Teen wins Junior Cotillion essay contest



Amelia Banks Rivers and Rosalyn Boyd, director of the Coweta and Fayette chapters of the National League of Junior Cotillions, display Miss Rivers’ award from the National League for her winning essay, “What Junior Cotillion Means to Me.” 

If there’s one thing Amelia Banks Rivers has learned from Junior Cotillion it’s to not burp at the dinner table. At least that’s what she tells Polly Proper, the subject of her award-winning essay, “What Junior Cotillion Means to Me.” 

“Good books have good characters and that’s how I came up with the character of Polly Proper,” said the 13-year-old Newnan resident. “I also wanted to use alliteration. It’s funny because her name is Polly Proper, but she’s not proper at all.”

No, she’s not. So Miss Rivers encourages her fictional character to join Junior Cotillion. Miss Rivers learned proper manners through a program of the Coweta and Fayette chapters of the National League of Junior Cotillions under the guidance of director Rosalyn Boyd. The program focuses on teaching social graces to fifth through eighth grade students once a month at the Newnan Country Club.

“We teach specific manners like how to present yourself to others, how to firmly shake hands with people, how to make introductions, and table manners, which is really big today in our rushed society,” said Boyd. “They’re really exposed to skills they can use for a lifetime.

Classes also cover interviewing skills, and the traits of noble character such as honesty and integrity. In addition to teaching etiquette, Junior Cotillion also offers dance instruction.

“We teach the basics of ballroom dance,” said Boyd. “We teach a slow dance, a fast one, a waltz, and maybe a Latin dance.”

Upon graduation, students celebrate with a five-course dinner and dance. The boys don tuxes and the girls wear white dresses. 

Since its inception 20 years ago, the local organization has trained more than 5,000 students. Boyd was the recipient of the award as the National Cotillion Director of the Year in 2003.

Over the past year, Miss Rivers has been able to use her cotillion training on her travels to six of the seven continents with her parents, Todd and Helen, and her two younger siblings. 

“No matter what country I was visiting this past year, I felt more confident to meet new people, shake their hand, and make good eye contact,” said Miss Rivers, who has been home schooled for the past four years. “Miss Rosalyn helped me to see that this is so important when meeting someone for the first time. Having good manners is like knowing a universal language. They are always appreciated no matter where you go, and they give you the confidence to feel comfortable and to make others feel comfortable, too.”

Miss Rivers plans on using her $500 award money to attend summer camp at Robotics Explorers in Atlanta. Here’s her winning essay, submitted as a poem.

“What Junior Cotillion Means to Me”

By Amelia Banks Rivers

Polly Proper wasn’t proper.

She wasn’t proper at all.

She slurped and burped at dinnertime

And danced badly at the ball.  

One day I said to Polly Proper,

“You really ought to go

To Junior Cotillion

Where you will learn all you need to know

About the waltz, thank-you notes,

And how to set a table.

With a little bit of practice,

Soon you will be able

To move with grace

And speak with ease,

Even dine with the President.

But… no burping, PLEASE!

Junior Cotillion is like

A training ground for life

Where you learn to get along with others

Without any struggle or strife.

Above all, dear Polly, I want you to know

What Junior Cotillion means to me.

It helps me to grow and blossom into 

The young woman God wants me to be.”

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