Pre-teen program: Local elementary student ties for third runner-up

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 22, 2015

third runner-up: Seven-year-old Neely Jackson tied for third runner-up in the Pre-Teen America Program.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

third runner-up: Seven-year-old Neely Jackson tied for third runner-up in the Pre-Teen America Program.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

Last month, the Pre-Teen Mississippi Scholarship & Recognition Program was held in Tupelo where 7-year-old Picayune native Neely Jackson tied for third runner-up.
According to, the program was founded in 1990 to recognize young ladies 7 to 12-years-old with “high academic rankings, outstanding personal achievements, school activities, volunteer service participation, leadership abilities, sports accomplishments and creative talents.”
Neely is the daughter of Courtney Jackson, brother of Ashton Jackson and granddaughter to Curtis and Laurine Jackson of Picayune.
She is a member of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, where she participates in the inspirational choir.
Neely also attends second grade at Southside Lower Elementary.
This was Neely’s first time participating in the program and she was selected based on her academic performance, Courtney said.
“She was selected because she made all As,” Courtney said. “It’s not a beauty pageant. It’s about building self-esteem. They focus on their academic achievements and community service. It’s a great opportunity, especially when she was selected because of her high academics. It’s not about what you look like.”
Last school year, Neely received the President’s Academic Achievement award, all As honor roll, a citizenship award, a Star student, and Ready Reader Independent and Rising Reader awards. She read 68 books and her classmates voted her most creative, best dancer and funniest.
About 52 young girls participated and were evaluated in seven categories in the Pre-Teen America Program. These categories included, academic achievement, volunteer service to community, school honors and activities, development of personal skills and abilities, general knowledgeability, communicative ability and on-stage acknowledgment of accomplishments, according to a Pre-Teen America release.
Neely said she was excited to stay at the hotel and dance with other girls.
“We took a lot of brain tests,” Neely said. “We autographed pillowcases and I made some new friends.”
Neely’s grandmother Laurine said her granddaughter has come a long way and deserves everything she gets.
“She is an excellent student and is passionate about what she does,” Laurine said. “She cares a lot about others and is just an exceptional young lady. Her teachers say nothing but good things about her. We are very proud of our granddaughter.”
Not only did Neely win third runner-up, she also won an award for biggest advertising sales and for being chosen a semi-finalist.
“She won a trophy, a medal and a $25 scholarship,” Courtney said. “As long as she keeps her grades up, she can go again next year. I’m so proud of her and overwhelmed with joy.”
Neely said she wasn’t nervous to participate in the “brain pageant.”
“It was fun to be on stage,” she said. “I like school and my favorite subject is reading. Some of my favorite books are ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Amelia Bedelia.’ When I grow up, I want to be president of the United States because I want to do lots of speeches.”

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