By Richard Rourk
Unicoi County Middle School shook things up for the final week of the 2021-22 school year.
UCMS students took part in the “Amazing Shake,” a national competition designed to help kids learn life skills.
“They begin by competing in a gauntlet which has 30 stations,” said UCMS Amazing Shake creator Eleana Sparks Pate.
“They are at each station for one minute each and have to do things such as write a check, address an envelope, explain how to survive a snake bite in the woods, set a table and tie a tie,” Pate said. “These are just some of the stations.”
The skills competition was brought to UCMS by Pate who started the Amazing Shake at Rock Creek Elementary School several years ago.
“The top eight move on to the next round, which is a debate,” she said.
Pate said that the students debate on topics such as ‘“Should all families have pets” or “At what age should a child get a cell phone.”
The top five are selected to attend a business luncheon the next day with people across the county. A cumulation of skills are required in this round to be named the winner of the Amazing Shake.
“They must have poise, character, research skills, communication skills, etiquette, etc. to be the champion,” Pate said.
Unicoi County Register of Deeds Debbie Tittle, who was a judge for the contest, said she was blown away by the skills and the talent the students showed.
“I was so very pleased to be asked to participate in the sixth grade American Shake experience,” Tittle said. “The effort put forth by middle school teacher Elena Pate in organizing the event was tremendous. The students learned life skills they would never experience from a textbook.
“It was a joy interacting with the sixth graders,” Tittle continued. “I was very taken by their intellect for their age. The networking of community leaders and teachers in bringing the event into fruition was tops. It really did my heart good to interact with the students and see the community come together for them.”
Unicoi County Schools Director John English agreed with Tittle’s assessment.
“This program is always one I look forward to,” English said. “I’m always impressed with how well the students do at these life skills.”
Pate noted that she was impressed with the poise that the students brought to the contest.
“The students were nervous but once they participated, seemed very glad they did,” Sparks Pate said. “They learned to have more confidence, make eye contact and have meaningful conversations, which are skills they will need for the rest of their lives. We are hoping to send the winner to the National Amazing Shake competition in Atlanta next March.”