Young Harlem Leaders Learn Rules of Engagement at Red Rooster

As Mary Crane, stood in the center of Red Rooster’s Private Dining Room, dozens of little eyes were focused on her, intent on not missing any gesture or detail from her next phrases. The gestures and advice that was dished out would normally not catch the attention of this age group (around 17-18 years of age), but those eyes were fixed and at full attention. Ms. Crane went on to explain the proper way to place your napkin on your lap, which bread plate and beverage belonged to your place setting, and even the American vs. the European way to hold and use silverware. The girls of the Young Women’s Leadership Network watched, took in the suggestions, nodded in agreement, exchanged giggles amongst each other and put these “rules of engagement” into practice.

Last night, Red Rooster was home to the Senior Dinner for the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN), a network of 5 all-girls public schools that provides economically disadvantaged girls with a high-quality college preparatory education. This particular group of high achievers chose to do an internship as their Senior year project and were being rewarded with a private dinner at Red Rooster Harlem.

Not only was this dinner a reward for their hard work, but also the culmination of other prep and etiquette classes that the girls had been receiving throughout the year from Mary Crane. This was the perfect opportunity to practice for a future business or formal dinner. The night began with a warm welcome and chat from Marcus and his explanation of different types of restaurants and dining scenarios. The Private Dining Room also proved to be the perfect intimate setting in helping the girls of the YWLN feel comfortable in practicing their new skills, as well as gave them a chance to experience an elegant dining setting that many of them had never experienced before last night.

Board Member of YWLN, Phyllis Weaver helped planned last night’s dinner and was so pleased to host it in the same dining room where past Presidents like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton ate, and, as she says “where our future Presidents might be sitting in right now.”

The night went on, and drinks and dishes were ordered all with properly executed etiquette on all the girls’ behalf. Ms. Crane, however, prefers to not use the word etiquette in her teachings. “I like to call them rules of engagement,” she says. All of which prove to be not only of interest to attendees like seniors Samantha Patron and Ashley Jackson, but also of great importance as practice for potential formal dinners in the future. “The internships we participated in can help open doors for us with future employers and also helped prepared us for future internships that we’ll have to do in college,” said Samantha and Ashley. Both girls interned for the Children’s Aid Society where they got to interact with children, as well as learn skills in an office setting. Samantha and Ashley wish to go on and study business and communication, respectively.

When asked why she chose to work with the girls at the YWLN, Ms. Crane admits that it’s hard to say no to teaching such a smart, determined, and inspirational group of young ladies. “How could I say ‘No’?,” she said. “My sole goal of these lessons is to provide these amazing girls with just one more tool that can help them say, ‘I can do anything!’”

For more information about the Young Women's Leadership Network, visit their website here

Photos: Jeannette Park