Residents from across Merced County, and from every walk of life, made their way to the Atwater Community Center on Saturday as the Center for Human & Organizational Performance Enhancement & Restoration held its eighth annual “Circle of Friends” Bi-Annual Debutante Ball event and Pillars of the Community Leadership Awards.
That’s a mouthful of titles, but what they were celebrating and honoring were those local high schoolers and young adults who are learning about: working with others, morality, ethical behavior, life skills, as well as etiquette, dancing, and other “lost arts.”
Participants in the program made a grand entrance into the event, starting with a traditional waltz dance to unveil their newly formed selves.
This year’s program brought together local high school students Amaya Barns, Elijah Gilliam, Jamie Ketchum, Natalie Rojas, and Yisela Vera-Rojas, along with younger students Melissa Chavarria, Sergio Gomez, Tylazsia Perry and Esmeralda Ramirez.
This diverse group of students — from athletes to Dungeons and Dragons players — features individual plans to study cosmetology, medicine, child development, education, kinesiology, business and sociology.
Awardees for the night included Bob Carpenter, Dr. Dorothy Leland, and Dr. Carol Tomlinson-Keasey for their work with UC Merced.
Rosa Barragan and Kevin Swartwood were honored with the Captain’s Shipwheel Award for their role in helping steer local youth in the right direction.
Sheila Brooks, Jennifer Euker, Leonard Davis, and Samantha Thompson were awarded the Captain’s Compass award for their role in providing a providing direction to the youth they helped shape.
Jerome Rasberry and Linda Susie Williamson were awarded with the Captain’s Life Saver Award.
Special awards for the night included the Timeless Treasure award to Michelle Allison for her role in helping Founding President Gloria Morris take the first steps in forming the Debutante Ball. The honor was shared with Jim and Jean Weaver for their pioneering role in forming the Boys and Girls club of Merced County.
Wrapping up the ceremony was a surprise award, presented by Pastor and Committee Chair Robert Morris, on behalf of the community. Founding President Gloria Morris was honored for her tireless dedication to improving the circumstances of all youth throughout Merced County and the surrounding area.