The 2021 Pearls of Prestige Debutante Cotillion, sponsored by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA) and The Ivy Foundation, celebrates leadership by Twin Cities Black high school juniors and seniors, who rose to the challenges of the past year.  What makes it unique is that the Debutante Cotillion is occurring in the midst of a pandemic. For that reason and because we are in times when it is important to lift up and strengthen the young people in our community and provide hope, the event will be virtual taking place Saturday, October 23 at 6 p.m. It is open to the public. 

WCCO-TV Channel 4 Emmy-award winning anchor/reporter Shaylee Reaves is The Pearls of Prestige Debutante Cotillion emcee for the evening.

The Debutante tradition dates back several decades, with some Black American families participating from generation to generation …grandmothers, daughters, granddaughters. 

The AKA Twin Cities inaugural biennial cotillion was held in February 2019, however, in adhering to the international organization's safety protocols, the 2021 Cotillion for the Alpha Kappa Alpha- Delta Phi Omega chapter and The Ivy Foundation will be live streamed and will feature recorded aspects, such as the Debs waltzing with their fathers/father figures. 

Despite all the challenges presented by Covid, remote learning, school activity changes/cancellations--- the student participants have come out on top, Cotillion sponsors say. “They’ve maintained leadership standards, required grade point average (3.8) and met their obligations. With nearly all events held virtually, the young ladies still had their voices heard: they were provided with a platform, "Pass the Mic" and expressed what they were feeling.” 

Twice monthly virtual workshops featured Black women leaders from across the country who shared their expertise in areas such as financial literacy, volunteering and philanthropy, career exploration, preparing for college and etiquette. 

The sorority, maintaining tradition, says it is moving forward to make sure the accomplishments of these 18 young ladies are recognized.  

Mary Dedeaux Swinton, President, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Phi Omega Chapter and Dr. Cheryl Anderson, Cotillion Debutante Coordinator talked with Al McFarlane last Tuesday on the KFAI 90.3-FM’s  Conversations with Al McFarlane.

Swinton said the Ivy Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit foundation of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® Delta Phi Omega Chapter. The foundation promotes and supports Twin Cities charitable and educational programs for African American and Latinx communities.

“We annually award tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships to students of color,” she said.

Dr. Anderson said “In the interest of public health, we are adhering to COVID safety protocols for the public portion, therefore, it will be an entirely virtual experience.” 

She said the event is historic is because of the monumental effort and innovation that poured into transitioning a traditional ball into a virtual, meaningful experience for the Debutantes and for all of the attendees.

Anderson said, The Pearls of Prestige is a leadership development, civic and community engagement and scholarship fundraiser program that equips high school juniors and seniors for higher education.

“We have 18 outstanding young ladies from the across the Twin Cities region – the 2021 ‘Pearls of Prestige Debutantes’ – whose achievements will be recognized and celebrated on the evening.

She said students are selected through a call out for applications, with the announcement shared widely  through churches and other faith-based institutions; schools, youth-based organizations; community calendars and word-of-mouth.

“We  review the applications and accompanying letters of recommendation. Once selected there is an orientation for Debutantes and their parents/guardians – and the program is launched, she said.

Debutante Cotillions have been part of the Black community for decades, Swinton said. “For our chapter, this is the second biennial Cotillion, however, it’s the first livestreamed, which allows us to adhere to the guidelines of the AKA corporate offices which ensures the safety of the young ladies and their families.”

“The Twin Cities was fortunate to have annual Cotillions hosted for more than three decades, by the historically Black women’s organization, The Links, Inc,” she said. “Our chapter reintroduced the program and presented more than 20 young ladies in the winter of 2019.”

She said, “What we have is a historical event in that the celebration of the academic achievements, community engagement and of these 18 high school juniors and seniors, that is occurring  during a global pandemic. The leaders of Alpha Kappa Alpha were determined to ensure the voices of these Black young ladies who are dynamic would be recognized for their contributions – all while keeping them safe. We determined that in the interest of safety, in compliance and alignment with our international organizational and CDC and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines, to shift to a virtual, live streamed experience.”

Swinton said the young ladies come from wide range of economic backgrounds. “Each of the Debutantes have a mentor who has walked alongside them throughout the process and has been another adult in their lives. Workshops were developed to help equip the young women to succeed in school, in higher learning, in their future jobs, and in life.”

About Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® (AKA) is an international service organization founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC in 1908. It is the oldest Greek-lettered organization established by African American, college- educated women. Led by International President Dr. Glenda Glover, Alpha Kappa Alpha is often hailed as “America’s premier Greek-lettered organization for African American women.” For more information on Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and its programs, visit www.aka1908.com.

The AKA Delta Phi Omega (DPO) Chapter is located in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis- Saint Paul. For more information on the Delta Phi Omega Chapter and its programs, visit www.akadpo.org. Correspondence to the organization can be emailed to pr@akadpo.org or mailed to P.O. Box 581097 Minneapolis, MN 55458.

About the Ivy Foundation, Inc.

The Ivy Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit foundation of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® Delta Phi Omega Chapter. The foundation’s mission is to promote and support charitable and educational programs within and for the Twin Cities area African American and Latino communities. This is achieved by awarding academic scholarships, and promoting public awareness of academic, educational, and service programs and activities for students and their families.

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