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A touch of sophistication

When guidance counselors at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School told Necole Salley they were in need of volunteers for their fifth grade girls, she knew what to do.

“I just want to uplift the children and get them to know etiquette in today’s world,” Salley said.

In her mind, it would be simple enough. She would meet with the girls of the fifth-grade class and go over conversation cues, how to make introductions and basic table manners.

These girls, Salley thought, need to learn how to behave themselves in a culture that is more and more ignoring common courtesies.

“We started talking about and making plans, and then it hit me: If I’m doing all this work with the girls, who’s working with the boys?” Salley said.

It became apparent that if Salley were going to teach students etiquette, she would have to teach all of the students.

Beginning in October, Salley began meeting with the students on Saturdays to go over some basics.

“We’ve gone over how to talk, how to look people in the eye, how to shake hands, that everyday etiquette that we seemed to have lost,” Salley said.

It was during these lessons that Salley had the idea of putting on an event to showcase all of her students’ hard work.

“We’re going to have a ball,” Salley said. “I wanted these young men to see when you go out on a date or go out to a formal event, this is what you should do. This is how you should handle yourself. And we’re going to bring in the parents to see their evolvement of these children into these gentleman and ladies.”

While the students loved the idea of having a ball, putting the event together was no small feat.

Salley began calling on friends and family to pitch in.

Salley, whose mother works in a bridal store in Pennsylvania, put in a call to the store and got discounted dresses, bow ties and cummerbunds for all the boys and girls to wear to the ball.

Then, Salley and a team of volunteers put together a series of fundraisers for the students to pay for their outfits and the ball itself.

“They have never had this, this type of event before,” Salley said. “The parents are coming as hosts and hostesses. They will have dinner. They will go to the gymnasium and have their dance. We all pitched in to make it happen.”

The resulting Distinction and Elegance Ball took place Friday night at Mack Benn. While Salley said prior to the event that she knew the children would have a good time, the greatest success has been in their growth this year.

“The kids have just been great to see them,” Salley said. “To see where they started and where they are now has been incredible. I’m just so proud of them and all that they have done.”

“I just want to uplift the children and get them to know etiquette in today’s world,” Salley said.

In her mind, it would be simple enough. She would meet with the girls of the fifth-grade class and go over conversation cues, how to make introductions and basic table manners.

These girls, Salley thought, need to learn how to behave themselves in a culture that is more and more ignoring common courtesies.

“We started talking about and making plans, and then it hit me: If I’m doing all this work with the girls, who’s working with the boys?” Salley said.

It became apparent that if Salley were going to teach students etiquette, she would have to teach all of the students.

Beginning in October, Salley began meeting with the students on Saturdays to go over some basics.

“We’ve gone over how to talk, how to look people in the eye, how to shake hands, that everyday etiquette that we seemed to have lost,” Salley said.

It was during these lessons that Salley had the idea of putting on an event to showcase all of her students’ hard work.

“We’re going to have a ball,” Salley said. “I wanted these young men to see when you go out on a date or go out to a formal event, this is what you should do. This is how you should handle yourself. And we’re going to bring in the parents to see their evolvement of these children into these gentleman and ladies.”

While the students loved the idea of having a ball, putting the event together was no small feat.

Salley began calling on friends and family to pitch in.

Salley, whose mother works in a bridal store in Pennsylvania, put in a call to the store and got discounted dresses, bow ties and cummerbunds for all the boys and girls to wear to the ball.

Then, Salley and a team of volunteers put together a series of fundraisers for the students to pay for their outfits and the ball itself.

“They have never had this, this type of event before,” Salley said. “The parents are coming as hosts and hostesses. They will have dinner. They will go to the gymnasium and have their dance. We all pitched in to make it happen.”

The resulting Distinction and Elegance Ball took place Friday night at Mack Benn. While Salley said prior to the event that she knew the children would have a good time, the greatest success has been in their growth this year.

“The kids have just been great to see them,” Salley said. “To see where they started and where they are now has been incredible. I’m just so proud of them and all that they have done.”