HARLINGEN — “Hi, my name is Maggie, so nice to meet you,” said Maggie Aguigana, shaking hands with another young girl before they both curtsied with big smiles on their faces.
Maggie, 10, and several other girls were attending a tea party at the LeMoyne Gardens unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harlingen. The girls, ages 9 to 12, were learning table etiquette, the manners of young ladies, and how to maintain proper poise in social situations.
“We are trying to teach them the way to speak,” said Sophie Cantu, youth development worker at LeMoyne Gardens.
“We are trying to teach them how to conduct themselves, how to have poise, the way they present themselves,” Cantu said.
She was teaching them such things as how to get someone’s attention. Instead of yelling, they should quietly approach the individual.
“They are transitioning from children to pre-teen,” she said.
The girls listened attentively as Cantu spoke to them.
“Do you know how to sit in a dress,” she asked them. They shifted slightly and she indicated approval.
“Do you know how to pull out a chair?” she asked. She leaned over and pulled a chair from a table. Several girls stood and tried to copy her technique, only to receive some extended instruction from Cantu.
She now moved to greetings, approaching one girl and shaking her hand.
“What was wrong with that?” Cantu asked.
“She didn’t say her name,” answered a girl.
Cantu nodded. “She didn’t even greet me,” she said.
Cantu gestured to another girl to stand and practice a greeting.
“Hello, my name is Jazmine Ajca,” said the 12 year old. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Maggie,” answered Maggie, who wore a pink top and a skirt with a bold zig-zag line of magenta and aqua blue.
Then, upon completing the courtesies they’d just learned, they slapped each other’s hands in a more familiar greeting for good fun.
Jazmine had been somewhat nervous about the event, although most excited at the same time.
“I feel nervous and happy,” she said.
Maggie was also excited about the event.
“It’s my first time for a tea party,” she said. “I just want to have fun, dress up. We’re going to learn how to listen and be loyal.”
“We’re going to learn how to hold a tea cup,” said Yarely Aguilar, 10.
These basic social skills will serve them well in many arenas, said Hilda Gathright, unit director at LeMoyne Gardens.
“I feel it’s important for them to be able to apply some of these life lessons,” she said. “They will use them later in life.”