Mentors give Orchard Knob students a classy dinner

Mentors give Orchard Knob students a classy dinner

December 16th, 2017 by Emmett Gienapp in Local Regional News

Twelve-year-old Keyshawn Castro pulls out a chair for Jamaya Tipton, 12, during the Guys and Ties, Girls and Pearls event at Broad Street Grill in The Chattanoogan on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The event was organized by Chattanooga Public Safety Coordinator Troy Rogers and offered Orchard Knob Middle School students a fine dining experience.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

Tashayla Fitten, 14, helps 13-year-old Emanuel Woods tuck a napkin into his collar during the Guys and Ties, Girls and Pearls event at Broad Street Grill in The Chattanoogan on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The event was organized by Chattanooga Public Safety Coordinator Troy Rogers and offered Orchard Knob Middle School students a fine dining experience.

Tashayla Fitten, 14, helps 13-year-old Emanuel Woods tuck...

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

Any young lady who finds herself on a date with Keyshawn Castro almost certainly will be spoiled by the experience.

With a megawatt smile and a bow tie, he'll pull out your chair when you get to the table and make sure the waiter refills your tea while you're in the bathroom. And he's only 12 years old.

Keyshawn demonstrated as much at the Broad Street Grille on Friday afternoon, ensuring that the three girls seated at his table, fellow seventh-graders at Orchard Knob Middle School, didn't want for anything during their lunch.

A group of mentors and educators treated a couple dozen Orchard Knob students to a unique dining experience to celebrate their work over the school year and reinforce the occasional lessons in etiquette they've received over the last several months.

The boys were given bow ties and the girls were given pearls before going through the buffet to fill up on a smorgasbord of dishes.

"This is nice for us because we get to experience what it's going to be like to go out when we're older," Keyshawn said with a grin. "We get to see what it's like to take out a lady and act sophisticated and proper."

The students are in a mentorship program with community leaders and professionals who regularly spend time at the school to check in and build relationships. Participating mentors hope the face time will push students in lower-income communities toward success down the road and expose them to career opportunities they may not have considered.

Keyshawn's sentiments were echoed by Todaijah Watson, 12, who said her time with mentors has been hugely valuable.

"We've learned so much from them, like how to be a lady. How to be respectful to our teachers," Todaijah said. "I think it's going to help us all through our lives."

She said she's learned it's best to not talk back to her teacher when she's frustrated, because the stakes are only going to get higher when she leaves school and enters adulthood.

"If you've got a boss you don't like and you say something bad to them, then you're going to get fired. Just keep it to yourself," she said.

One of the mentors and founder of Y.B. Normal, Logan Taylor, said Friday's event was part of a longer mission to impact and cultivate the lives of the young people who may find themselves with their backs against the wall, confronted by poverty and violence in their communities.

"They need somebody to love on them and to pour into them," he said. "If you walk with a person for an hour once a week, it can change the direction of their lives. It's amazing what happens when someone is given a chance to get ahead in life."

April Boozer, executive director of Fathers to the Fatherless and one of the event's organizers, said she was glad to see it come together and praised the mentors for their work.

"If it weren't for these guys being here and mentoring, this wouldn't be happening. It takes a community, and we're doing this basically to celebrate the kids and expose them to what might be a different environment for them," she said.

As for the pearls and ties, she said, "When you look good, you feel good."

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at egienapp@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.