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Good Manners Spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Schools, churches and communities use Judi Vankevich's manners program among children and teens to help prevent or deal with bullying, crime and violence.

Infidelity, rape and murder can be the results of bad manners continued into adulthood, says a woman who teaches people to respect each other.

… October [is] National Manners Month in Canada.

"Marital infidelity is really a lack of manners and lack of respect for other people's property," explains Judi Vankevich, who's known across North America as The Manners Lady. "Just like drug abuse is about people having a lack of respect for themselves."

Langley-based Vankevich believes if you instil good manners in children they'll learn positive behaviours they'll take with them throughout their lives. American-born, she is director of the non-profit group Canadian Project for Manners and Civility, which successfully, and one imagines politely, lobbied the federal government to name October National Manners Month in Canada.

Vankevich is warming up for the month with a public event September 13, 2006 at Carnarvon Community School, Langley. Carnarvon is hosting a theme week September 11th through 15th—Wednesday is Manners Day.

Vankevich will conduct three concerts and workshops, one for children in pre-school and Grade 1, one for grades 2 to 4, and another, called Manners Boot Camp for Teens, for students in grades 5 to 7. All are open to the public.

Vankevich uses music and laughter as tools to teach children and youth good manners that include a lot more than knowing which fork to use. During a phone interview, she broke into song to demonstrate her point.

"If you want a good attitude, show a little gratitude. Goodness. Gracious. Gratitude," she sang before breaking into a rap song.

She also uses the chorus from the Aretha Franklin classic "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" in one of her children's songs, which teaches children to treat each other with kindness.

Vankevich said schools and communities use her program as a preventative method of dealing with bullying and other serious social problems such as crime and violence. Vankevich also helps coordinate the annual B.C. Hamed Nastoh Anti-Bullying Coalition Forum. Hamed Nastoh was only 14 when he committed suicide in March 2000 by jumping off the Pattullo Bridge. He had been relentlessly bullied by fellow students at his Surrey secondary school. Hamed left his mother a letter begging her to end the bullying that drove him to suicide.

Vankevich spoke at an elementary school in Colorado Springs, Colorado on the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. She said the program helps schools teach social responsibility to students.

"Teaching manners is a practical way to make that happen," she said. "It puts the arms and legs on buzz words like social responsibility."

Carnarvon principal Lois Layton said creating a sense of social responsibility is important, which is why the theme days will cover a number of topics.

"Citizenship, social responsibility and manners are things students can take with them post-school," she said.

For more information on National Manners Month, see

Sandra Thomas is a staff writer for the Vancouver Courier.

Originally published in the Vancouver Courier, September 8, 2006.




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