2014-15 Scholarship |Winner showcase
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LOCAL JEWELER BACKS MISS AMERICA PLATFORMS

 

 
(l-r)   Miss Leaf River Valley Dalee Kimble, Miss Deep South Caroline Conerly, Miss Riverland Jasmine Murray and Miss Turtle Creek Jordin Johnson are honored by Lights Jewelers and Gemologists with Mississippi Snowballs for their civic contributions

 

Two women were honored today for their civic contributions.  Would be Miss Americas – Miss Leaf River Valley Michaela Moore and Miss Riverland Laura Lee Lewis each received an official “Mississippi Snowball” pendant this weekend from Lights Jewelers & Gemologists.


According to Susan Light, “Lights is committed to supporting the platforms of these two outstanding women.  The trademarked ‘Mississippi Snowball’ is a symbol of the quality of life they bring to this community.”


Moore, a theatre major at Southern Miss, is an advocate for prevention of Suicide.  She recently lead all fundraisers at the university’s first major fundraiser for suicide, “Out of Darkness” Walk. Her platform is entitled, “Shining a Light on Life.”  She recently delivered her charge to the state Student Council Convention.  Her activities are chronicled at shiningalightonlife.com.


Lewis’  mission is called Treat Me Fairly: Intolerance Stops With You.  Her platform is a call to end discrimination based on race, gender, age, and sexual preference. She recently traveled to Ferguson Missouri to survey the political and social fallout from unrest there.  In a recent television appearance in The Pine Belt, she praised Hattiesburg as a model for how to handle community crises.  She is a senior education major at Mississippi State University. More on her life’s work is at treatmefairly.org.


Leaf Foundation Board Member Katie Headrick acknowledges, “We are delighted to have Lights on board as a part of our scholarship foundation.  This community understands the value of The Miss America Pageant in shaping the lives of the young women who are involved in our local program.”


Both women are scholarship winners of the Hattiesburg-based Leaf Foundation and will compete in the 58th Miss Mississippi Scholarship Pageant this July in Vicksburg.

 


 

Deep South’s Teddy Bear Girl

 

Known to many local children as “the teddy bear girl”, Holly Brand, Miss Deep South’s Outstanding Teen has been collecting stuffed animals for law enforcement officers to give to children in traumatizing situations since she was 7 years old. Holly’s involvement with this project began when a friend in Texas mentioned that her stepfather, a state trooper, often bought stuffed animals to carry in his patrol car to give to children he encountered in the line of duty. He spoke of the comfort that these stuffed animals brought to frightened children who had been in car accidents. From this simple discussion, “Teddy Bears for Troopers” was born in Texas. Soon after, Holly began operating Teddy Bears for Troopers in Mississippi, and she has since collected and donated thousands of stuffed animals for law enforcement officers. By the time she was 9 years old, she was awarded the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award for her efforts.

 

Most of Holly’s donations are obtained through teddy bear drives held on school campuses. She visits schools and speaks to students about the project, and then initiates a two week period in which the students bring new stuffed animals to school. She shares with them the stories told to her by law enforcement officers who witness first-hand the comfort that these donations bring to children in crisis. At the end of the drive, she returns to the school and hosts a pizza party for the class that brought the most donations. Her goal is 1000 stuffed animals per year, and she is right on track in 2015. So far this year, she has collected and donated approximately 500 stuffed animals from teddy bear drives. Most recently, she has spoken to students at Northeast Elementary School and Russell Christian Academy (elementary and high school), with future drives planned for Clarkdale Schools and Union Elementary School. She has made multiple deliveries to Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop H in Meridian, the Mississippi Highway Patrol central office in Jackson, and has upcoming deliveries to the patrol offices in Pearl, Vicksburg, and Hattiesburg. Additionally, she has opened a Teddy Bears for Troopers Facebook page, and she receives donations through friends in other states who follow her page.

 

Projects such as this exist in other states, and there are several non-profit organizations that collect donations. Each state or organization conducts its drives differently. Many of them operate their projects through taking donations to buy bears. For example, in Alabama, the state troopers themselves collect donations to pay for the teddy bears, and all of their bears are identical. In Mississippi, no such program exists, so it is up to volunteers to provide the stuffed animals. When asked why she doesn’t advocate for such a program in Mississippi, Holly replied, “While I respect the way that many other states conduct their programs, I think it takes away from my favorite part of my project, which is ‘kids helping kids.’ I love the fact that even small children can participate and learn the importance of giving back at a young age.”

 

Recently, Governor Phil Bryant issued a proclamation to help Holly promote this worthy volunteer service project. He has proclaimed May 2, 2015, as Teddy Bears for Troopers Day in Mississippi. Holly looks forward to taking this proclamation with her as she speaks to students across the great state of Mississippi, and using it to encourage students not only to donate stuffed animals for children in crisis situations, but also to get involved in their communities while they are young. Look for Holly at a school or highway patrol office near you!

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