Jr. Miss contestants vie for scholarships

January 16, 2010 9:55:00 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


They come from different backgrounds and different schools, but they all have a common characteristic -- the desire to succeed.  


On Saturday, Jan. 23, six 11th-grade girls from Lowndes County will take part in an official preliminary of America''s Junior Miss scholarship program. The 7 p.m. event at Joe Cook Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School will weigh each contestant''s strengths in five categories: scholastics, judges'' interview, fitness, talent and self-expression (stage question). 


The winner will succeed Rachel Burttram as Lowndes Junior Miss and represent the county in the state program in Meridian this summer. Mississippi''s winner will go on to compete for a portion of at least $150,000 in cash scholarships in the national competition in Mobile, Ala. 


"The Junior Miss mission is to empower outstanding high school women by providing scholarship opportunities, developing life skills and encouraging positive values, and to impact the lives of all young people through the Be Your Best Self outreach program.," stated program co-chair Janice Burris of Columbus. 




Who you''ll see 


Those participating Jan. 23 at Joe Cook are: 


n Meredith Barefield (New Hope High School), the daughter of Curtis and Sarah Barefield; 


n Megan Coleff (New Hope High School), the daughter of Brian and Shelly Coleff; 


n Leslie Ferguson (Heritage Academy), the daughter of Anthony and Rhonda Ferguson; 


n Marissa Hackler (Columbus High School), the daughter of Raymond Hackler Jr. and Veronica Hackler; 


n LaChardonnay Johnson (Caledonia High School), the daughter of Charles Johnson and La Chunda Sparks; 


n Rachel Stanback (Columbus High School), the daughter of John and Courtney Stanback. 


Johnson is enthusiastic about the program. 


"It''s a great opportunity for girls to find scholarships and to learn valuable life skills that can help you with self-confidence and interview and social skills," said the Caledonia band member who hopes to take home a portion of $4,250 in scholarships given at the local level.  


"This is not a beauty pageant of any sort," stated Burris. "The judges are looking for girls who are well-rounded; each of the categories is scored by certain criteria. They even attend a workshop because the scoring system is very meticulous." Some on the judges panel are professors or instructors at Mississippi State University, she added. 




Gets in your blood 


The high school juniors will perform some group numbers, choreographed by co-chair Susan Forrester and her daughters, Abby and Presly, both veterans of the Junior Miss program. 


Burris'' own daughter, Amy, was Lowndes County Junior Miss 2006. Amy''s father is Frank Burris. 


"It just seems that the Junior Miss spirit gets in your blood, and once you''ve participated and learned about what this program represents, it stays with you; it''s a sisterhood," Burris said. "We strongly encourage girls who are sophomores in high school this year to take part next fall."  


Columbus High School junior Rachel Stanback added, "Meeting girls from different schools is really fun, and we''ve gotten close." 


Admission for the  


Jan. 23 program is $10 for adults and $5 for students. For more information, contact Burris at 662-241-0092.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.