MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A firm handshake makes a good first impression. It’s a simple thing, but one that often needs to be learned. Students at Milwaukee College Prep start young, and quickly find out a good handshake can open doors.
For 20 MCP students, it opened the doors to the Godfrey and Kahn law firm recently. They came dressed in their best outfits, hoping to impress the professionals who gathered there to meet them.
On the countdown of “3,2,1, shake!,” the students started introducing themselves.
“It's going good. It's very challenging, but it's very fun and it's a good experience,” said 8th grader, Elijah Taylor.
He came to take part in the Amazing Shake Competition. The kids rotate around the room, speaking to professionals, hoping to impress them with their communication skills. These 20 kids came from a group of about 800 at four different Milwaukee College Prep campuses.
Timothy Trzcinko is the dean of students at Milwaukee College Prep Lloyd Street.
“Students here today have practiced things like shaking hands, how to begin a conversation, how to make small talk,” Trzcinko said.
Taylor is one of the finalists who made it here for the competition. His passion is dance, so he knows how important a good first impression can be.
“My mission statement is to just be the best I can be and be a great example for those who are watching,” Taylor said.
Marvin Bynum is one of the people watching. He’s also the attorney who brought the competition to the law firm.
“The first year we did it, everybody fell in love,” Bynum said. “Fell in love with the kids. Fell in love with the entire concept, which is really just to help these kids develop these soft skills.”
Soft skills are the things students need for their futures, such as college and job interviews.
“It's very typical for our 8th graders to have to interview for high school, so it's a natural connection to then say, how do you interview? You can't just show up and interview, there's an actual skill set,” Trzcinko said.
Bynum remembers being the shy kid on the other side of that handshake.
“I was a smart kid and I liked people, but I was a little nervous in a one on one setting so I would have loved to have something like this to help me get better at that, at that age,” Bynum said.
And that’s exactly what Elijah is getting to learn through this program.
“It really prepares us for the world in the future,” he said. “And future opportunities.”
Taylor’s skills helped get him to the next round of the competition.
In February, four students from Milwaukee College Prep will go on to the Amazing Shake National Competition at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I think that's the biggest thing, just breaking down the barriers of the intimidation,” Bynum said.
And Bynum hopes he’s showing by example, what’s possible.
“You can have a really great job, work with really great people, just by being yourself, and being confident,” Bynum said.