America's Junior Miss: 'Be your best self'

When Jesika Henderson discusses being named America's Junior Miss 2000, she doesn't talk about holding a large bouquet of flowers in front of a national television audience or clicking cameras.

She talks about the value of good example.

The 18-year-old member of the Green Valley 5th Ward, St. George Utah Green Valley Stake, received the winner's sash, on which is written "America's Junior Miss," on June 28 in Mobile, Ala.

The tall brunette, daughter of Lon and Carrie Henderson and a recent graduate of Snow Canyon High School, was picked from seven other finalists.

Winning a $50,000 scholarship, Jesika plans to attend BYU in the fall, majoring in physical therapy or nutrition and fitness. She will also be on a modern dance team for the Cougars with a dance scholarship. In fact, in the creative and performing arts category of the Junior Miss pageant, she performed a modern dance titled "Stradivarius."

In addition to the $50,000 prize that came with her title, she also won $10,000 in the overall fitness category and $1,000 in the spirit category during the contest's preliminary rounds. Another LDS young woman, Andrea Ferney, also participated in the pageant this year as Idaho's Junior Miss.

"The neat thing about the junior miss program is its huge emphasis on education," Jesika told the Church News during a telephone interview from her parents' home in St. George. "I'm required to be a full-time college student. All the money I receive, I use for my education."

However, Jesika said she came away from the pageant with much more than a scholarship and Junior Miss title. "I feel I have 49 best friends, and we're going to keep in touch," she said.

During the two-week program that culminated in the TV broadcast, the young women worked together and even worshipped together. "It was neat to see the other girls were really religious. The southern girls were Baptist. A few girls would [say], 'Are you a Mormon? Oh, that's really cool.' I had expected them to think Mormon was a weird religion, but they were welcoming. I was able to share some things."

For the next year, Jesika will travel the country sharing the America Junior Miss theme, "Be your best self," described by six elements: morality, integrity, honesty, love, respect and hope. The young Junior Miss seemed to exemplify these traits already on the night she won the title. Her blue evening gown was modest with short sleeves. "Girls sometimes get so caught up with fitting in that they forget what's important," she said, speaking of dressing modestly. "If we can get more girls together who can be modestly dressed and feel good, they can set a standard for other girls who are wavering."

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