotal point for the program," said Moore. "We were flying and building the plane at the same time."

Moore and Beamon started writing a request for the Hornets grant after that breakfast.

The grant is awarded by the CMS Foundation through a partnership with the Charlotte Hornets Foundation.

The grant gave students who are in the academies the opportunity to attend The Finishing Touch: An Afternoon of Etiquette at the Omni Hotel Charlotte. This was a formal luncheon for students to practice learned etiquette and self-promotion.

The grant application explained the goal of the luncheon and what they needed to do to prepare the students for the luncheon. The teachers wrote that it was important to ensure all students are fully equipped to participate in the next-generation economy by developing and strengthening their skills of communication, personal branding, dining etiquette and cultural inclusion.

It took two tries but they were selected in 2017.

"As we build the next generation of working-class Charlotteans, we understand that all students may not desire to enroll in four-year postsecondary institutions," Moore said in the request. "But, many aspire to become the next class of entrepreneurs."

In preparation for the luncheon, students had weekly visits from business leaders. They also visited businesses in hospitality and tourism. They learned proper etiquette for a formal business luncheon.

At the luncheon, students were seated at tables with at least one mentor from the business world. The mentors graded each student on eating, manners, correct use of utensils and table talk. Something else the students needed to do was to present themselves well. Mentors came from Clorox Company, Hilton Hotels, Bank of America, Discovery Place, Discovery Education, AAA Carolinas, Walmart and Maya Hotels.

Sophomore Asad Brown-Roberts said the preparation for the luncheon was different from how he has eaten before. "When we got to talk with mentors and visit businesses I learned so much. It was such a great experience."

The Finishing Touch: An Afternoon of Etiquette luncheon was such a success that Moore and Beamon are hoping to continue it for every student to have the opportunity.