Social etiquette class in the works for Bainbridge youth this fall

Published 7:00 pm Friday, July 4, 2014

Grace Christian Academy teacher Allyson Whittaker believes you have to be intentional about how you treat people. Manners and social etiquette aren’t skills someone stumbles upon—they have to be taught.

Whittaker is taking her own beliefs and experiences she’s had growing up in Bainbridge and using them to bring the best out of Decatur County youth with a leadership and etiquette class to be started this fall.

“When you go to sit down at a nice dinner or go to a party where people are networking and you aren’t sure what to do, you need to know how to start working a room,” Whittaker said.

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She noted many youth who leave Bainbridge for work or college are sometimes intimidated when put outside of their comfort zone, including herself. Whitaker’s goal is to help kids in town prepare for those situations.

“Just because you come from a small town and a small community does not mean you can’t be taught the skills to become successful,” Whittaker said.

In June, Whittaker attended training in Athens with an organization called Perfectly Polished, which specializes in etiquette training and social dance. The weeklong course teaches future instructors everything they need to know to get started running their own class.

With training under her belt, she is ready to kick off her own class in Bainbridge.

“Life shouldn’t be about us,” Whittaker said. “It should be about making other people feel good and welcome. That’s what I love about the training and the program that I want to bring to Bainbridge—to prepare kids for future endeavors, whatever they may be, and also to teach them how to be gracious.”

Whittaker’s own inspiration for social etiquette came from her neighbor, Lilo Gainey. A German who moved to the U.S. after World War II with her American soldier husband, Gainey taught Whittaker and her brother how to eat continental style, the different silver and crystal pieces at a dinner table and social dance. The relationship grew so strong she even called Gainey “Grandma.”

After Gainey passed away last summer, Whittaker wants her legacy to be carried on through the etiquette classes she’s bringing to Bainbridge.

“She’s very humble, lives very simply,” Whittaker said. “I starting doing this and I kind of felt inspired by her and her story.”