Miss North Carolina Promotes Education, Perseverance
March 10, 2008
By Justin Vick, independenttribune.com
CONCORD - There was no mistaking who Jessica Jacobs was when she walked into the Northwest Cabarrus Middle School cafeteria Wednesday. The Miss North Carolina crown gave her away.
"The crown is a little conspicuous, isn’t it?" the High Point native said in response to the warm ovation from students.
She visited Northwest to provide additional motivation for students involved in the WIN Team, an after-school club that lets students work with mentoring adults to complete homework assignments and other projects.
"You don't just win a crown when you win Miss North Carolina, but you also win scholarship money to go to school," Jacobs said. "I like to tell students that I'm in the 18th grade."
She's continuing her education with graduate classes at N.C. State University. She encouraged Northwest students to consider attending college, too, even if doing so seems too daunting of a challenge.
Jacobs focused her message on perseverance, noting how she entered 10 pageants before winning her first competition. She won Miss North Carolina on her second attempt.
She said she had to keep practicing her talent (ballet dancing), living a healthy lifestyle and performing community service activities. All that work paid off when she was recently named a runner-up in the Miss America Pageant.
Rasheed Duncan, 11, said he enjoyed hearing Jacobs' message of perseverance and could apply it to his experiences playing recreation football.
"It's pretty cool to meet someone that's famous," chimed 12-year-old Christopher Turner.
Hearing Miss North Carolina talk about the importance of education helps make school more relevant for students, said Catherine Campbell, executive director for Communities in Schools of Cabarrus County. Her not-for-profit group received a grant from Philip Morris USA to provide support for Northwest's program.
WIN Team coordinator Renea Wilmot said students involved in WIN Team increased their End of Grade test scores by 90 percent last year. There are 87 students participating this year.
Amanda Sowards, the reigning Miss Cabarrus County, was also there Wednesday to show support.
Being an aspiring Miss North Carolina, Sowards said she learned a lot from watching Jacobs interact with the children. Sowards, a Catawba College student, is preparing for the state pageant in June.
Jacobs said speaking to schools about such topics as perseverance and literacy is rewarding.
"I will drive for hours and hours and think that I don't want to be on the road, but then I get into the school, and it's so much fun," she said, after signing autographs for a cafeteria filled with students.