Group: Education starts at the table

Group: Education starts at the table

June 15th, 2011 by Rebecca Miller in Community Hixson

Leadership Chattanooga graduates ask residents to participate in a Family Meal Challenge. Sitting from left are Blair Waddell, Rachael Welch, Cara Hicks and Sharetta Smith. Standing from left are Philip Lang, Alex Everley and Heiko Juerges. Not pictured is Dr. Deanna Duncan. Photo by Rebecca W. Miller

As Leadership Chattanooga graduates, Hixson resident Sharetta Smith and Soddy-Daisy resident Rachael Welch are encouraging families to sit down, eat and communicate in an effort to create well-behaved and focused students.

"It is so easy to bring the phone with you to the table and have the TV on and eat without communicating with each other," Smith said.

Leadership Chattanooga participants like Smith and Welch spent 10 months learning different aspects of government and businesses as well as community and social issues in Chattanooga. Toward the end of the program, members were split into groups and asked to create a community project. Their team, educATE, decided to focus on students by creating a Family Meal Challenge.

"According to various sources, performance in schools, crime rate and moral character is directly affected by the level of parental interest and involvement in the lives of their children," said educATE team member Blair Waddell. "Our goal is to challenge and equip parents to be active in their children's lives on a consistent basis by encouraging family meal times through a strategic marketing campaign and supplemental tools."

EducATE members partnered with Earth Fare and Chick-fil-A. The team attended the businesses' family nights and supplied tips and advice for stirring conversation at the table. The team also created a Facebook page for the Family Meal Challenge where they will continue to encourage families by uploading tips and conversation starters. Examples include: "What animal would you be and why?" and "What was your last dream that you remember?"

"I think our project was a huge success," Welch said. "I think we got some people to go back to basics and realize how important family is."