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Cotillion program seeking participants for 2nd year

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Applications are being accepted for the second year of a project designed to teach etiquette, and provide educational opportunities for young women.

The Southern Crescent Pearls Cotillion program is set to kick off in August. The endeavor is directed by the Southern Crescent Pearls Foundation, a non-profit arm of the Psi Alpha Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Stephanie Oliver is the chairperson of the cotillion, which is for rising juniors and seniors in high school in the metro-Atlanta area, with emphasis on Henry and Clayton counties. The eight-month program, she said, helps to prepare participants for the future.

"The program is designed to promote academic excellence, community service, social etiquette and graces, and unity in young women through mentorship," said Oliver. "[We teach] life skills they will need to have when they enter into college, and into the business world. A lot of them had never been to a formal tea. We build on those things they were never exposed to."

Participants, she continued, are taught various components of etiquette, such as proper table settings, dinner conversation, interviewing skills, appropriate attire for various settings, and interaction with social media.

Oliver added that last year's class of 14 senior debutantes ,and eight junior debutantes, also took part in a canned-food drive and a clothing drive, to fulfill their community-service obligations.

"The program did benefit them greatly," said Oliver. "The girls appreciated it, and their parents appreciated it even more. We gave close to $8,000 in scholarships. We're doing it again, so that young ladies can benefit from scholarship money."

Laura Scott-Gist, debutante liaison chairperson for the cotillion, said one of the biggest benefits of the program is how it enables the participants to interact with others their age.

"They get to meet other young ladies who are aspiring to pursue their future educational endeavors, because the cotillion is really a scholarship program," she said. "We had a lock-in where we all stayed in a hotel overnight, and got to do some female bonding."

Scott-Gist added that although the majority of the girls in last year's program were there at the suggestion of their parents, they eventually grasped the value of such a concept. Four of the junior debutantes from 2009's class, she said, are returning to the program this year as seniors.

"After they went through the program, they actually found the benefits," she continued. "They met different young ladies they never would have met, and they got to learn things about themselves, as far as how to conduct themselves in a public event."

Scott-Gist is hopeful for a class of 10 seniors and 10 juniors this year.

Applications will be accepted through July 24. The fee to participate is $500 for girls entering 12th grade, and $300 for rising juniors. For more details, call Stephanie Oliver, at (678) 485-6211, or e-mail stephanie_oliver1908@yahoo.com, or visit www.southerncrescentpearlsfoundation.com.