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Too smart to choose just one

Vanneisha Mackey and Tyeisha Collie make history as double debutante winners
  • Vanneisha Mackey, left, a St. Anne’s School graduating senior, and Tyeisha Collie, right, an Akhepran International Academy graduating senior, were both named The Bahamas Debutante Foundation’s Debutante of The Year 2017, making for double title winners for the first time in the foundation’s 20-year history. PHOTOS: FUSION IMC

  • Tyeisha Collie.

  • Vanneisha Mackey.

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Jun 12, 2017

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For the first time in its two-decade history, two young women claimed The Bahamas Debutante Foundation’s Debutante of the Year title.

Tyeisha Collie and Vanneisha Mackey, graduating seniors from Akhepran International Academy and St. Anne’s School, respectively, exhibited the most personal growth and excellence during the six-month program and were both named debutantes of the year.

Every year, 12th grade female students with grade point averages (GPA) of 3.00 or above, who are active in their schools and communities, are invited to participate in the program. They attend seminars and workshops designed to inspire them, boost their self-esteem and empower them to be successful.

During the program, debutantes meet weekly and are exposed to leaders in various sectors of society. The development of a close relationship with family is encouraged and demonstrated during the father-daughter day and mother-daughter day, which often involve emotional tributes from the debutantes to their parents. Their communication skills are also honed through various essay and speech competitions.

The program culminates with the debutante’s introduction to society at the ball. Dressed in white gowns and escorted by their fathers, the debutantes dance their first waltz with their fathers and celebrate the completion of the program. In the past, one young lady was named debutante of the year. This year, Collie and Mackey stood out firmly from the 26-strong field.

Collie and Mackey also shared similar reasons for enrolling in The Bahamas Debutante Foundation program.

“I enrolled in the program to become more confident networking and socializing with others,” said Collie. “I was always a shy person and I would distance myself from others. Then I realized that in order to succeed in my endeavors I needed to be social and get over my fear of talking to others, and the program provided the perfect training to do so.”

Mackey also credited The Bahamas Debutante Foundation with helping her to communicate with others more confidently.

“The most impactful experience I had during the program was overcoming my fear of public speaking. A Toastmasters session was held, and every young lady gave a speech on the topic ‘Opening Doors for Tomorrow’s Success’. Presenting my speech took me out of my comfort zone and I learned from our mentors how to truly make the floor my own,” she said.

Collie is a deputy head girl, Junior Achievement Aspire Program member and Bahamas Outstanding Student Foundation honoree. She plans to pursue pre-med studies at The University of Central Arkansas with the ultimate goal of becoming a forensic pathologist.

Mackey is president of her school’s choir, Student Christian Movement vice president, Red Ketle Club secretary and Interact Club public relations office. She plans to study biology at The University of The Bahamas. Her goal is to become both a pediatrician and an entrepreneur.

Cristina Johnson, president and founder of The Bahamas Debutante Foundation, said the young ladies exemplified what it means to be a debutante.

“They are both confident, driven, respectful and polished young ladies who committed to the six-month program and will undoubtedly go on to do great things in their future,” said Johnson.

Collie and Mackey spoke to the value of the program.

“The Debutante Foundation truly develops young ladies into strong, young women,” said Collie. “It is a perfect opportunity to network with others and learn from wise mentors.”

Mackey said she would encourage young ladies to participate.

“I believe that the program truly transforms lives and makes young ladies polished, poised and prepared for a successful future.”

The Bahamas Debutante Foundation celebrates 20 years of inspiring young ladies, boosting their self-esteem and empowering them to be successful.

The program was launched in 1997 by Cristina Johnson, a veteran educator who saw firsthand how overwhelming life can be for an adolescent on the verge of adulthood. Every year, The Bahamas Debutante Foundation invites 30 to 60 12th grade female students who meet the requirements to participate.

In the history of the program, six young women from SAC have claimed the title; four have come from St. John’s College; two each from Akhepran International Academy, St. Anne’s School and Temple Christian School; St. Andrew’ School, Queen’s College, Anatol Rodgers, Aquinas College, Nassau Christian Academy and Kingsway Academy have all had one debutante each.

“These young ladies sacrifice their Saturday afternoons for six months to embark on a journey of spiritual growth, interpersonal development, social refinement and responsible citizenship,” said Johnson. “When they emerge from this program, my hope is that the keys to success they learned will remain with them as they embark on their life’s journey.”

The Bahamas Debutante Foundation has benefited more than 1,500 Bahamian young ladies since its inception in 1997. Each year, one debutante who has exhibited the most personal growth and excellence during the program is named Debutante of the Year. This year was the exception, with Collie and Mackey picking up dual honors.



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