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Eye contact and a firm hand shake

Updated: March 9, 2017

By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools

MURFREESBORO — They each ordered steak — two medium rare and one medium well.

It had been an eventful day for the three Kittrell students, Anahlea Ferguson, Nathan O'Neal and Chase Singleton, who were now preparing for lunch at The Parthenon restaurant.

Along with seven other Kittrell students, they spent the morning of March 8th doing mock interviews with senior management at the Double Tree Hotel. Those 10 students were then narrowed down to the three finalists, who were competing for the top honor in the school’s Great Shake competition.

The Great Shake is a competition started last year at the school by Principal Ynetia Avant and interventionist Ashley Whitaker as a way to teach students the importance of interpersonal skills, such as introducing yourself with a firm handshake, maintaining eye contact and networking with others.

This year’s event started with all the fourth- and fifth-graders at the school — 109 in total — the previous day. The students first interacted with members of the school staff, who narrowed the field of students to the top 25.

Then representatives from the business community narrowed those students to the top 10.

“We invited business people in from around town and they had a meet-and-greet,” Avant said. “The kids had to go around, and basically, see how they could work a room.”

At The Parthenon, the three students had to introduce themselves, maintain good table manners and explain what they love about their school, as if making a sales pitch.

“We laugh a lot,” Anahlea said. “Our school is pretty much our family.”

The students related the history of their school — “It was an old school but it burned down,” Chase explained — and some of the interesting things that have happened during the course of a typical school day. The current Kittrell Elementary School was built to replace the former school.

“Our SRO had to chase three cows one day so we could have recess,” said Nathan, because Kittrell is located between Murfreesboro and Woodbury in a rural part of Rutherford County.

The students also discussed their career interests and what they hope to do when they grow up. Nathan intends to enter the U.S. Airforce, Chase wants to design buildings because he’s good at math, and Anahlea wants to be a biologist to help people fighting diseases.

“My aunt, since she has cancer, I want to do it for her,” Anahlea said.

All three finalists were honored at the school on Thursday, March 9, with Anahlea earning first, Nathan earning second and Chase placing third. 

The 10 finalists in the Great Shake competition were: Samantha Eslick, Alexys Williams, Anahlea Ferguson, Jose Hernandez, Emily Montoya, Nathan O'Neal, Grace Stanley, Taylor Denson, Grace Jerving and Chase Singleton.

 

PHOTO / JAMES EVANS

From left, Nathan O'Neal, Anahlea Ferguson and Chase Singleton enjoy lunch at The Parthenon in Murfreesboro as part of the Great Shake competition to help students learn interpersonal skills.