Junior Cotillion in Shelby County

By MIA BASS

Junior Cotillion

Jackie Reames (left) with her son and a class member. Photo by Mia Bass.

A stuffy, dry room filled with curtsies and scripted small talk isn’t the atmosphere Jackie Reames, Director of the Shelby County Junior Cotillion, sets to create in her classes. There is a dress code that includes gloves for the young ladies in Reames’ classes and silver service as well, but there is a larger objective.

The League of Junior Cotillions provides a combination of character education and etiquette instruction. Recognizing the need for appropriate education in this technological age, children learn how social media blurs the lines between business and personal lives. Classes for the Shelby County Chapter start in August.

“It’s about being prepared for the future,” Reames said. “It might be old-fashioned, but it’s never wrong to open the door for a young lady.” Reames is proud of the difference she sees in the young men in her classes.

Junior Cotillions are typically 3-year programs for rising 5th-7th graders, but Reames encourages interested students to join in any of those years. The years before high school are defining for these students. “They are becoming young men and women,” Reames said. “The people around them are starting to take notice.”

Although there are fewer boys than girls, Reames says the boys enjoy it more than she could have anticipated. One even begged his mother after one class to buy him a new suit. Parents are invited to the class in February where they can learn some of the dances their children have been learning. It’s a special time to share those lessons together.

Reames said she saw a need for professional development and character building in a fun environment in her community. Being professional in a business setting is a skill that isn’t fostered for children anymore. “It can be something as small as a handshake to set someone apart in an interview,” Reames said.

This is Reames’ second year hosting etiquette classes in Shelby County. A friend of Reames’ from Decatur noticed the manners of Reames’ children and suggested she begin her own chapter of the National League of Junior Cotillions. There was previously no chapter in Shelby County.

Reames explained she homeschooled her children for a while and made the decision early to never accept anything less than well-mannered kids. After thinking it over, Reames agreed to travel to Charlotte, N.C., where she participated in training and became an accredited instructor from the National League of Junior Cotillions.

Since her first season, Reames has been in contact with the Board of Education in order to talk with school counselors and the PTO. She plans to hold a parents’ reception in August, with a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the need for the values she is standing up for in her Junior Cotillion class.

Classes take place once a month in the North Shelby County Library. Each season of Junior Cotillion consists of five classes and two balls. One ball takes place in December and one in April. Each class features silver service, food and drinks. Cost per year is $325.

For more information on registration and classes, contact Jackie Reames at jackie.reames@yahoo.com.

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