• 52°

Miss opportunities: Junior Miss orientation is Sunday

Marengo County Junior Miss officially starts its 2010 program this Sunday with an orientation at the Old School in Demopolis.

Any young woman who is a resident of Marengo County and is scheduled to graduate in 2010 is invited to attend. Parents are invited to attend as well.

“The Junior Miss program has been around for years now at a local, state and national level,” said Marengo County Junior Miss chair Katie Echols. “It allows college-bound girls from around the county to get scholarship money, and it develops girls’ self-esteem by allowing them to associate and interact with other well-rounded girls from around the county.”

Participants in the program are judged and awarded scholarships in five different categories: talent, interview, self-expression and poise, fitness and scholastics.

“It is not a beauty pageant,” Echols emphasized. “The self-expression portion is as close to a ‘beauty pageant’ as we get, and it is only 15 percent of the score.”

Echols also explained that the talent portion should not deter girls from the program.

“We are here to help them with ideas in how to display their unique talent onstage,” Echols said. “There is a six-week preparation time, so girls should seek the program even if they are hesitant.”

The program is especially significant to Echols because she was Marengo County’s Junior Miss in 1996.

“It was definitely a character-building experience,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself and my abilities, and also what I’m capable of.”

Echols also said that she attended college at Auburn University with several fellow Alabama Junior Miss participants, and still keeps in touch with many of them today.

The local Junior Miss program thrives in Marengo County due to the support of the community.

“When I did Junior Miss, the pool of money for scholarships for the local program was $3,600,” Echols said. “Through the support of the community, we have increased the scholarship pool to $10,000.”

The state level of competition offers $50,000 in cash scholarships and over $2.5 million in college-granted scholarships.

“There is not a sole winner of Junior Miss,” Echols said. “The scholarship money is opened up to winners of the various categories as well as the overall winners.”

While the available scholarships are an important incentive, Echols said that the relationships developed through Junior Miss are the true prizes of the program.

“The bonds that are made and the friendships formed are what make it what it is,” she said.

“You go into [Junior Miss] for yourself, but you come out of it with relationships that are bigger than yourself. The program is definitely a group effort on everyone’s part.”

Any senior girl in Marengo County who is interested in the program should sign up online at www.ajm.org. While Echols encourages all interested young women to register online, the orientation meeting on Sunday is open to anyone interested in participating.