Making the world a better place is one of the central ideas behind the Cotillion for Achievement Ball.

The event, held Saturday night at the St. Joseph Country Club, honored 16 students from the immediate area for their accomplishments in academics and leadership.

The program provides separate $1,800 scholarships to one female student and one male student from among the group. This year’s two top winners were Briley Jeter of Savannah High School, receiving the Female Award of Distinction; and Devon Shewell of Central High School, receiving the Male Award of Distinction.

The other students and their schools were as follows: April Adams, Nicole Adams, Darby Hay, and Nicholas Ryan, Lafayette High School; Matthew Bobela, Bishop LeBlond High School; Susan Bolander and Kelsey Dunlap, St. Joseph Christian High School; Shawn Boss, Ronald Burr, William Gentry, Esther Par, Delanie Shores, and Boston Small, Central; and Alondra Stevens, Savannah.

Joan Hickman, who has served as the organization’s past president and advises its committees, said each of the runner-up students earned $900 scholarships. She credited the community’s generosity for the program’s ability to award the scholarships. But the monetary reward — while valuable with the rising costs of attending college — still doesn’t match the intangible assets included with the Cotillion.

“The whole idea is we give them something of great value,” Hickman said, adding preparations for the scholarships gives grounding for future professional lives.

Now in its 32nd year, the Cotillion for Achievement has bestowed a total of $450,000 to 832 students.

Finalists were announced at a December reception.

Leadership, scholarship, extracurricular activities, community involvement and an essay all factor into scoring for the scholarships. Etiquette, social graces, verbal and non-verbal skills are also judged.

The evening also featured a meal and dancing, with finalists and their parents waltzing to “Fascination” as choreographed by Paul and Christina Stickler.

Ray Scherer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.