Cotillion Ball a big hit with parents and participants
August 4, 2017
Encouraged by a cousin who was a past debutante, Sierra Campbell showed up at the Empower. Develop. Grow. Engage. (EDGE) cotillion ball audition earlier this year with an open mind.
It didn’t take long to realise she was in the right place.
Males and females between the ages of 16 and 20 and girls ranging in age from six to nine are exposed to a unique program not offered in a conventional classroom that’s designed to inspire and empower them.
Professionals conduct financial planning, health & wellness, civic duties, Canadian Black History, dance, leadership & time, public speaking, resume writing, dining etiquette & social graces, branding, social media, legal and yoga workshops.
The youths graduate at a formal presentation ball that allows them to gracefully display the protocol and etiquette they learned over the months leading up to the big night. In addition to allowing the participants to discover their elegance, the ball also presents the best examples of Toronto’s Black community.
Campbell maximized the opportunity, combining with her partner -- Tyreke Small -- to capture the individual crowns at the annual event in Scarborough.
The program took the Notre Dame Catholic High School Grade 12 student and avid photographer out of her comfort zone.
“I was shy and kept mostly to myself,” Campbell, the product of Bahamian and Jamaican immigrants, said. “Now, my confidence has been boosted and I have several new friends and useful tools I can utilise in social and professional settings.”
Small is excited about the contacts he made through the networking opportunities.
“I have people I can turn to for advice or career guidance,” said the Thistletown Collegiate Institute student. “That and learning about proper etiquette along with making new friends are my biggest gains from the program.”
Andrea Douglas, the program’s resident choreographer, wasn’t surprised by the pair’s success.
“Tyreke and Sierra displayed leadership and were very focussed throughout,” she said. “They also worked well together.”
Oshane Walker made a discovery during the program.
“I realised I love dancing,” said the Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute who showed off some of his new dance moves at the graduation ball.
Silvia Argentina Arauz encouraged her sons Nicolas and Marcus to enter after learning about it from EDGE ball board member Rosa Berdejo-Williams who is the York University Transition Year program co-ordinator.
“I trust Rosa, so it was an easy sell,” said Argentina Rauz who is the co-chair of the Latin American Education Network. “As Black Latinos, my sons are often questioning their identities and looking for a space where they can feel safe enough to develop themselves. This program seemed to offer that space where my boys would be able to engage with other youths, build holistically and align their academic aspiration with the career goals.”
The brothers attend Vaughn Secondary School and are immersed in sports.
Marcus Arauz aspires to be own a construction company while his brother intends to become an architect.
“Since they joined the program, they talking about how they can work together to maximize their skills,” said Argentina Arauz who is an immigrant from Nicaragua.
Dave and Wynette Hunte said the program offered a platform for their daughter to showcase her natural grace while learning how to network and sell her strengths.
Dominique Hunte, who won the Debutant Commitment Award, graduated from Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School and is enrolled in the University of Ottawa’s biomedical science program in the extended French stream. She aspires to be a dermatologist.
“The EDGE program’s values align perfectly with what we as parents have taught Dominique and what we envision her becoming in the future,” they said. “The excitement that she expresses when discussing what she learned in various workshops is in itself rewarding. She has been emboldened to continue to strive for excellence and with the support of the program’s teachings, she is further prepared to start her post-secondary career. Going forward, we have no doubt that Dominique is more equipped to grab a hold of every opportunity that benefits her success as she propels forward into adulthood. We are so proud of her and grateful that this program exists within Toronto’s Black community and that we can celebrate her growth not only as a family, but as a village tasked with raising our children to be the best version of themselves.”
Retired Canadian Football League defensive back Jonathan Hood was the keynote speaker.
He told the teenagers that the best way to show gratitude is to pay it forward.
“Live a life that empowers others, life a life that builds and warms other people so they can feel strong and do anything no matter what is against them,” said Hood who is a motivational speaker and doctoral candidate at the University of Western Ontario. “Live a life that develops people, communities and yourself. Don’t be someone who is just a taker. You have to give something back.”
The other beaux were Centennial College student Andy Anyaele who aspires to be a computer technician, Justin Bennett who attends Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute, Pickering High School student Jevoy Lawrence, Kristopher Caine who is enrolled at Humber College and Runnymede Collegiate Institute student Akinshaye Bedeau-Bennett.
Aspiring child & youth worker Kelise Allum, Newtonbrook Secondary School student Shalyah Mullings, Daveisha Francis who attends Ajax High School and intends to become a speech pathologist, Simone Pennant of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School, Nevaya Francis who is enrolled at Michael Power Secondary School, Kyanna Lual of Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School and Zoe Amponsah whose career goal is to be a corporate lawyer were the other debutants
A delightful group of juniors accompanied the beaux and debutants.
They were sisters Kiarra and Kianna Macaulay, Aliyah Gloudon, Alyssa Baksh, Jeneilia Johnson, Alanna Valladares-Fountain, Alyssa Hunter, Daijah Daniel and Makayla Kedroe.