Harbor Style June 2014 : Page 55

What Parents Have to Say When Allison Rainey first learned about Cotillion, she was excited for the opportunity to dress up at monthly parties, said her mother, Tracy. Soon, however, Allison fell in love with the whole program. Rather than telling the students the appropriate ways to act in different situations, director Laurie Coventry-Payne showed them by “Now Allison can taking them to different venues, walk into a room and Rainey explained. make conversation “Ms. Laurie, as the kids called her, with anyone.” showed them that the expectations and acceptable behaviors are different if you’re at a dinner party than at an informal party,” Rainey said. In their third season, Coventry-Payne took the students to a nice restaurant and the theater. On the table were “conversation starters” appropriate for that venue. For example, you wouldn’t talk sports at a formal dinner, and you’d talk to your peers differently than you would to adults. At the country western dance, on the other hand, students knew not to expect a special The Grande March at the 2014 Graduation Ball fork for fish. They learned, however. that it was still appr opr i a t e to thank and c om pl i me n t their host. “When I told people my daughter was going to a Cotillion dance, they always thought, ‘Oh, a debutante ball,’” Rainey said. “It’s hard to explain that it isn’t that at all. But it’s so much more than learning which fork to use. It’s preparing them for all the situations they’ll experience in life.” In addition to taking the students to a variety of venues, Coventry-Payne introduced them to professionals whenever possible so the students could see that how they act, their hard work and the decisions they make, determine their future – something that’s otherwise hard to understand at their age, when popularity is important and is determined by other factors. “Before Cotillion, Allison tended to be shy. Now, she looks forward to new challenges and new situations because she knows she can handle them, and she carries herself with confidence everywhere she goes,” Rainey said. The Instructional Dinner at the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club is held during Season II. Benjamin Kamberg received an invitation to join Cotillion, having been nominated by mutual friends of the family whose child had gone through it. “As a sixth grader, Benjamin was reluctant to join Cotillion. But once he got there he enjoyed himself.” “I definitely wanted him to learn etiquette, dancing and to be comfortable in social environments,” said Benjamin’s mother, Jennifer. “Since a couple of his friends Miss Victoria Naskale being led through were doing it, he was okay the archway by Mr. Nicholas O’Donnell at the Season II European Ball. with the idea.” Along with learning to eat properly in different situations, how to start conversations and how to conduct a phone call, Benjamin learned tips such as how to carry a plate and glass and pass out your business card, too, without looking awkward. “Cotillion is a three-year experience, and each year it gets better for the kids,” Kamberg said. “Benjamin’s favorite event was probably the graduation,” Kamberg said, not because it signaled the end of Cotillion, but because of the elegance and grandeur of the evening. “With the girls in long, white gowns and the boys in tuxedos, it’s amazing to see how much they had learned and accomplished in those three years,” she added. How to escort and treat a lady…dressing for success, because how you dress gives people an impression of you…how to conduct themselves in a group…the importance of replying promptly to an R.S.V.P…and following up with a thank-you note. “When I received my thank-you note in the mail, I was shocked,” Kamberg said, referring to the note her son wrote her, at Coventry-Payne’s suggestion, following his graduation. “It’s amazing what Laurie can get our kids to do, and to see them mature and grow. Cotillion takes the awkwardness out of those middle school years.” Kamberg was so pleased with Benjamin’s experience that she’s already planning to send her son Matthew when he is in sixth grade. H ARBOR STYLE | 55

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