AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – WJBF’s Black Excellence 365 recognizes inspiring black individuals and organizations in the CSRA year-round. Recipients are honored with the Mary L. Jones Black Affirmation Award.

This month, we honor The Rosa T. Beard Debutante Club, an organization empowering young ladies to become leaders in the community.

It was during the height of the Civil Rights Movement when Mrs. Rosa T. Beard, a science teacher at A. R. Johnson Magnet School, was approached by her students. They wanted her to be a faculty sponsor for a program that would uplift young Black women and prepare them for a world that struggled to accept them.

The Debutante Club was established in the spring of 1963. 

“‘Live Lovely for Excellence’ is not simply a motto,” said Kimberly Hayes, Advisor for the Rosa T. Beard Debutante Club. “It is what we all strive to live by.”

For six decades, the Rosa T. Beard Debutante Club has poured into high school students in the CSRA, equipping them with tools to be successful in life.

The Club also instills the importance of community. 

“Over the time from when I graduate to going off to college,” said Kennedi Manor, president of the Rosa T. Beard Debutante Club. “I know that there will be people that I can always refer back to or, like, call on if I need anything.”

Throughout the year, the young ladies engage with the community at events.

Jayna Bell says she’s gained important life skills as The Club’s Sergeant at Arms. 

“I’ve learned not to be afraid,” said Jayna Bell, Sergeant at Arms for the Rosa T. Beard Debutante Club. “Like, I know my job is based on…it can make people upset. They can be like, ‘I wasn’t late’ or ‘I wasn’t dressed out’- basically, how we’re supposed to dress. But you have to be assertive. And that’s something I’m working on.”

Vice-president Jourdan Smith is looking forward to putting her skills to use in college.

“I can just meet people and gain new bonds and tell them what I’ve experienced,” said Jourdan Smith, vice-president of the Rosa T. Beard Debutante Club. “And help them grow. And we can grow together.”

Mrs. Rosa T. Beard’s legacy of service lives on through The Debutante Club. Many on the advisory board were once debutantes themselves.

“They said, ‘you are going to be in this club’,” said Vanessa Spearman-McCarthy, former Debutante and an advisor for the Rosa T. Beard Debutante Club. “I said, ‘yes, ma’am!’. But I did not know what a gift that would be for me…and such a life-changing experience. I learned community, I learned leadership skills.”

Dr. Spearman-McCarthy says she’ll never forget how her potential was nurtured as a debutante. It made all the difference. And she wants to pay it forward. 

“Sometimes you gotta get down and walk with people side-by-side and help them along the way,” said Dr. Spearman-McCarthy. “And, so, that’s what Mrs. Beard gave me through her legacy.” 

Former debutantes have gone on to serve their communities as college presidents, news anchors, physicians and judges. 

Kimberly Hayes tells us that, without the tireless work of passionate people, The Debutante Club’s incredible success would not be possible.

“Every single year, these women continue to give to the club, sometimes coming out of their own pockets,” said Hayes. “Reverend Beard is an amazing legacy for her mother and her continued success and achievement with the club as well. So, I am just thrilled, as all of us, to be here and represent.”

Young ladies entering the 11th and 12th grades are nominated for the Rosa T. Beard Debutante Club each spring. If you want to nominate someone or support the club, visit us at W-J-B-F dot com for more details. 

If you would like to nominate someone in the community to receive the Mary L. Jones Black Excellence Award, you can do so on the Celebrating Black Excellence 365 homepage.