The sophomore Scholars were the only ones at MERIT this morning, and they had a packed schedule of lessons on the 7 Habits, public speaking, and health care disparities. The sixth of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, “Synergize,” was the focus of the first hour. To study this habit, they began by taking a quiz on their personal and professional behaviors. The results of the quiz assigned each of them to one of four categories - banana, grape, orange, or melon - that represent a broad personality group. Grapes, for example, were the most common among the Scholars, and they are generally sensitive and creative and work well with others. Through this exercise, the Scholars worked to better understand their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning and working in a group environment. They emphasized not only their own learning styles but also how they could best communicate and work with people of different personality types.
Next, in preparation for their presentations next week on health care disparities, the Scholars learned about techniques for speechwriting and public speaking. They learned the components of an engaging opening, an effective body, and a memorable conclusion before putting them into effect to write their speeches for next week. They utilized these strategies as they worked in pairs to decide whether the perfect opening for their specific topic should be a story, a question, a quote, or possibly a joke. Then, to practice speaking in front of a small group, each Scholar had to talk for two minutes on a subject of their choice - the topics ranged from family members to sports to clumsiness. This helped to make them more comfortable just with the act of speaking without having prepared anything beforehand. They also focused on the importance of making eye contact with each audience member during the short speech because frequent eye contact is an effective way to keep your listeners engaged and to make them feel important.
The Scholars concluded with a discussion on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Having finished the book, they reflected on the issues it raised regarding the ownership of genes and the health care system. They evaluated the effects of health care disparities on Lacks’s family and touched on the elements of good and bad journalism ethics. The Scholars contemplated what they would have done if they were in the Lacks family’s situation - if they would have asked for compensation for the use of Henrietta’s genes, if they felt they deserved health insurance, if they were disappointed in the American health care system. The discussion was a satisfying wrap-up of the many complex issues and controversies found in the story of Henrietta Lacks.