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Columbia Business Monthly

EngenuitySC, Richland One More Than Double Number Of “Dress To Impress” Showcases For 2019

Feb 27, 2019 11:34AM ● By Kathleen Maris

Photo: Students model business attire at the 2018 Dress to Impress showcase at C.A. Johnson.

EngenuitySC and Richland One recently announced the expansion of the popular “Dress to Impress” showcase, an annual program that aims to make business etiquette and soft skills fashionable. Initially created in 2014 for students at Lower Richland High School, the enterprise was expanded in 2018 to welcome students from C.A. Johnson, Eau Claire, and Columbia high schools. For 2019, the program will broaden its horizons even further, including students from five additional Richland One high schools, programs, and centers. This year, Dress to Impress (and all that it entails) will happen between the dates of February 26, 2019 and April 9, 2019.

Students from the following roster of Richland One high schools, programs, and centers will be participating in the 2019 Dress to Impress programming: A.C. Flora High School, C.A. Johnson High School, Columbia High School, Dreher High School, Eau Claire High School, W.J. Keenan High School, Lower Richland High School, Olympia Learning Center, and the Richland One Evening High School Program.

Each year, students partaking in the program receive “soft skills” training, new business outfits (to keep), and professional grooming lessons. They also attend an etiquette dinner where they learn about formal table manners and more.

While only a select group of students are chosen to participate in Dress to Impress, the entire student body at each participating school benefits from the learning experience. The grand finale of the program includes a fun, peer-to-peer showcase in which participating students at each school take the stage to strut their business attire and demonstrate for their classmates the appropriate dress for various professional environments.

During each of the nine events in the 2019 showcase series, an emcee will discuss proper business etiquette while leading the audience through each student’s transformation. DJ Prince Ice from The Big DM will be live on stage to provide each event’s soundtrack.

“In 2018, we expanded this program from one to four schools and the response we saw was overwhelming — from our students, to our parents, to those in our local communities,” notes Richland One Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon. “The transformation a student undergoes when participating in Dress to Impress is undeniable, and we are beyond thrilled to once again expand this program within Richland One for 2019.”

"The faces of the students on stage at each showcase says it all," says Meghan Hickman, executive director of EngenuitySC, a regional nonprofit that specializes in managing collaborations between business, government, education and community leaders. "They are animated, excited and - most importantly - confident. Our team continues to be in awe of the students we meet through the Dress to Impress program. We are excited to help bring it to life and to watch its impact amplified by the expansion this year."

Participating students are chosen by school leadership, and each student is paired with a shopping mentor. Committed to teaching the students about professionalism, these mentors are community volunteers from various professional sectors — law, insurance, banking, education, IT, and more.

EngenuitySC is grateful for support from individual volunteers, as well as from four mentor sponsors: Aflac, Colonial Life, First Community Bank, and Dominion Energy. These organizations have committed at least 15 employees each as shopping mentors.

Before the big showcase, students and mentors will meet at Macy’s to learn about business-appropriate attire and pick out the students’ outfits and accessories for the showcase. Each student is allotted a budget that they must mind while shopping – another important skill for young professionals.

Later that night, Dress to Impress students will enjoy dinner at 1801 Grille led by either Georgia Doran, director of office of career management, or Mark Anthony, senior associate director of career development & experiential education, both at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. Doran and Anthony will discuss etiquette and soft skills such as communication and language, personal habits, leadership, and personal branding.

Later in the semester, after the shopping day and etiquette dinner, students will enjoy an outing to Paul Mitchell the School Columbia to have their hair styled and to receive professional grooming advice before taking the stage for their school’s fashion showcase.