Belles of the ball: ‘Pearls’ learn, perform dances while raising scholarship money
Seven young ladies from Lawrence will be among the debutantes at the upcoming Fashionetta Debutante Ball and Scholarship Program in Topeka on Nov. 12. They and their escorts, all juniors and seniors from Lawrence and Free State high schools, are among the 12 couples who will be presented at the soiree.
This is the second year of the ball, which was revived last year after a 20-year hiatus.
According to coordinator Cynthia Eubanks, the event is put on by the Topeka chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, “the oldest Greek-lettered organization founded by African-American college-educated women,” she said. “The sorority is founded on scholarship, education, and service.”
The “Pearls,” as the debutantes are called, perform at the ball with their escorts in a waltz and another more upbeat dance, after six weeks of rehearsals. Some of the Pearls will also perform in a talent contest. Afterward, there is a dance and party for the participants.
The scholarship portion of the program awards participants with the highest GPA, highest ACT score, most hours of community service, highest number of ticket sales and highest score in an essay contest, among others. The participants raise the scholarship money through ad sales, ticket sales and private fundraisers.
The Pearls and their escorts also participate in a ACT test preparation class, coordinated with Omega Psi Phi, an African-American fraternity. The Urban League of Kansas City gave a grant for the test preparation, and Kansas University provided the use of a room over five weeks for the class.
“We wanted to see more emphasis on young African-American men through this program as well,” says Eubanks. “Omega Psi Phi is helping young men in high school to get to college and then mentoring them once they are there. We’re appreciative to them and consider it a wonderful opportunity to partner with them.”
Four of the participants are returning Pearls from last year, and Eubanks says that the difference in poise, esteem and presentation is significant in each of the returning students.
“Our primary goal is to increase awareness of the opportunities that are available to these girls,” she said. “We want to encourage them to make that extra effort now for going after schools and scholarships because in the long run, they will be better prepared for the industries they choose.”