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From the Editor: All She’s Askin’ is for a Little Respect

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Road rage—all too common in congested Delaware—boils down to this: We’re too frustrated to think about safety. What we’re frustrated about is hard to say, but one thing is for certain: On the roads, civility has gone out the window.

It’s a perfect topic for Being Well writer Lisa Chase, because she believes deeply in common human decency. In addition to her regular job and writing for DT, Lisa spends her time teaching young people etiquette and manners through her Junior Cotillion Program.

“I think society’s values are eroding,” Lisa says. “A lot of people don’t think ethics are important. People don’t need integrity. We’re saying, no, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Lisa operates as part of the National League of Junior Cotillions. Since she started the local program over 2½ years ago, she has taught about 175 adolescents in Kent and Sussex Counties such values as respect, honesty and integrity. In keeping with the decorum demanded during a traditional cotillion, Lisa has tutored her youngsters on how to sit properly, how to conduct themselves at a formal dinner, how to interact with members of the opposite sex—even the art of ballroom dancing. Students prep over the course of five months, then demonstrate their skills at a lavish ball.

But there’s more to it than learning good manners and social graces. Lisa’s real mission is to promote self-esteem. In order to treat others with respect, she tells her students, they must respect themselves first. “How can you show courtesy to someone else if you can’t show it to yourself?”

That notion may be hard for a 12-year-old to grasp at first. “Boys can be a challenge to get involved, but they are the ones for the most part who truly rise to the occasion and end up loving junior cotillion. There’s always an ah-hah moment when they see this will really make a difference in their lives, with dating, with getting that first job, when meeting a girl’s parents for the first time, and on those critical high school and college admission interviews.”

Does it work? Admissions officers at one exclusive private school recently awarded one of Lisa’s students a scholarship because they were so impressed by her comportment. Another placed in a national essay contest about the importance of junior cotillion.

“That’s why I do it,” Lisa says. “I never thought it would touch my life in such a positive way.”

And, hopefully, such training will help end such dangerously selfish states such as road rage. You can read about that on page 51. You can learn more about junior cotillion during special receptions next month. Write Lisa at lisa.chase@nljc.com for more.

Enjoy.

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