It used to be the norm. But in the new millennium, it's the exception.
Five young men from the Thomson-McDuffie Housing Authority mastered the lost art of communication last week.
"Everybody's communication skills weren't as good at first," said Joshua McKinney, 17. "But it got better."
Joshua attended a Youth Leadership Conference in Macon last week, along with Sherdric Grant, 15, Brandon Battle, 16, Ka'Darance Hines, 17 and Jedediah McCauley, 16. The conference was put on by the Georgia Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities and included 150 teenagers who are residents of housing authorities across the state.
Skills taught at the conference included communicating and setting and achieving goals.
"We've heard that before, but usually it's briefed. This was very intensive," Ka'Darance said.
Thomson Housing Authority Executive Director Kelly Evans and Occupancy Clerk Carolyn Andrews and her husband, John, took the teens to the conference.
Mrs. Andrews said the young men learned the appropriate way to meet people, shake hands and make eye contact. Ka'Darance said he learned how nonverbal communication -- facial expressions, body posture, tone of voice, eye contact -- is as important as verbal.
"They really joined in and participated," Mrs. Andrews said. "They weren't just wall flowers who sat back and waited. They made us really proud."
The teens have been working at the housing authority this summer in the maintenance department, funded by a grant through One Stop, according to Mrs. Andrews. Beaming with pride, Mrs. Andrews told how the young men never give any trouble to authorities or other residents. She said they are hard workers with good manners. During the three day stay in Macon, Mrs. Andrews said the young men routinely held doors open for other people and spoke to everyone they met.
"It makes me very proud of myself that she trusts us to take us anywhere," Sherdric said.
Although the youth conference has been held for many years, Mrs. Andrews said this is the first time a group from Thomson has attended. Each of the young men enthusiastically said they'd like to go again next year. They each received a certificate for attending. And Joshua and Ka'Darance were able to use the experience and apply for a college scholarship through GAHRA.
Exhibiting their newly-learned skills, the young men gave detailed descriptions of the lessons they learned through the experience. However, life can't be all work and no play. When asked what was the best part of the conference, five voices spoke in unison -- "Girls."
"We actually had a competition to see who got the most phone numbers," Sherdric said, holding up his cell phone.