Etiquette, confidence and social grace are what seven young Greater Flint ladies will gain after participating in the Pearls of Perfection Debutante Program of the Flint Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. According to Cheryl Thompson, Chairperson of the program, the sorority took over the Debutante Program a couple of years ago from the Flint Quinn Chapel AME Church, the sponsor for 11 years. “The Quinn Chapel decided they could no longer host the Debutante Program,” Thompson reports, “but they didn’t want to see it die, so they reached out to the community and our sorority decided we would continue it.”
“Being a participant in a debutante program is an honor.”
Cheryl Thompson, Chairperson
Chartered in 1954, the Flint Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is an organization of college-educated women committed to the constructive development of its members and to public service, with a primary focus on the Black community. With a strong history of community service, it has played a vital role within Genesee County through partnerships with various organizations.
As to who can apply for the Debutante Program, there is an application process and set criteria, Thompson explains. The girls must be a sophomore, junior or senior in high school, have a 2.5 GPA and must display good morals and character evidenced by appropriate behavior. They must also be actively involved in school and community service, be respected role models and demonstrate future leadership ability.
The group rehearses their cotillion dances on Saturdays at the YMCA.
This is the second year that the sorority has hosted Pearls of Perfection. During the seven-month program, participants attend a series of workshops, cultural events and rehearsals, and perform community service, all designed to enhance their personal growth. Workshop topics include: Living Health, Beautiful You, Etiquette and Successful Marketing. They have the opportunity to practice etiquette at the Mother/Daughter Tea on March 24, where they enjoy a five-course meal at the Redwood Steakhouse & Brewery. Each girl has an escort of their choice who also participates in various workshops.
To meet the community service requirement, the current participants are collecting items for McLaren Hospitality House. “Our sorority has made a commitment to them,” Thompson reports. “We want to give them $1,000 worth of donated items and we are getting pretty close to that goal.”
The culmination of the program is an elegant cotillion, which is a formal ball that will take place on April 20 at the Holiday Inn Gateway Centre. Thompson anticipates that approximately 400 people will attend the event. “The debutantes wear white ball gowns,” she reports. “This is where they are introduced to society.” After each girl is formally introduced at the cotillion, a speaker presents information about their backgrounds, where they go to school, what college they want to attend and what their aspirations are. “The same is done for the escorts,” Thompson adds. “The young ladies participate in three different dances; one with their escort, then with their father and one with their mother using sign language. It’s a wonderful evening.”
“Being a participant in a Debutante Program is an honor,” says Thompson. “Those chosen for our program will be successful in their endeavors, serve as role models to their peers and become future leaders in their communities.” To purchase tickets to the Mother/Daughter Tea or the Cotillion email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 810.288.0958.
After learning she had been accepted by the Pearls of Perfection Debutante Program, Kearston Pearson was ecstatic. The daughter of David and Dee Pearson, she is a junior at Genesee Early College at UM-Flint and is very excited about the opportunity. “I attended the cotillion of a family friend when I was nine years old, and I fell in love with it!” she exclaims. “I knew this was something I wanted to do ever since. I love the flair of it all, the purity and the elegance.”
Kearston has attended all of the workshops and is currently working on making baskets of items for the McLaren Hospitality House. She is especially looking forward to the Mother/Daughter Tea. “We honor our mothers and tell them how much we appreciate how they have helped us grow in life,” Kearston says. They will also test their etiquette skills while at the Tea.
With the help of her mom, Kearston is busy selling ads for the cotillion program book. Both of her parents have been very supportive. She has also been busy rehearsing the special dances. “I’m so happy the Deltas are giving Kearston the opportunity to live out what she has always wanted to do,” says Dee Pearson. “Our relationship has deepened through this program. It has really brought us together.”
What Kearston has gained from the Pearls of Perfection program is a real sisterhood with the other participants in the program and many memories. “This is a great experience to look back on, for myself and my parents and to have fulfilled what I have dreamed of since I was a kid – and to wear the beautiful, poufy white dress.”
Photography by Kayce McClure