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Mothers, daughters honored at Hawthorne tea party

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Hawthorne Elementary School's Producing Excellence That Always Leads to Success (P.E.T.A.L.S.) group has never waited until Mother's Day rolls around to thank mothers for what they do to enrich the lives of their children -- particularly their daughters.

The group, composed of fourth-, and fifth-grade female pupils at the school, teaches the young ladies about business and several life skills, including etiquette, how to walk like a lady, and how to boost self esteem. It was started during the 2006-07 school year by fourth-grade teacher Etorsha Reese.

On Wednesday, P.E.T.A.L.S. held its third-annual Mother-Daughter tea in the school's cafeteria. Each student introduced their parents to other students in the room and explained why their mothers are special. The mothers and daughters, many of whom wore matching hats and gloves, also participated in a fashion show.

"It's a way to get parents involved in their daughters' education, and its an equal opportunity for the daughters to do something with their parents," said Reese. "It kind of brings the whole family together."

For fourth-grader Jewel Wilcox, 9, her mother, Contrina, means the world to the youth. "She's beautiful," the youngster said of her mother. She then turned to her mother and said, "I like your smile."

The tea was more than a mother-daughter event for the pair. Since the mothers and daughters were asked to wear hats and gloves this year to give the event more of an English garden party feel, Contrina Wilcox went to her own mother to ask for permission to borrow a couple of hats which belonged to her late grandmother, Ruby McDaniel, who died in April.

The couple got permission to borrow a couple of McDaniel's old red hats. For Contrina Wilcox, it was a surreal feeling. "She was very special to me and my daughter, so it's an honor and a privilege to wear her hats," Contrina Wilcox said. "I feel like she's here with us."

The matching, white straw hats worn by fifth-grader Dashia Yancey, 10, and her mother, Chaka Smith, did not come with any history, but the mother-daughter duo is very close. They also wore matching white gloves that stopped at their wrists.

"We were out doing some mother-daughter shopping when we found the hats and the gloves," said Yancey. "We do everything together. We get our nails done together. We go to the mall together. We go to the movies together. We go shopping together."

Smith added, "We are really close. She doesn't have any other sisters, but she has three brothers and they say she's spoiled because we're always spending time together ... We share a lot of girl talk with each other, and she shows me the latest dance moves."

Even a few fathers snuck in to fill in for mothers who could not attend the tea party.

Army Maj. Mark Brown was one of the dads who attended the tea with a daughter. He explained he has a close relationship with his daughter, Melody, 11, a fifth-grader at the school.

"We have a really good relationship," said Brown. "She's my best friend. We do a lot of things together, like going to Six Flags, traveling, and shopping together."

For her part, Melody added, "He means the world to me."