BANGS — Surrounded by students in Bangs High School’s ag shop Monday morning, David Bennett told a story about his daughter, Jenny Patrick. Before Bennett allowed his daughter to drive off to college, he insisted that she show she could change a tire on her Kia sedan, all on her own. Bennett didn’t want her going off to college without that skill.

“I do remember that fondly,” said Patrick, who works as the school counselor at Bangs High School.

Bennett, a retired Texas Department of Transportation employee who lives in Goldtwhaite, told that story as he taught students the steps of changing a flat tire. His lesson was part of the high school’s Student Professional Development Day, a series of 25 sessions on a wide range of life skills.

Patrick organized the event and invited professionals to come teach the sessions.  Each session lasted 25 minutes, and each student picked five to attend throughout the morning.

For Bennett’s session — called “Help! I’ve got a flat tire!” — Bennett opened the trunk of a Chevrolet Impala owned by the Bangs school district and pointed out the location of the spare tire, jack and handle, lug nut wrench. 

Bennett also stressed the importance of reading instructions in the owner’s manual since it gives essential information such as where to put the jack.

Bennett did not actually jack up the car and remove a tire, but went over the steps including safety precautions. 

Changing a tire sounds easy, Bennett said, but the task can be “strenuous, dangerous and dirty.”

At the other end of the ag shop, another group of students gathered around the engine compartment of a Ford Mustang as Bangs businessman Mike Stephens talked about vehicle preventative care and maintenance. Stephens covered basics including checking the levels of the oil and other fluids.

Other topics taught in the sessions: banking, basic first aid, basic sewing, college scholarships and essay applications, couponing, dancing, dating laws, decorating on a budget, eating healthy on the go, fender bender/peace officer training, cosmetics tutorial, meeting and greeting manners, rent versus buy, resume writing and job applications, roadside emergencies, self defense basics, sorting laundry, taxes and other grownup forms, the rundown on voting, tying a tie, credit, writing thank-you notes and first impressions.

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“No!”

At the urging of Brownwood police officer Robert Lee, the girls’ shouts in the gym grew louder.

Using himself as a foil in a self defense class, Lee showed the girls some basic steps to take if they felt threatened or uncomfortable by a male who was too close, grabbing them or trying to drag them away.

Lee showed the girls how to escalate their defense if trying to shout away the threat doesn’t work, including a shove to the chest, strikes with the palms of the hands and pokes at the base of the neck — all while being loud to attract attention, and running away as soon as possible.

Lee told the girls the importance of always being aware, having their heads up and looking around, looking confident. Predators look for “soft targets,” Lee told the girls.

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In another part of the school, J.B. Stephens Elementary School principal Candace Wilson talked to a group of students about etiquette to follow when meeting someone and and the importance of making a good first impression.

Stand up when you meet someone, smile and look the person in the eye, Wilson said. She also advised students to be careful about what they put on social media.

Wilson said before she interviews someone who wants to work in her school, she googles the person and looks at his or her social media. “You don’t even get to interview with me if you don’t present yourself well on social media,” Wilson said.

In another classroom, TxDOT traffic specialist Jeanni Luckey taught about roadside safety, including what to do in the event of an accident or blowout. Luckey spoke on other driving issues including distracted driving, seat belts, winter weather, teen drinking and the requirement to move over and slow down for emergency and tow vehicles.

In the school’s auditorium, school superintendent Tony Truelove and his wife, Bobbie, a high school teacher, gave a primer in the art of country and western dancing and waltzing.

“Back it up … right foot … kick … back it up … left foot … kick … left … right …” Truelove called out as he and his wife led two-stepping students across the stage to the sounds of “Cotton Eyed Joe.”

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Patrick said she picked topics for the session based on surveys of students and posts she’d seen on social media from people who wished they’d learned about a particular topic in high school

She said it took about six weeks to plan the event and put it together.

“It went really well,” Patrick said after the event. “I heard good feedback from the kids.”