MOUNT VERNON — The weeklong 2009 Ohio Junior Miss Scholarship Program, celebrating its 36th year in Mount Vernon, began Monday with a luncheon at The Dan Emmett Conference Center for the 29 contestants, hosted by the Mount Vernon Kiwanis Club.
This year’s group is considerably larger than last year’s group of 18. OJM director Cheri Butcher said it is the largest class during her years of involvement. Because of the large number, the participants were divided into a red group and a blue group, said Butcher, to take turns introducing themselves at Monday’s and today’s luncheons.
After enjoying lunch and being warmly welcomed by the Kiwanians, the Key Club members among the Junior Misses were presented with scented candles, made in Mount Vernon, by Key Club members from Mount Vernon High School. Michael Murray, Carrie Lennington and Kate Klesner, MVHS students, made the presentations to OJM participants Daralyn Baldogo, Southern Franklin County’s Junior Miss; Amanda Crichton of Clark County; and Brandy Alexander of Dublin.
Contestants took turns introducing themselves to the crowd.
Kara Simpson, Northern Lawrence County Junior Miss, said she plans to attend Marshall University to launch her career goal in pediatrics. She named OJM Co-State Chairwoman Laura Szenas as a role model.
“Because being positive and smiling will cause it to spread to others,” said Simpson.
Brandy Alexander, Dublin’s Junior Miss, is a student at Dublin Jerome High School. She answered a question about what she would do with an hour all to herself: “I would probably catch up on my sleep,” she said with a smile, “or read a good book. I’m quite a fan of the classics. But sleep is needed, too.”
Greater Knox County’s Junior Miss, Yelena Arishina, said she plans to attend college at either George Washington University or Loyola University. Her favorite part of the OJM festivities so far, she said, was the opening ceremonies, “because it showed how friendly this community is.”
Jessica Williams, Vinton County’s Junior Miss, was nursing a sore throat, a bad sign for a singer with a song to perform this weekend. She said the Junior Miss program has helped her polish her interview skills, and told the crowd that her plans are to study chemistry at Wright State University, join the Air Force ROTC and pursue criminal justice as a career.
Today, the OJM participants will lunch with the Rotary Club.
Following this week’s OJM luncheons, rehearsals and interviews with judges, the show begins at 8 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Memorial Theater. Tickets can be purchased at the downtown office of First-Knox National Bank, and the theater’s box office will be open one hour before each show.