Sophisticated Ladies strive for excellence|“I am a smart, special, valuable person. I respect myself and I respect others. My words and actions are kind and honest. I accept only my best in all I do. I am proud to be me! I am a Sophisticated Lady!”

Published 4:11 pm Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lifestyles & Features Editor

CHOCOWINITY — A group of well-dressed young women assemble in the cafeteria of Southside High School.
They’re greeted by a beaming Chynna Bonner, the group’s advisor, who leads them in a recitation of the club pledge.
It’s time for the weekly meeting of Sophisticated Ladies, which Bonner describes as a mentoring program that cultivates developmental life skills.
“Sophisticated Ladies affirms, educates and empowers young ladies to believe in themselves, make good life choices and succeed as contributing members of society,” Bonner said.
Sophisticated Ladies chose signature colors, lemon yellow and navy blue. There is a dress code; the young ladies are required to dress as they would in a business setting, such as a nice dress or pants outfit.
“The group started in February, and attendance has not waned,” Bonner said, a note of pride in her voice. “It’s open to all four grades and participation is voluntary; we average between 45 and 50 each week.”
There are multiple goals in having a group such as Sophisticated Ladies, Bonner said. Participants are encouraged to develop a positive attitude and see themselves as a unique and worthy person. They learn to manage their feelings, practice self-control and demonstrate cooperative behavior in groups. Group discussions focus on those topics and others, including character development, financial literacy, responsibility, stress management and scholarship.
Guests are invited as speakers each week. Topics have included health and wellness, abstinence, setting boundaries, financial responsibility and self-esteem.
Involvement in one’s community also is emphasized. Group members appeared in Blounts Creek’s Easter parade, and several have expressed an interest in taking part in Aurora’s Fossil Festival parade. They’ve volunteered for a political campaign, and four members were contestants in the recent Miss Beaufort County/Miss Summer Festival scholarship pageants.
Although Sophisticated Ladies is Bonner’s idea, she insists it isn’t a one-woman show.
“School nurse Angela Wooden and bookkeeper Denise Garris are involved with this, and we have several volunteer parents helping with the program,” Bonner said.
Senior Aleshia Little said Sophisticated Ladies is a welcome addition to the Southside High School campus.
“I enjoy the meetings every week,” said Little, who’s missed just one gathering because of illness. “We are all starting to see things bigger than ourselves since we have been a part of Sophisticated Ladies.”
The group stresses good character and positive personal qualities, Little said.
“I do believe that each and every lady had these qualities in them before the group, but it took this group to bring it out in us,” she said. “I look at myself and other ladies in different ways now.”
Little said Sophisticated Ladies has been a highlight of her senior year.
“It really brightens my spirit when I go to the meetings,” she said.
With the school year nearing an end, the Sophisticated Ladies will gather Tuesday evening for a pinning ceremony. Brandy Lee Grimes will be mistress of ceremonies, and Watsi Sutton has been invited to be guest speaker, Bonner said.
Each Sophisticated Lady who attends the ceremony will receive either a certificate of participation or a certificate of completion, depending on how many meetings she attended.
“And those who have perfect attendance and a 2.5-grade-point average at the time of the pinning ceremony will also receive a yellow rose, our signature flower,” Bonner said.