Many of the young girls in the newest debutante class in Niagara Falls have bigger challenges in their lives than practicing curtsies and writing thank-you notes.
Their urban neighborhoods in Niagara Falls are far removed from the traditional debutante programs from the days when families of means would formally introduce their young daughters to the world.
But in the Rev. Vanessa Scott’s eyes, teaching her young charges how to move through the world with self confidence and grace is the inheritance they deserve. She believes it will not only make their lives better, but enhance the communities where they live, as well.
“We’re teaching the girls everything from basic life skills to social graces,” said Scott, who runs a program called the Naomi/Ruth Mentorship Project Debutantes program through God’s Women Ministries, which she founded about 15 years ago.
The program, named for the mentoring relationship between Naomi and Ruth in the Bible, is led by Scott with the help of her sister, Joyce Sconiers, who was a debutante in Niagara Falls in 1974. Sconiers remembers the experience with delight, especially the Debutante Cottillion, a formal party where the debutantes are introduced.
“It was a lot of fun. All the girls wore white ball gowns,” recalled Sconiers, who is now a social worker. “But these days, nobody seemed to be doing debutante programs anymore and we wanted to bring them back.”
But the Naomi/Ruth Debutantes, led by a reverend, will be more about faith and less about fashion.
“We want to teach the young girls to realize they have so much more to give and that there’s so much more to life,” Sconiers said.
Recently a dozen or so girls met at the Beloved Center, 1710 Calument Ave., in the heart of the city’s newly renovated assisted housing community, dubbed “Beloved Community.” Representing a wide range of ages, some of the older girls spoke about what the program brings to their lives.