LAURINBURG —A meal at an place like Masa restaurant in New York City can run well over $1,000.
But for Brionna Galligan and her fellow students, no-high dollar dinner could compare the one served this week at I. Ellis Johnson Elementary School.
Thirty students in the school’s Jet and Royal academies were treated to a candlelit dinner on Tuesday as a reward for progress made this year. The Jet Academy — for boys — and the Royal Academy — for girls — were created to promote well-behaved students who excel academically, fight against bullying and set a good example for the other students in the school.
The academy members were waited on by school staff as well as the Scotland County School’s Superintendent Ron Hargrave and members of his executive cabinet.
“I’ve never been to a fancy restaurant before, I feel like this is a dream,” said Brionna, a Royal Academy member. “I’m excited about everything tonight.”
The dinner that was prepared by the Scotland High School Bagpiper restaurant and included pasta Alfredo and chicken.
The Royals wore their finest dresses and shiniest tiaras, while the Jets wore fitted dress shirts and bow-ties.
“I like wearing the crown and dressing up beautiful, we get to be a good representation for the school,” said Royal member Estrella Diazclemons.
Jet member Sean Harris, agreed.
“We are learning how to be elegant,” said Sean, who was wearing a black shirt with an orange bow-tie in celebration of the season.
Even though the members are only in third, fourth and fifth grade, the students are learning the basics of social skills and chivalry.
“We may be little, but we’re still learning,” said Jet member Gavin Nichols. “Even when you’re big, you’re still learning.”
The students also heard from keynote speaker, Annie Cureton, on how academics, attendance and attitude will lead to success.
“I’ve heard through the grapevine that your grades have improved, that discipline problems have decreased and that you have dressed up from the inside to the outside,” said Cureton, retired educator. “It’s my understanding that when you dress up, you academy members get a glide in your step, a smile on your face, courtesy in your speech and a focused mind on learning.”
Cureton encouraged the students to continue to excel in their academics.
“Education is the key to a successful future and your goal should be to be the very best person you can be,” she said.
The encouraging words helped celebrate the progress made in just nine weeks.
“The dinner was held to celebrate the first nine weeks of the Jet and Royal Academy and really to celebrate the inception of the group,” said Principal Mary Hemphill. “We’re kicking off the second nine weeks and we want to congratulate our students on all the hard work they’ve done.”
The academies were created to promote model students for the community. Every Wednesday members of the Jet Academy wear bow-ties while the Royals wear tiaras. It sets them aside from their classmates and presents them as model students.
“We want to have the students step up into a leadership role,” Hemphill said. “We also want to teach our young girls that they are beautiful, can stand up for themselves and create self-esteem.”
The academies provide the children with social skills and manners, preparing them to build themselves up at an early age.
Hemphill plans on having quarterly dinners for the students to remind them how special being in the academy is. At a final dinner, Jets will receive a blazer and the Royals will receive a sash.
“It will be like a graduation for them and they can go on to be the big brothers or sisters to the next class of academy students,” she said. “Our goal is to have all of the students want to be a part of the groups.”
Hemphill noted that she already has students coming up to her throughout the day asking to join the clubs.
“We’re excited to see it really catching on,” she said. “It’s important they begin the program before middle school and we hope they continue what they are learning, even when they aren’t at IEJ anymore.”
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171.