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Cotillion teaching lessons for life to JG Johnson students – PHOTOS

J.G. Johnson Elementary hosted its annual fourth-grade cotillion on Saturday.

It wasn’t exactly a ball to “present” affluent young debutantes to society. Rather it was the culmination of months of commitment and sacrifice by 29 students, their parents and devoted volunteers to put the kids on a lifelong path to success.

Th 9- and 10-year-old kids were identified for the months-long training program in manners, etiquette and ballroom dancing by the school’s staff.

Nye County initially provided $260,000 to bring this program to Nye County schools, but in he past two years, funding to support it was raised through corporate and private donations, and a cake auction at the Moose Lodge on April 8.

“This is something that changes children’s lives. If a kid is going the wrong direction, this pulls them back in a sweet, kind way,” said Tina Trenner, the former Nye County commissioner, and volunteer for the cotillion, who’s worked tirelessly the past two years to secure funding for it.

There was no expense for the families of the kids, who began their cotillion training in October 2022 and spent two hours every other week after school to prepare for the big event.

The two-hour cotillion started with an introduction of the kids, paired up boy-girl, to an audience of family and friends, and Nye County commissioners Ron Boskovich, Frank Carbone and Bruce Jabbour.

A three-course meal demonstrated lessons in proper table manners and seating protocol, followed by a dancing demo exhibiting what the students learned about grace, posture and how to be respectful to partners.

Louis and Laura Barr, instructors for the course, performed a ballroom dance to open the cotillion. The Barrs came in from Las Vegas and taught the kids for the past two years, with volunteer Sharon Crisp, taking up most of the training this year.

Louis Barr acted as the emcee throughout the event.

With more than 20 years experience teaching dance, etiquette and manners, Laura Barr related how their training develops these kids.

“They’re quieter, they’re kinder, they’re interacting in a way that’s not disrespectful to their classmates.”

She’s also seen how this kind of instruction has created successful adults. “Some of the kids we’ve worked with [in the past], actually became dancers later on, and did shows. It helped them with their careers and personal lives,” says Barr.

At the end of the event, the kids received medals and Certificates of Appreciation, signed by Assemblyman Gregory Hafen II.

Trenner summed up the event by saying, “All that hard work and effort, and they found out ‘look what I can accomplish.’ …That extends into their life. Look what else you can do, look what else you can be, just apply yourself, and that’s the whole message.”

Trenner is passionate about the importance of the cotillion, “We don’t have any throwaway children in America, and we have to make sure that we reach every child we can. I want to see this in all of Nye County [schools], in all of Nevada’s counties. I’m looking to hopefully, bring this to the rest of the nation.”

John Clausen is a freelance journalist based in Pahrump.

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