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City of Gastonia Mayor John Bridgeman Celebrates 27 Years of Junior Assembly of Gastonia!

History of the Junior Assembly
After researching existing Junior Assembly programs in Richmond, VA and Greenville, NC, Mrs. Thomas E. Wilson, mother of Beverly Sumner, began the Junior Assembly of Rock Hill in 1967. While living in Richmond, Mrs. Wilson had belonged to a dance club which offered ballroom dance instruction with emphasis on social graces. Mrs. Wilson later helped organize similar Junior Assemblies in Shelby and Spartanburg. Upon Mrs. Wilson’s retirement in 1989, she encourage her daughter, Beverly, and Ellen Maxwell to “carry on their family tradition.” The Junior Assembly of Gastonia continues in its twenty-seventh season this tradition of wholesome dance instruction, social etiquette and supervised entertainment for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
Ellen Weddington Maxwell and Beverly Wilson Sumner
Co-founders of The Junior Assembly of Gastonia, N. C., teaching etiquette and dance to fifth , sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students.

Both have been active in the social, business, educational, and religious community for over 30 years and have taught etiquette to private city clubs and country clubs in North Carolina.

Ellen is a member of the Junior League of Gaston County, past president of the Woman of the Church-First Presbyterian, past PTO president, past president of Gaston Breakfast Rotary Club and member of the Gastonia Debutante Club. She has served on the City Planning Commission of Gastonia, N. C., and is the Administrative Director of the Gaston Regional Chamber.

Beverly is a past president of the Gastonia Debutante Club, past president of the First Presbyterian Women, member of the Junior League of Gaston County, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, the sponsor for the Interact Club at Ashbrook, a member of the Alpha Delta Kappa Teacher Sorority and member of Gaston Regional Chamber. She is a graduate of the College of Charleston and teaches English at Ashbrook High School.
Dennis R. Ritchie, Instructor
Dennis started dancing when he was 17 years old. He began teaching for Grose School of Dance in Charlotte shortly thereafter. He has been teaching cotillions for 40 years and has taught Junior Assembly in Gastonia for 27 years. Dennis’ professional career started at Carowinds and quickly led him to Las Vegas, Atlantic City and dancing with Dick Van Dyke on television specials. He has choreographed and performed in shows throughout the Southeast for 35 years.
Dennis and Ellen were proud to raise money for The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gaston and came in second place in Dancing for the Future Stars 2016.
While raising four children and wanting to expose them to more than just sports and dance lessons, Junior Assembly was an opportunity that we afforded our children and certainly do not regret. It gave them a chance to interact in a social setting with young girls and boys from other schools in our area. They all enjoyed dancing, dressing up, proper etiquette, and let us not forget buying that special dress and everlasting blue blazer. We want to expose our children to many things in life, but we are thankful every day that Ellen and Beverly share their southern graces and charm with many of the youth today. These kids will be the leaders of companies in the future; but most importantly, they will be fathers, mothers, gentleman and young ladies that will forever be appreciative for being taught that manners are always remembered at the end of the day.
-Kathy Nelli
Junior Assembly has been a fantastic experience for our son. I am so grateful that we have this available for the kids in our community.
-Becky Vorhees
We are thrilled that our children have access to a well-established, local organization that encourages etiquette, manners, and dance. Junior Assembly offers them a positive and relaxing social experience that only builds upon their confidence and character. Having a boy and a girl, we see different perspectives, but new friendships and fun are a plus for both. We want our children to be gracious and thoughtful in their social interactions, and JA is just the platform to help!
-Tim and Kim Witherell