Before they even step foot into high school, students from Dundee Ridge Middle Academy will know how to give a proper handshake, work a room and hold their own in an interview. It’s the result of The Gauntlet, a new competition at Dundee Ridge that’s designed to teach students professional skills, so they’ll be ready whenever an opportunity presents itself — both now and in the future. “At Dundee Ridge Academy, we place an emphasis on teaching our students communication, self-management, social, thinking, research and reflection skills,” said Kerri Collins, the school’s testing coordinator and creator of The Gauntlet. In an International Baccalaureate (IB) school like Dundee Ridge, those assets are known as Approaches to Learning. “This annual contest allows us to test our students on the Approaches to Learning, and other important soft skills through a fun and interactive experience,” Collins explained. This year’s inaugural Gauntlet began with 80 students (each coached by a teacher and family members) who took part in a “work-the-room” elimination challenge, where they were given 60 seconds to make a good first impression while meeting with 10 different leaders from the local community. On the second day of the challenge, the remaining 40 students participated in a series of exercises designed to immerse them in real-world scenarios dealing with career dilemmas. The third and final day of the contest ended with six Gauntlet finalists tackling an ultimate challenge: using proper table etiquette and conversational skills during a meal with the school’s administrators. “Everybody was motivated to support each other, and we saw parts of personalities in kids we don’t normally see — how they worked together and cheered each other on,” Principal Stacy Gideons said. “They did a great job, they were very polite and well spoken. They took it seriously. They’re already asking when they get to do it again.” The answer is next semester. But first, congratulations to the inaugural Gauntlet champions: Yailyn Medina (sixth grade), Keysha Tavarez (seventh grade) and Ashton Sanz (eighth grade). Medina says The Gauntlet “has totally motivated me for what I can achieve in my future.” “It was nerve-wracking, in a good way,” she said. “Only pressure makes diamonds.”
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