High Country Cotillion: Life Skills, and a Lot of Fun!

This week, I spoke with Sharon Carlton, of High Country Cotillion. What an inspirational woman she is!   Here is a message from Sharon about High Country Cotillion:

High Country Cotillion is an innovative and entertaining social education program that prepares students to confidently represent themselves well at school, in public, and in future business environments. We launched High Country Cotillion in the fall of 2006, after we realized that there was NO fun, safe place for our middle school aged son to socialize with his friends, and that there were no programs that reinforced the manners we were teaching at home or that gave the youth of Watauga a vision of how to prepare to confidently represent themselves with respect and courtesy. Conversations and interactions with our son’s friends and classmates constantly provided reminders of the lack of training in social graces that our youngsters were receiving, and the lack of encouragement our culture provided for those who practiced good manners. Our son and his friends felt it was not “cool” to say “yes, ma’am” or “no, sir” at school, because other students immediately mocked and taunted them.

Drawing from his own experiences, my husband remembered that his experiences in his hometown cotillion program had equipped him to be able to meet people and make introductions, to start conversations with anyone, to use common courtesies, and to be a young gentleman with young ladies. I reflected that my cotillion training had enabled me to play hostess at countless business dinners and events in the role of corporate wife for my entertainment executive husband, and to help “new” corporate wives learn the ropes. The foundation of social skills that we had learned at home and through our Cotillion training were important tools that we used daily throughout the twists and unexpected turns that our lives took as my husband’s career evolved to vice presidential positions with record companies while working at corporate headquarters in New York City and Los Angeles, and as I progressed to specializing in training retail sales and managerial staff in customer service.

After brainstorming and researching, our “Watauga Style 21stCentury Cotillion” began in November, 2006. High Country Cotillion’s goal is to prepare students for life beyond the classroom in a fun, safe environment. Respect for each other is strongly introduced the first session, and is a prevalent theme as we coach students in what I call “The Golden Rule in every setting.” HCC provides a platform for me to show the young ladies of the High Country what it looks like, and how it feels, to be treated like a young lady at an early age, so they have a good standard. We want to instill a high level of expectation and self-respect for future relationships. We allow the young men to see how easy it is to be a gentleman, and how much the cutest girls in the county like it when they do! One smile from a cute girl can provide more incentive than a dozen speeches from Mom!

Some children are not thrilled at the idea; they have no concept of what Cotillion looks like nor can imagine how much fun they’ll have. I tell parents that they shouldn’t let their children decide whether they WANT to come; this is training that they NEED! Children don’t always WANT to brush their teeth or go to bed, but they NEED to. We make every event a party that they GET to attend–not something that they HAVE to do!

I hope that students will attend a session each year so that they can progress in their social skills. We introduce age appropriate skills for the students. High school students are ready to learn how to make a good impression in an interview situation, and to learn dating etiquette.

Our 2008-09 Weekend Session will meet one Saturday a month from September through April, beginning September 20th. Each High Country Cotillion Weekend Session event will use dance instruction as a tool to model young lady and young gentleman behavior in a wholesome, FUN environment.  Students are coached in, and practice, social etiquette skills during the the evening through skits, role-playing, and interactive discussion .

Weekend Session is open to returning and new students from 5th through 12th grades. Events are held at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on the campus of Appalachian State University.

Some of the exciting events planned include:

  • “Harvest Hoedown” square dance
  • “Mountain Masquerade” in October (where students will dress the way they think they will be in fifteen years)
  • “Super Bowl Blast,”
  • “Carolina Beach Party.”

The final event of each session is a three hour dinner dance for the older students. They will enjoy a three course meal served in a private dining room, guests of honor, and dancing with their Cotillion friends.  Parents are invited for the last half hour of the evening to observe and to participate in a Mother-Son or a Father-Daughter Dance.

The wonderful college-age Cotillion Leaders Laura, Thomas, Meg, and Mary Grace will be returning to inspire students to use:

  • introduction techniques
  • telephone and dining etiquette
  • common courtesies

and social skills that will prepare our youth to be courteous, confident leaders.  These young role models relate true stories from their own lives as ASU students that provide real motivation for our students.

The eight event lineup for the Weekend Session, dress codes, tuition information, and registration forms can be viewed, on the website www.highcountrycotillion.com .  For questions, or to register, please call (828) 297-3133, or email sacarlton@skybest.com.

Were you involved in Cotillion as a young adult?  How has it impacted your life?.


  1. My daughter was invited to one of the dances last year and, as a 6th grader, is excited that we are able to let her participate in the full program this year. We were afraid that is was going to be too “uppity” but she had a blast! She still talks about how much fun she had and I was impressed by the diversity of the kids I saw there. My 4th grade son is upset that he’s not old enough!