I’ve watched Amazing Grace Etiquette grow. I’ve watched the organization groom little girls with its annual Princess Tea Party in Midtown, and polish and empower teen girls through the Raleigh Police Department’s summer Charm School.
As AGE celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, I’m excited to witness the first-ever crowning of the 2014-15 Miss Amazing Grace Etiquette. The ceremony is at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Brier Creek Country Club.
And the queen is – Victoria Mims, a 14-year-old freshman at The School for Creative Studies in Durham. Mims was 4 when she attended AGE’s inaugural Princess Tea Party, an annual event designed to teach dining etiquette with lessons and practice with a formal meal. Then, Mims was named Little Miss Etiquette Princess Tea.
It’s not a competition, really, or even a pageant. And looks and fashion and talent don’t really matter, either. It’s all about the three Es: etiquette, elegance and excellence.
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“Our focus is not on the visual, but on those really important internal pieces,” said Donna Corbett, AGE’s founder, executive director and lead etiquette trainer. “It’s not about being pretty. It’s about initiative and doing the right things; having a positive attitude and being a hard worker in school, church, extracurricular activities and the community – and it’s about what you do to empower other girls.
“I want people to know about good girls out there who are smart and who are doing great things.”
In addition to winning a $500 college scholarship, the first-time queen will represent AGE at events such as the Southern Women’s Show and parades. She will serve as an AGE junior board member and spokesperson during visits to nursing homes and activities for the organization’s Adopt-a-Grandparent and Feed the Homeless programs.
She also will represent AGE during next summer’s Charm School, a program Corbett instructs for the Raleigh Police Department. It is designed to rescue young girls at risk of choosing paths of destruction through lessons on self-esteem, social poise and the tools of academic excellence.
It’s all familiar to Victoria, who has helped represent AGE for a decade now.
“I’m very excited, and I’m a little anxious, too, to see how it’s going to turn out,” Victoria said. “I really look forward to it to urge more people to get involved because I’ve learned that to earn respect, you have to give respect, and you have to show kindness throughout your day and in all parts of your everyday life.
“Etiquette will take you very far in life. It’s key.”
AGE will crown four queens in 2015: Little Miss Etiquette Tea Princess, Jr. Miss Etiquette, Teen Miss Etiquette and Miss Amazing Grace Etiquette.
Although she didn’t have a crowning ceremony, Teresa Basaves is the reigning Teen Miss Etiquette, a title Corbett awarded through the police department’s Charm School. This year Teresa was named the Charm School’s Intern of the Year and has been invited by the program’s IBM partners to intern at the company next summer.
Teresa, a junior at Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy, believes the annual crowning itself will empower others.
“It will motivate other young girls to be young ladies and not become something they don’t want to be,” said Teresa, who attends classes at St. Augustine’s University and has her sights set on college there. “I’ve changed. I have a better self-esteem now, and I’m more dedicated and motivated to continue with my education and not drop out.
“This experience with Charm School and Amazing Grace Etiquette has convinced me I’m capable of succeeding, and I’m able to accomplish whatever I put my mind to.”
Corbett guides that process for many young girls with a simple concept that eludes too many of us.
“One of our core competencies to work with young ladies on is to fall in love with themselves to realize they’re special, unique and valued,” Corbett said. “We take care of what we love, so once they fall in love with themselves, they take care of themselves and everything else can fall into the right place.”