Will use funds to pursue degrees in S.T.E.M.
Story and photos by Ariyanna Norman
Fifteen beautiful black young ladies, each dressed in a pure-white ball gown with matching gloves and pearls, were the epitome of achievement, elegance and grace at the Phoenix Chapter of the Links 2016 Cotillion. This year’s theme was “The Unforgettable Princess.” Every debutante embodied the theme in her own special way as she turned heads and allowed her inner and outward beauty to leave an impression on the audience. These talented future leaders graced the dance floor of the Mesa Marriott on the evening of March 26.
The event began with a cocktail reception and dinner. Susan Casper and Marion Kelley, emcees of the ball, announced each young lady and gave a detailed list of her academic achievements, community service accomplishments along with other accolades.
While they spoke, the debutante came out from behind velvety black curtains and stepped onto a staged adorned with white roses. As she smiled and curtsied, her father met her at the stairs and guided her to the dance floor. The debutantes also received a white rose from a “rosebud” volunteer, which was then given to the debutante’s mother. The parents then presented their daughter to her escort who guided her around the dance floor. One by one, each girl had a very special moment in the spotlight.
After the debutantes were introduced to society, they all danced with their fathers to Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” as family members captured the precious father-daughter moment on camera. The debutantes then performed two dances with their escorts: a traditional waltz and a partner-dance with a modern twist that involved shimmying and dabbing.
Jetaun Marie Booker, who was awarded a $2000 scholarship, said the dancing was her favorite part of the entire experience. “Even though we had to go to rehearsal two and a half hours every single Sunday, it actually was fun – actually performing it for everyone. So that was really the best part,” said Booker. She will be attending Xavier University of Louisiana in the fall, which is an HBCU. She plans to study pre-med in order to become an OB-GYN.
“I’m really excited about it. I really wanted to start early with scholarship money,” said Nyomi Hudson after being awarded a $1000 scholarship. The high school junior, who started a non-profit to help children who are terminally ill, also plans to study pre-med. Her favorite part about the cotillion was making friends. “I live in a predominantly Caucasian area so meeting other African American girls who look like me was nice,” she says.
Ashley Small, who was awarded a $1500 scholarship, said she was “extremely grateful” that the Links awarded her money to pursue her education. She was accepted at North Carolina A&T but she needs to earn as many scholarships as possible since she will be required to pay out-of-state tuition. Another future doctor, Small plans to major in biology for the pre-med track with the goal of becoming a pediatrician. “I just hope they keep doing this because this was fun,” said Small in regards to the entire experience. She decided to participate in the cotillion because her mother was also a debutante.
Ayanna Peterson has applied for several scholarships but the $2000 that the Links awarded her is the first that she has won. Her father encouraged her to apply telling her the Links are a coalition of Black women who do community service and celebrate Black heritage. Peterson decided that she definitely wanted to be involved. She plans to double major in pre-neuroscience and cognitive science and public health or psychology at the University of Arizona.
Young ladies interested in participating in the next cotillion should be sure to contact a member of the Phoenix Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. The website is at www. phoenixlinksinc.org.