Do you think that young people today need improvement in social behavior? Are you impressed to see a youngster extend a right hand for a handshake? Do you still believe that character, honor, dignity and respect are skills needed by all people? As a parent do you desire to have these skills re-enforced somewhere else besides home?

One Arkansas woman, Susan Humphries, believes etiquette is worth teaching to middle school children. She says if they learn at an early age the virtues of showing courtesy, they will carry it with them into adulthood. "The thing that I try to instill in them is that if you have manners, you are someone who is kind and considerate to others — for manners is simply learning to be kind to all people in all situations," Humphries said.

Humphries will begin her 20th year teaching etiquette to sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth graders. She is director of the local chapter of National League of Junior Cotillions, an organization that emphasizes social and etiquette skills for young ladies and gentlemen through monthly classes and special events. She has taught more than 7,000 students during the past 20 years.

Humphries is well aware that some of the children may not be enthusiastic about learning to fold their napkins toward their waist at the dinner table, and she admits that children may drift back to some bad habits when they leave her program. Still, she believes the manners they learn today will assist them in the future. "When it comes time for a scholarship interview, job interview or even that special school dance, it will come back to them," Humphries said. 

"Great confidence comes automatically when one knows the proper way to do things. No child should have to experience that awful feeling of uncertainty in social situations. And in today’s competitive business world, correct social behavior is a strong and valuable asset," she added.

Junior Cotillion provides structured training designed to put teenagers at ease and help them develop poise and confidence. It helps them learn ways of interacting socially with peers of the opposite sex and gives them opportunities to practice good manners in an enjoyable, non-threatening way.

Boys and girls who join Junior Cotillion meet once a month during the school year for a dance/class. The class is instructive in etiquette, covering topics such as telephone manners, paying and receiving compliments, acknowledging gifts, making polite conversation, table manners, respect, sports etiquette and self-confidence skills. In addition, they follow a program of dance instruction at each function, learning all standard ballroom dances such as the waltz, foxtrot, swing and cha cha, plus the latest popular dances. 

Twice a year, the Cotillion sponsors semi-formal dances, including a Holly Ball and a Spring Ball. The semi-formal affairs feature favors, decorations, prizes and dance cards for gentlemen to use in scheduling dances with the ladies. Junior Cotillion structures its functions so that every young person participates and no one is left out.

The NLJC mission statement sets a goal for all of its students — "To learn to act and treat others with honor, dignity and respect for better relationships with family and friends." 

Cotillion provides an age-appropriate setting filled with their peers to learn in a fun-filled atmosphere the fine art of courtesy and self-confidence. It is not a class on holding out one’s pinky to drink a cup of tea, but rather an extended education in the art of gracious and confident behavior. The kind of behavior that lets one stand out in a crowd — for all of the right reasons.

While membership is by invitation only, the classes are open to any interested sixth through ninth grader in the county. "The purpose of the invitation is to make it special to the child," continued Humphries. 

Late registration is being held now. Parents can reach Susan Humphries at 501-262-5054.