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Manners Luncheon brings out the best in China Grove students

By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
One hundred and nine fifth-graders at China Grove Elementary celebrated the end of their elementary school years with a special event at nearby First Baptist Church Friday.
The Sue Dodd Manners Luncheon honors the students leaving China Grove Elementary as they prepare to enter middle school. The luncheon is sponsored by the Rotary of China Grove.
Dodd is a retired teacher at the school and started the manners luncheon within her own class. A female student from another class asked Dodd if it would be good manners to include the other fifth-graders, and she knew the student was right.
The manners luncheon has now been a part of end-of-year school functions for about 20 years. Even Dodd is not sure of the year that she began the tradition.
The Rotary has made a commitment to support education in the South Rowan area and completely funded the luncheon catered by Debbie Suggs Catering.
The China Grove Rotary also supports both Carson and South Rowan High Schools with an ongoing scholarship. The scholarship is valued at $1,000 per year and the Rotary has promised the same level for four years. Jordan Honbarger of South Rowan and Leland Chapman at Carson are this year’s scholarship winners.
The best writers in the fifth-grade class, based on test scores, were honored by the Pierian Book Club of China Grove. The six award winners were announced by Freda Richards. The winners were Brooke Corriher, Alyssa Douglas, Evelyn Gariepy, Jessica Nichols, Ethan Rhodes and Hannah Stevens.
Taylor Draper, a graduating senior at South Rowan High School, offered special music. She asked the students to remember these times, and to cherish the experiences and lessons learned.
Former assistant principal at the school, Dennis Hobbs, was the keynote speaker. His remarks included listing many of the tried and true manners that he learned as a child and still practices today. He got the students’ attention by staging a cell phone call, talking rudely, and then immediately texting someone when it was time for his speech.
“These are the modern manners that I didn’t have to worry about when growing up,” he said. “Be respectful of others, and give them your attention. Your manners can take you a long way!”
Hobbs is now an assistant principal at Carson High School.
The students have been training on manners and appropriate conversation with Robin Dyson, teacher’s assistant at the school. They were expected to wear their best attire, exhibit proper use of silverware and follow directions of their table leader throughout the meal. The meal included a fruit cup appetizer, chicken and a dessert.
Student Irving Flores said, “I know that I must have good manners to be considered a good kid. I know that manners are important each day, and especially when I will get to go on a date.”
“Going to middle school is a great milestone for our students,” said Christina Coley, fifth-grade teacher chairperson. “This is a time to celebrate growing up and becoming young ladies and gentlemen by learning good manners.”
Student Alyssa Douglas agreed.
“I am excited about going to middle school,” she said. “I don’t always do the best job on manners, but will from now on. It is important because good manners will help us to grow up.”
Asked what this annual luncheon means to her, Dodd replied, “This is really all a tribute to my mother. She taught me that good manners and good grammar will open any door. I am delighted that the luncheon has continued and that the whole community is behind it. I have been fortunate to have worked for a bunch of good principals, including Drs. King and Bloodworth.
“Dr. Bloodworth once told the students that they could dine with kings and queens if they have good manners.”
Dodd looked around the large room in the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church and said, “Many of the young mothers who are here as servers today were once in our classes. I often get calls from boys who might need a refresher on manners for a wedding or prom, and I realized that it was a great way to connect with the children for a lifetime. We just planted the seeds.”
Current assistant principal Ken Hartman allowed the students to offer toasts, and many did. Ryan Lewis toasted the whole student body and staff saying, “I was new to the school and I want to thank everyone for welcoming me.”
Dodd reminded the children, “You and I will always be a part of China Grove Elementary School.”
She then instructed them in the proper method of offering a toast.
Teacher Elizabeth Wolff said, “Many of the children haven’t had a chance at home, so in some cases, school is the best option for manners training.”
Principal Jenny White closed the luncheon by reminding the students, “You can never say too many thank yous. Enjoy each day, learn something new each day, but always use your manners.”

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