ALTON — Manners are a courtesy many of us forget, but not for one group of Alton Middle School boys.
The students are members of The Impressive Gentlemen’s Club, an all-boys after-school club that focuses on educating young men on job prospects, etiquette and positivity.
“They really enjoy it, and I often have at least one student come up on meeting days and make sure we are still meeting,” group organizer Assistant Principal Felicia Rush-Taylor said. “There was a group here before I arrived, but when I came to AMS, the group had dismantled. Thanks to the support of the staff here at AMS, especially Dr. Spells, the superintendent; and Dr. Sandbothe, our principal, we were able to start the program again, and it has been fantastic.”
The program aims to start the young men on the path to success by expanding their career interests. The students are interested in sports such as basketball and football, and the program opens up different aspects of these sports, such as being a referee or coach, as well as other careers in fields such as law. After a visit to Alton law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC, where John Simmons spoke to the group, a few of the young men were interested in pursuing a legal career. The group also recently made a trip to Sweetie Pie’s restaurant in St. Louis, getting a tour and speaking to a manager about the business.
In addition to career exploration, the group learns about the importance of being prepared for the professional world. The students wear professional attire once per week to school, and guest speakers prepare them for the business world by introducing etiquette tips and techniques, such as how to conduct a formal business lunch. Students also learn concepts such as integrity and team-building, and the club has volunteered its time to man concession stands and work as ushers at concerts.
The group will continue next year and Rush-Taylor said she hopes to bring in new speakers to share information about their occupations and visit a local college to speak with student volunteers and professors. She credits all of the speakers who have donated their time and knowledge, school and district employees, John and Jayne Simmons and parents for the program’s success and positive results.
“We set an individual goal with each of the students and follow up with them and their teachers throughout the school year,” she said. “One of the young men made a goal to not be late to class as much, and throughout the year his tardiness improved. The boys are excited about it and seem to enjoy the club, and they have been great about following up on their goals.”