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The final five contestants in the Amazing Shake competition were interviewed by four local high school principals and representatives at Incarnate Word School in Chesterfield Feb. 19. Molly Malone, who was named runner up, shook hands with De Smet Jesuit High School principal Kevin Poelker.
The final five contestants in the Amazing Shake competition were interviewed by four local high school principals and representatives at Incarnate Word School in Chesterfield Feb. 19. Molly Malone, who was named runner up, shook hands with De Smet Jesuit High School principal Kevin Poelker.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Amazing Shake competition is a gateway to learning social skills for students at Incarnate Word in Chesterfield

Chesterfield school to send two finalists to national competition in Atlanta

A firm handshake. Eye contact and a smile. Maintaining composure in a conversation.

These skills are highly sought, especially in a digital age. Students at Incarnate Word School recently worked on developing their social competence as part of the Amazing Shake, a national competition to learn about the nuances of professional human interaction.

Jeremy Rose, winner of the Amazing Shake competition at Incarnate Word Parish School, spent a shift at The Home Depot under the tutelage of lumber and building materials department supervisor Jim Kohlschreiber. The competition included several rounds that allowed students to develop social competence and learn about the nuances of professional human interaction.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
This was by no means an easy feat. One hundred twenty-one fifth- through eighth-graders were narrowed down to two finalists via six rounds over a three-week period. In one round, students had to think quickly in a variety of situations, such as dealing with a disgruntled restaurant customer, receiving a strange gift, interviewing for a job, making a dental appointment on the phone and giving a wedding toast. In another round, finalists had to give a short public speech.

Seventh-grader Jeremy Rose was crowned champion and seventh-grader Molly Malone as the first runner up, after both led a staff meeting of employees Feb. 20 at The Home Depot in Chesterfield for the final competition. The two will travel to Atlanta April 17-19 to participate in the national competition at the Ron Clark Academy, a middle school and educator training facility, which sponsors the program.

At the semi-final round Feb. 19, five students were placed before a panel of area high school principals, called “The Judges’ Panel.” Students were judged on how they presented themselves while answering the judges’ questions, such as “What was your biggest mistake, and how did you overcome it?” and “What’s the most challenging thing that middle school students face?”

Duchesne High School principal Fritz Long posed this one to Molly Malone: “If you could solve one world problem, what would that be?”

Molly paused for just a second. “That’s a great question,” she responded. “I would probably solve the problem of poverty. There’s so much of it in our world, and there’s so many people who are born into that environment. It’s really not fair. They did not try to get themselves into that situation. And in trying to get out, they’re trying to survive. … I think it’s really unjust because we’re all humans, and we all deserve a chance.”

In the final round at The Home Depot, Jeremy Rose, the champion, reviewed an employee orientation video before hitting the sales floor. Guided by department lead Jim Kohlschreiber, Jeremy visited with employees and looked for safety issues in the store. He spent most of his shift visiting with more employees, striking up a conversation with one about Catholic high schools, and asking a group of others about some of the safety issues they look out for.

“You’ve made this hard,” Jeremy complimented Kohlschreiber, as he noted how difficult it was to find anything out of order. “This looks great. You’re running a great department.”

Incarnate Word teacher Brian King, who organized the school’s competition, said the skills students gain are invaluable. The school expanded the competition this year to fifth- through eighth-graders, with the hope that they will reinforce what they’ve learned. “I want to create these leaders who have these social skills, that can look somebody in the eye, shake their hand, hold a conversation and impress somebody,” King said. “I tell these kids this is the most important thing you can learn. You won’t always remember the science, but if you remember these skills, you’ll go far in life.”

Principal Lisa Buchheit met Ron Clark Academy co-founder Kim Bearden several years ago at a speakers’ series at St. John Vianney High School and was immediately attracted to what she saw the school was teaching its students. Several teachers from Incarnate Word visited the academy in Atlanta, with more to visit this spring.

Buchheit said she continues to read about employers that are getting new employees, fresh from college, who have academic preparation but lack the people skills to do the job. “The input I have been reading professionally is employers are saying we can train people to do the job, but we need people who can come in and speak and interact with other individuals.”

She said she believes an increase in the use of electronic devices has contributed to the loss of interpersonal skills. Students are encouraged to practice these skills throughout their school day and at home and in public. “We want them to practice daily,” she said. “At school we see our students stop and come up and greet visitors. ‘Welcome to Incarnate Word School. Can I help you with anything?’ They feel comfortable doing it. They’re learning how to read a person that they’ve never met before. How to make the conversation about the other person. How to wrap up a conversation. Make eye contact. Have a good handshake. It’s absolutely critical that we teach these skills and practice them.”

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Amazing Shake competition is a gateway to learning social skills for students at Incarnate Word in Chesterfield 5006

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