Safe at home

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: June 21, 2006

HEFLIN – When meeting the mayor for the first time, many people might not worry about where the salad plate goes on the table.

But that’s what 22 high school girls from Cleburne County were learning just before their lunch Tuesday at the home of Heflin Mayor Anna Berry.

“It’s on the left,” said Deborah Mathews, county coordinator for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, who for this occasion was going by the pseudonym, “Miss Manners.”

“There are people who don’t understand that, and they will eat your salad,” she said. “It has happened to me.”

A group of Cleburne County teenagers are participating this week in “Be Extreme,” an annual Extension System workshop aimed at combating domestic violence, empowering young women – and teaching them how to set the table correctly.

“It’s an intensive, week-long program,” said Mathews. “We want them to develop skills to help them just avoid situations related to domestic violence.”

The girls also receive training in leadership, social skills, etiquette and grooming. One of the main highlights is a trip to Dillard’s, where each participant is allowed to choose an outfit free of charge.

Tiffany Poore, a rising junior at Ranburne High School, participated in “Be Extreme” in the summer of 2004. She said she initially applied because of “the free stuff, mainly,” but she added that the experience will have a lasting impact on her.

“I learned that friends aren’t always going to be there and that eventually you need to branch out by yourself and do things by yourself,” she said. “I’ll always remember things I’ve learned from the program.”

The program is in its third year. This year, the selection committee received 32 applications from students at Cleburne County and Ranburne High Schools.

Mathews said the program is not aimed specifically at “at-risk” or low-income students.

“We consider all young people at risk, regardless of socio-economic status,” she said. “Kids make bad decisions sometimes and (the question is) – what can we do to equip them to make good decisions?”

Each day features a variety of activities. Monday, participants received manicures and learned about nail care. Thursday, they will take part in a career round robin with professionals from Calhoun and Cleburne Counties. The program will culminate Friday with a fashion show in which the girls’ new looks are revealed to their families. The keynote speaker will be Julie Love Templeton of Tuscaloosa, Mrs. America 2005.

“They’re just outstanding speakers all week long, it’s really exciting,” Mathews said.

At Tuesday’s etiquette session, Danielle Willis, a rising senior at Cleburne County High, said she thought it was helpful to understand formal table settings.

“I think it’s very important, because my dad’s a minister, and we have these things all the time in the church,” Willis said.

Rachel Roach, a rising eighth grader at Cleburne County, was less enthusiastic about the dining rules, but said she was enjoying the program and getting a lot out of it.

“I’m not a person that’s very formal like (with) etiquette, but I do think it’s important to take care of my skin and nails,” she said.

“It’s been a lot of fun; yeah, it’s been awesome,” Roach added. She said she especially enjoyed the domestic-violence session, because “it got me interested and it’s very motivational.”

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