NEW RESTAURANT … SMS Italiano Student Employees (L to R), Laci Walborn, Luke Bettinger, Stella Tyburski, Emma Crow, Mylee Rochelle and Marlee Purdy. (PHOTO BY BILL O’CONNELL, STAFF)
By: Bill O’Connell
Before you get too excited, hop on your computer to peruse this new restaurant’s menu and make dinner reservations for next Saturday night, let me explain. The SMS in the name stands for Swanton Middle School and for just one day, in fact, for just one meal, the SMS cafeteria was transformed into a genuine Italian bistro with subdued lighting, a faux fireplace and soft background music, all designed to create the perfect ambiance for a fine Italian dining experience.
The luncheon was all part of the Swanton Seven Initiative, an innovative program that began last year to help prepare the SMS students for the working world by teaching them “soft” skills needed to be successful.
The main goal here was for the students to work on their manners, behavior and communication skills they would use in a business, formal or even casual restaurant environment.
“We’re following the Swanton Seven having everyone included and we’re doing this to understand manners for luncheons and dinners,” explained sixth grader Laci Walborn who was part of the eager-to-please wait staff. “It’s wonderful. We’re learning our table manners and how to set a table. I think everyone should have a chance to do this.”
For this day, all students were encouraged to dress a little nicer and the servers and waiters, staffed by student leaders and faculty, wore black slacks, white shirts and thin dark ties. There were actually four separate luncheons, one for each of the SMS grades.
Groups of students would enter the restaurant; tell the hostess how many was in their party and would be seated accordingly. The meal began with a dinner salad and a choice of several dressings. Each diner would choose from a menu that include chicken parmesan with pasta or Salisbury steak with mash potatoes and green beans.
All meals, drinks and desserts were brought to the tables by servers and all diners were expected to display proper etiquette during the luncheon.
“I think this is a great opportunity for our students to learn and to use their manners appropriately and to interact with peers and adults at the same time and to show us the soft skills they have learned,” said Kristy Zieroff, SMS Language Arts teacher.
The enthusiasm and excitement of the students was evident but they maintained self-discipline, spoke in quiet tones and behaved as they were in a five-star restaurant instead of a school cafeteria.
“It’s going fantastic. I’m super excited. The kids really seem to be enjoying themselves,” said SMS Principal Matt Smith. “Our student leaders are doing a great job as servers and bussers. They’re using their communications skills. They’re working their tails off. It’s great to see.”
The Swanton Seven Initiative is still in its early stages but the desired effects are being realized and the SMS administration and faculty are very anxious to see how these students perform in high school and beyond, as we all are.
Bill can be reached at email@example.com