History and Origin
The word "débutante" refers to a young lady making her debut in society.
The British tradition rose to prominence at the beginning of the previous century and was finally discontinued by Queen Elizabeth II when she came to the throne.
Traditionally, the daughters of British aristocratic families were presented to the reigning monarch at Buckingham Palace when they came of marriageable age (usually 17 or 18), at a special "coming out" ceremony at the beginning of the social season.
The débutante could only be introduced to the King or Queen by a female relative, usually a mother or aunt, who had herself been presented at a previous ceremony. The young lady was required to dress entirely in white and wear three ostrich plumes in her hair. Once the débutante had thus been officially launched in society, she could be approached by eligible suitors from other aristocratic families. The system was regarded as a means of introducing young people to each other, for the purpose of encouraging inter-marriage to keep the blue-blooded generations pure.
From this tradition arose the more fulfilling scheme (in other countries) by which a young lady on the brink of adulthood and referred to as a débutante, could utilise the opportunity to raise money for charity through a variety of innovative schemes.
Hence our present Grade 10 Débutantes' fund-raising programme and the presentation at the Débutantes' Ball in the third term of the school year.
The main purpose of the programme at St Mary's DSG is to raise money for charity, to equip the girls with the necessary business skills, and along the way to help them garner invaluable lifeskills.
Who are the Debs?
The Débutantes’ Programme is an annual focus of fun, fund-raising and entrepreneurial endeavours amongst the entire St Mary’s DSG family i.e. girls, staff, parents, PA, Old Girls, friends of St Mary’s DSG and outside sponsors.
The style in which the programme runs is a drastic breakaway from the traditional fund-raising undertaken by schools, because the main aim of the Débutantes’ Programme is to teach many different life and business skills as the first priority. The means by which we do this is group fund-raising amongst the Grade 10 group.
All Grade 10 girls will be Débutantes, working together in their Tutor Groups of 15 to 16 girls and pooling all their skills, energies and resources to raise as much money for charity as possible.
The Season will commence with the Débutantes’ Launch and culminate with the Débutantes’ Ball – a spectacular gala event to be held early in October. There the Débutantes will hand over contributions to various charities such as Irene Homes and be presented to the Bishop of Pretoria.
The Aim of the Programme
Over the past few years, the Débutantes’ Programme has developed into an all-inclusive life lesson. It is also seen as a rite of passage for all girls at St Mary’s DSG.
Within the programme the girls are given the opportunity to explore various aspects not only of their own characters as young ladies in an ever-changing modern society, but also how they are accountable to their greater community.
The main purpose of the Débutantes’ Programme at St Mary’s DSG is to raise money for charity. Hhowever the programme aims to teach these young ladies a number skills and values:
The débutantes are required to do the following throughout the year:
Isn’t raising all this money too competitive?
Over the last few years, the amount raised by the Débutantes has continued to rise. Although this acts as a spur to encourage the girls in their endeavours, it could also be seen as a cross to be borne. To avoid this, each year, a reasonable target amount is set, based upon what each girl can raise. In order to spur the pupils into action, the groups do compete with one another. At the end of the year, one group is awarded the title of being the winning group. The pupils assess and vote for the best débutante in their respective groups and nominate the overall winning débutante of the year. This assessment and voting is performed according to strict criteria, which tie in with our values here at St Mary’s DSG, namely: commitment, co-operation, respect, responsibility, equality, honesty, tolerance and school pride as well as achievement orientation, charm, consistency, creativity and originality, enthusiasm, effectiveness, loyalty and reliability.
(N.B. It has to be stressed that the amount of funds raised by individuals does not form part of this list of criteria.)
What happens to the money that is raised?
The major charity that benefits from the Débutantes’ Programme is Irene Homes. Also started by the CSMV sisters, Irene Homes is part of the St Mary’s DSG family. Other charities, nominated by the Debs, will also benefit. Finally, an amount will be used to contribute towards the funding of the following year’s Matric Dance.
What do they have to do?
Each girl will be asked to pay a specific amount to open the Group Débutante account and provide some start-up capital for the funding of early events. This money will eventually pay for the Débutante’s ticket to the Ball.
Thereafter, each Débutante group will raise funds towards a group total. The Débutante co-ordinator will maintain records of all donations and collections, but will NOT disclose any details about monies raised at any time, except for periodic reports on the total raised by the Débutantes’ Programme as a whole. To start the Season and explain to parents about the Programme, a Débutante Launch Cocktail Party is held just before half-term. There the Head of the Senior School with the Co-ordinator of the Programme will explain the concept to the girls and their parents.
A Senior School teacher will be allocated to each Débutante group and she/he will meet every Monday with their group to discuss ideas and provide invaluable assistance. They are there to provide encouragement and support; however, the girls themselves are there to make sure their ideas work!
The Débutante Programme promises to be HARD WORK but LOTS OF FUN. We hope that at the end of the Season all Grade 10 girls will be budding businesswomen ready to go out and conquer the world!
A list of some of the charities supported on an annual basis
THE PRESIDENT'S AWARD
The President’s Award is a Youth Empowerment Programme that is run internationally under the banner of “The Duke of Edinburgh International Award”. It was adopted by Nelson Mandela in 1994 (hence the name). There are 3 levels to the award Bronze, Silver and Gold.
Each award has a different level of difficulty in Sport, Skill, Service and Adventurous Journeys, with the Gold Award also requiring a 5-day Residential Community Service project. The aim of the award is to encourage independence and social consciousness, and to help young people to become positive and rounded individuals.
At St Mary’s DSG, the Grade 9s are invited to enrol as Bronze Level participants. They are guided on setting up portfolios, how to plan a camping trip, and how to compile their log sheets. They also take part in the Adventurous Journey in the Magaliesberg mountains in July. Once they have completed their Bronze level, they should have acquired the necessary skills to continue with Silver and Gold. With these two levels, there is assistance available, but in order for the girls to get the most out of the award, they are encouraged to show initiative and take responsibility across all aspects. The World Challenge Expeditions, such as the expedition to India in 2013, are opportunities for the Gold level participants to complete both their Adevnturous Journey and Residential Service Project in a foreign country.
This award is a great challenge, and not everyone who enrols will complete their award. But for those who are willing to rise to the challenge, and forge the discipline to achieve their goals, it could be life changing.