With technology in the hands of most kids these days, some are finding it difficult to use their interpersonal skills with others, including adults, when it comes time to be face to face with another person.

That's why schools such as Model Lab have started a new club designed to give kids the confidence to speak to others. But the club does so much more than that, according to Model instructor and coordinator for extended learning, Jana Mayer.

"This is a brand new club started this year that focuses and helps kids who need help with interpersonal skills, like what do you do when you’re face to face with someone, how to interact with them, how to have confidence to speak in public, how to interview and interact with adults, how to give that proper handshake and make yourself memorable in the correct way," Mayer said.

Mayer said her principal had visited the Ron Clark Academy (RAC) prior to them coming to Model, and thought the things they were teaching would make a great addition to their interpersonal skills toolkit. Mayer did as much research as she could to make the club work.

"I saw it would be something really beneficial to the kids," Mayer said.

A typical club meeting starts with students practicing their handshakes with fellow classmates before working the room and networking for 10-15 minutes. Occasionally, Mayer will line up a professional from the community to come in to talk with the students, including how to interview for a job, the things they look for in a candidate and how to dress.

Working with the relationship between Model and Eastern Kentucky University, Mayer was able to teach students the proper manners and etiquette for eating at a restaurant or buffet.

All of the skills the students have been learning were used when it came to competing against one another for a spot to travel to Atlanta, Georgia, in February to compete in the National Amazing Shake Competition. The club members had to compete against one another in four different challenges that tested their skills.

Only four students, Maiya Bhandari, Will Harter, Gavin Holloway and Hudson Marcum, were able to attend the competition due to the price tag, but Mayer hopes next year that everyone in the Amazing Shake club will be able to attend.

"It was well worth the price tag," Mayer said. "The pictures don’t do it justice because it was really amazing."

Because of the expense, the students sought out sponsors to help fund their trip. The students created a powerpoint to take to different community members to pitch to them why their club was important. Mayer said the students even organized a school dance to help offset the cost as well.

"They created flyers and did everything they could to get people excited. A lot of them stayed after school to put up decorations," Mayer said. "They really took ownership of this."

The three-day competition consisted of workshops for students and teachers to better understand what would be expected during the competition and coaching from RCA faculty to help the students prepare for the challenges, according to Mayer.

After mingling with Ron Clark himself and touring the facilities, students kicked off the weekend experience engaging in several practice rounds in preparation for Saturday’s challenges called The Gauntlet, where students navigated 31 tasks including interviews on the red carpet, performing a monologue, memorizing and presenting a commercial, and answering questions as if he/she were the president of the United States.

Mayer hopes to see her club grow not only within the school, but in the county in other schools as well.

"As a school, this is something I want everybody to go through. These kids need these skills to be successful, and I think everybody needs this experience," Mayer said. "I was really proud of them because they really took ownership of this."

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

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