Frat helps children learn about etiquette

Melissa Berg

Elementary students were dressed to the nines in ties and dresses, practicing their best manners as they ate in the dining room of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, 228 Gray Ave., Tuesday night.

The 18 children from the Ames Public Schools had the opportunity to eat a formal dinner and get a peek into an ISU fraternity house through the Connect program coordinated by the Ames/ISU YMCA.

As he sat among the fraternity brothers, 10-year-old Josh said he’d love to live there someday.

Matt Luymes, junior in pre-business, sat next to Josh and gave him etiquette pointers to put the napkin in his lap and use the different forks.

“This gives kids the chance to learn table manners and see what the fraternity is all about,” he said.

As 10-year-old Nate sat eyeing blond Amber in her pink dress sitting across the table, he talked with Sigma Phi Epsilon member Mike Malinowsky about girls.

“I like dropping pearls of wisdom on the youngsters in the community,” said Malinowsky, senior in transportation and logistics.

The interaction between the fraternity members and the elementary students was possible, because Maccarone “Diaber” DeClements, freshman in journalism and mass communication, has been volunteering with the Connect program this semester.

DeClements said it was important for kids to have a positive male role model, and he wanted his fraternity brothers to be role models for the kids as well.

“Many of the children in the program come from less fortunate homes, and I also came from a less fortunate home,” he said. “No one was there for me, but I want to be here for these kids.”

The Connect program brings the children together with different people throughout the community, said Debbie Kleitsch, youth service coordinator for the Ames/ISU YMCA.

Cheyrl Inyang, family resource council at Mitchell Elementary, said the program was started four years ago with the intent to expose children to opportunities they may not have had otherwise.

“It’s about making connections to what is going on in the community,” she said.

Every Tuesday afternoon, the kids attend the Connect program to work on homework, skill lessons, game activities and sometimes enjoy a special event.

Transportation is provided and there is no cost to the families because it is funded by the Accelerated Learning Program of the Ames Public Schools.

With all of the benefits the Connect program offers children, Josh said the best part of the program is “eating!”