Etiquette can make a significant difference in our day-to-day lives. Whether it is making a good first impression, acing a job interview or even having table manners at dinnertime, utilizing the art of social graces can pave the way for positivity and success. After all, manners never go out of style.
Proper etiquette is about far more than whether or not to eat peas with a knife; it is a way of showing respect to others, as well as to ourselves. This is especially true at the Wayzata Country Club, where each spring, students take part in the annual Wayzata cotillion.
But what exactly is a cotillion? The word itself refers to a formal ball, typically attended by debutantes. But for over 10,000 young men and women each year, it signifies more than that; it means community. Since the founding of the Jon D. Williams Social Education Programs (JDW) in 1949, around 450,000 children and young adults have participated in cotillion education programs in more than 50 U.S. cities, including Wayzata.
The curriculum of the cotillion program focuses primarily on helping students learn to carry themselves with both poise and confidence while also emphasizing the importance of courtesy and respect for others. “The goal is to teach kids skills that will carry them through their collegiate lives and well into their professional lives, as well as their personal lives,” says Cella Morales, instructor and JDW art director. “It’s about social intelligence, how to be a presence of positivity.”
The program also provides students with skills in personal branding and communication, as well as more traditional etiquette lessons in formal dining and dance. For older students, digital etiquette is also a strong focus. Considerate and respectful online interactions are vital in the modern age, as society relies more heavily on technology as a means for communication. With this reliance comes uncertainty regarding netiquette, especially as young people learn how to navigate their personal and professional lives online. “Nothing ever disappears,” Morales says. “Don’t say things that you can’t defend or uphold, things you wouldn’t want inked into your own skin.”
As times change, etiquette adapts, too. From online classrooms to social media, the program emphasizes the ways that young adults can make the best of their internet experience and transform technology into a tool rather than allow it to become a hindrance. “It’s different with modernization, but the rules for interaction aren’t any different,” Morales says. “Treat people with kindness. Treat people with respect.”
The cotillion offers classes every spring at the Wayzata Country Club for elementary, middle-school and high-school students (biannual) sessions typically run for about five weeks from March until May. Participants do not need to be a member of the country club to join.
What’s in a Name?
Did you know that students are not given nametags during the cotillion sessions? There is a reason for that!
“We emphasize to our students that it is their responsibility to take the initiative to introduce themselves to other students and their chaperones without the artificial aid of name tags,” the website notes. “In a typical situation, when meeting new people, they will not have name tags for reference. Accordingly, we believe that young people should learn and practice introductions based on a typical or natural situation.”