Having the appearance of confidence comes more easily to some than others.
Take J'Quinn Johnson, a sixth-grader from McKees Rocks, for instance.
Her earnest golden-brown eyes and lack of shyness in taking the initiative to approach a reporter showed a demeanor of poise with a little spunk thrown in for good measure.
She chatted about how she spent Monday morning in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. She and approximately 30 of her Sto-Rox classmates participated in a cotillion hosted by the recently formed group Breaking Silence: Ending Youth Violence in the Hays Manor Community Center in McKees Rocks.
J'Quinn pointed to a sticker with the word "confident" placed on her shirt much like a badge of courage to help her through the jitters she expressed having about her role in the upcoming afternoon fashion show.
J'Quinn said the day's highlight was a presentation by fashion designer Kiya Tomlin, wife of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
Additionally, the program touched on social etiquette, respect and common morals. It was a day filled with tips designed to help teenage girls.
Guest speakers, including author Ayeshah Bulls, talked about a variety of topics including image and self-worth. Various lessons and history attached to Martin Luther King Jr., was interspersed among the sessions.
"Just because you are a person, you deserve to receive respect," said Ms. Bulls, a family support assistant and writer who is working toward a psychology degree at Carlow University.
Eighth-grader Chantel Smith appreciated the work of the volunteers who planned the cotillion. "Even though some of the girls don't get along, this brings us closer," Chantel said.
Melanie Kerber, Sto-Rox middle school principal who helped organize the cotillion, said there are "not enough positive activities going on during out of school time" and hopes the event will help "introduce another path for [the students]."
Ms. Kerber, a former high school principal, was struck by the deaths of five of her former students in the past year and began meeting with parents and community stakeholders last summer to apply for a grant to support an organization addressing youth violence and contributing risk factors in Stowe and McKees Rocks. While the group's application did not receive a grant, those involved decided to continue their work through donations and volunteer work.
Breaking Silence: Ending Youth Violence members will continue their work by holding a sports-related event for young males in the coming months.
Sonja Reis, freelance writer: email@example.com