Charm School

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Uke Dynasty Ball, April 2015Thirty-year-old entrepreneur Nicole Credle wishes she could bring to her school the teenage girls who were involved in the infamous gang assault at a McDonald?s restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, in March. In 2007, Credle created Uke Dynasty Charm School for girls in low-income neighborhoods of Baltimore. Credle herself underwent etiquette training by her parents and at her church when she was 12 years old, but it is the trying times of her life that motivated her to start her school.?

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Charm is defined as the power of pleasing or attracting through one?s personality or beauty. Offering two curriculums ? Life Skills and Etiquette Skills ? over a year, Uke Dynasty represents a path to that power. In Life Skills, a communications specialist speaks with students and their parents about social media behavior, including what and what not to post, how to report negative posts and the role parents should play in their daughter?s social media activity. The longer course, Etiquette Skills, focuses on mannerisms, phone etiquette (how to answer and speak on the phone), table etiquette (how to set, sit at and eat at a table), personal hygiene (including ?Woman?s Day,? where menstruation is discussed), bus etiquette, party etiquette and cafeteria etiquette. At Uke Dynasty, girls are also trained in how to address others upon entering a room and how to respect adults. There is also a male interaction component, which, Credle says, is important for girls, especially those who are fatherless. ?It?s very interesting to have the girls meet the variety of males on staff because I need everyone from different perspectives talking to the girls.? ?

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Girls aged 8 to 11 are given the title ?duchess,? and those aged 12 to 17, ?grand duchess.? ?Big Sisters? are assigned to each girl for one-on-one guidance and consultations. At the end of the program, participants have one month to prepare and rehearse for the graduation Dynasty Ball, which is similar to a cotillion and carries a royal African theme. Upon graduation, the girls become ?amiras,? Kiswahili for ?princesses.? ?This means they are officially a member of the Uke Dynasty Charm School, or Dynasty Girls, which we are in the process of branding,? Credle says.?

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Credle, who works with a full-time staff of six and more than 20 volunteers, says Uke Dynasty recruits girls primarily from schools, but also conducts outreach on Facebook and Instagram. ?It went from a sign-up process to a conference in order to know what to expect from the girls. Every girl is different. We go into schools that need it the most. I always say, ?bring me your worst girl,?? Credle says.?

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