By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Twins Julian and Justin Grant are on a mission to take Birmingham City Schools male senior students to the next level.
The 26-year-olds are founders of Siamese Dreams Next Level Outreach with a mission to educate, enrich and empower the youth by helping them display their talents and prepare for the future.
“We want them to have the sustainable skills [for] . . . the next level,” Julian said.
This month they will award 12 seniors from Huffman, Ramsay and Tarrant High Schools with their J for a J scholarship, which are Johnston & Murphy dress shoes — as well as a pair of dress socks, an embossed portfolio and a shoe-shine kit – and a pair of Nike Air Jordans for a grand prize winner.
Dressing for success should be as big an investment as sneakers, Julian said.
“Students will wait in line and spend their last dime on a pair of Jordans, but they don’t focus on professional dressing, which may help them long term,” said Julian, who is an engineer with Alabama Power Company. “We’re showing them that if you place just a tenth of that attention on professional dressing, learning about it and investing bit by bit on a pair of shoes, a nice shirt, a nice belt, that will go a long way.”
The twins, who are graduates of Ramsay and Alabama A&M, agreed that giving the students a pair of professional clothing is just as important as giving money.
“We wanted to give something that we can physically put in the students’ hands and will be effective. They might not see immediately how this will help them but they are going to need that in the long run,” Julian said.
Appearance is important because it is the first thing people notice, said Justin, who is a technology engineer in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We put a heavy emphasis on image because we know that when you go in professional settings within 10 seconds people can automatically get a preconceived notion of what they think about you,” Justin said. “So, when our students come in we want them to be equipped and have the essentials and knowledge they need for their physical presentation.”
Being well-dressed allows the students to focus “on the questions that are being asked instead of saying ‘does my suit match my tie?’” Justin said. “Although we’re focusing on image, it’s really helping their mindset so that they can perform at their top level.”
The focus of a well-dressed person is two-fold, Julian said.
“When an executive looks at a student who is professionally dressed, they’re not forming something negative; and for the students, the confidence will help. The more confidence they have, the better they do.”
During school visits the twins give seniors tips on how to dress professionally. “Even if they don’t receive the scholarship, they still have the knowledge of what to wear and how to present themselves when the time comes,” Julian said.
Part of the Siamese Dreams program is “Hour of Power”, a day of professional dressing where representatives from Saks Fifth Avenue, Joseph A. Banks and the Shoe Clinic, which specializes in sneaker care, emphasized the importance of image.
“We had about 30 students” for the program, Justin said. “They’re not going to be in suits and ties all day, so we wanted to show them the importance of maintaining their image at all times.”
The students performed a real-life mannequin challenge, where two teams had to dress mannequins for an interview and they were judged by their peers. All of that in preparation for the next level.
“We want to display to the young men the importance of knowing when to transition from one phase of life to the next and being equipped in order to do that,” Justin said.