By GWEN SISSON
Miss Mississippi State University Jessica Terrill said one of the biggest highlights of her year with the crown has been the opportunity to be a voice in schools throughout the state for First Book.
On a rainy day or lazy Sunday afternoon, Terrill can most likely be found curled up reading one of her favorite classic books or even a sappy love story.
“I have a true joy and passion for reading and have always considered reading as a hobby and an activity that all have the opportunity to partake in; however, through my work in a local after-school program and schools throughout Mississippi, I have learned that reading is actually a privilege that should not be taken lightly,” Terrill said.
First Book is a non-profit organization addressing one of the biggest factors contributing to illiteracy — access to books. First Book has distributed over 85 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“By providing new books to children in preschools, after-school programs, mentoring and tutoring programs, day care centers and more, First Book is providing resources to empower teachers, administrators and volunteers. With access to these resources, these caring leaders of our communities across the nation can better teach, plan curriculum and even more importantly impart a love of learning (and elevate) the quality of the programs and opportunities available to children in need,” Terrill said. “I have enjoyed visiting classrooms, holding book drives and being a part of this organization that I have such a passion for.”
Terrill said although First Book is national in scope, it is local in impact. More than 275 First Book Advisory Boards are forming an extensive network of volunteer, community leaders serving as ambassadors dedicated to fundraising and supplying millions of children in need with new books.
“By partnering with First Book, it is my mission to give children the opportunity to not only have the resources needed to further one’s education, but also give children the opportunity to share in the same joy I receive from reading,” Terrill said.
Another highlight of her year as Miss MSU happened just last weekend when Terrill was introduced on the field during the MSU game against Louisiana Tech.
“To be surrounded by thousands of people who support you and all share your passion for Mississippi State is a truly awesome and unforgettable experience,” Terrill said.
Serving as this year’s Miss MSU has been Terrill’s biggest accomplishment to date.
“Without a doubt receiving this title of Miss MSU 2011 ... has given me skills and experiences that I feel will better prepare me for whatever lies ahead, and for that I am forever grateful,” Terrill said. “Serving as Miss MSU 2011 has been such a blessing in my life. I have been given the great opportunity to serve as a representative of this university that I love so much, and will forever look back on this past year with joy. From emceeing events around campus and throughout the area, to making numerous appearances and representing MSU at Miss Mississippi this past summer, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as Miss MSU.”
The next Miss MSU Pageant will be held Oct. 21. Terrill said she would encourage anyone who has interest in the pageant to participate. The winner of the Miss MSU Pageant goes on to compete in the Miss Mississippi Scholarship Pageant in June.
“Anyone who has interest in the program knows that this organization is one that is all about uplifting and empowering women,” Terrill said. “It has given me skills and experiences that are irreplaceable. It has helped me learn the meaning of true hard work and dedication, and (shown) that my dreams and goals are attainable.”
Heidie Lindsey, associate director of the Colvard Student Union and organizer for the Miss MSU pageant, said Miss MSU represents the university with integrity and charm throughout the course of public appearances and in her personal life as a student. Miss MSU promotes the university and the Miss Mississippi/Miss America program through several venues, including speeches to prospective students and parents at university recruiting events, interaction with alumni at events both on and off campus, the hosting of programs upon request both on and off campus, visiting local schools and organizations in the community to promote the university and her personal platform, and maintaining herself to be always representing MSU and always ready to speak on behalf of the school.
In addition, Lindsey said Miss MSU is committed to preparing to compete at the state level in the Miss Mississippi Pageant. Preparation includes working with the director on perfecting her talent performance, physical fitness for swimwear competition, choosing her competition wardrobe and participating in mock interviews.
“Miss MSU is always to serve as a role model for other students and for young women,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey said Terrill has embodied the title as an outstanding role model for women and for the university community.
“Jessica Terrill is an impressive young woman and we are lucky to have had her serve as our Miss MSU for 2011,” Lindsey said. “Jessica transferred to MSU in the same semester that she competed for and won the title of Miss MSU 2011.”
Although new as a student at MSU, Lindsey said Terrill comes from a very enthusiastic Bulldog family. Over the course of this past year, Lindsey said Terrill has worked extremely hard to further develop and to promote her platform, First Book, has managed many appearances as Miss MSU, while still maintaining a 3.85 grade point average.
“On a personal note, I have sincerely been blessed by the opportunity to get to know and to work with Jessica and the entire Terrill family,” Lindsey said. “Jessica is a genuine, selfless young woman who constantly strives to serve others and her God.”
Terrill is currently a senior pursuing a bachelor’s of arts degree in communications with an emphasis in broadcasting.
She and her family live in Starkville. Her father, Jeff Terrill, is the head football coach at Starkville Academym and her mother, Jan Terrill, is a nurse for North Mississippi Medical Center. She has an older brother, Jay, who lives in New Orleans and works as a counselor, and an older sister, Jennifer, who is a teacher at Henderson Elementary in Starkville.
Terrill said her father’s encouragement has made a big impact on her life.
“My dad has always taught me that it does not matter how many times you fall down, strike out or fail, but what truly matters is that you get back up and try again,” Terrill said. “He taught me that life will always have its bumps and curves, and things may not always turn out as we plan. Life is full of imperfections, but we must strive to find the beauty and bright side of all situations. Through his example and this advice, I strive to live each day to its fullest by never giving up on myself or my dreams. And I believe this advice is one of the things that helped me reach my dream of representing MSU.”