Lincoln County’s Miss Hospitality heads to state
“Quick, close your eyes and think of a happy place,” Lincoln County’s Miss Hospitality Jessie Henning says at the beginning of her 20-second commercial. “You’re in Brookhaven.”
Brookhaven is Henning’s happy place. After encouraging the audience to come see for him or herself, Henning ends with “Since 1888, we haven’t just been building a community; we’ve been building a family.”
Henning’s commercial invites tourists to her home to experience her “family” – Brookhaven. Henning explained when she uses the term “family” she means everyone in Lincoln County and the close-knit feeling she has come to associate with the community.
Henning said one thing that uniquely prepares her for Miss Hospitality is her experience as part of a foster family. Henning’s parents serve as foster parents in the community and are currently fostering two girls, ages 4 and 6.
“It’s been hard at times, but to give these kids a stable home, with a certain time to take a bath, a certain time to eat, where the kids don’t have to be an adult anymore – it’s rewarding,” she said.
When the foster children first come, they may not know what to expect.
“It’s my job to make sure they feel welcome,” Henning said. “As Miss Hospitality, I would make them [tourists] feel like home here, make them feel like my state is their state.”
Henning has long contemplated participating in Miss Hospitality, but she agreed after former Lincoln County’s Miss Hospitality Ashton Richardson convinced her to.
“I’ll give it a shot, I guess,” she said.
Since becoming Lincoln County’s Miss Hospitality, Henning has served as an ambassador of the chamber and has participated in speaking engagements, such as speaking at the Rotary Club.
“Right now, I’m just studying my little heart away,” she said. “Mrs. Kay [Burton of the chamber] and I work together endless hours.”
She has made flashcards on Mississippi facts, and her family has been helping quiz her. The most unique fact she has learned is that Mississippi has the only cactus plantation in the world. The Mississippi trivia will assist Henning during her panel interview and one-on-one interviews with the judges.
As part of the state competition, Henning has also prepared a Mississippi speech in which she discusses Mississippi’s creative economy. She asserts Mississippi helps uphold the creative economy through molding, supporting and remembering. She cites such programs as the Mississippi School of the Arts as part of the effort of bolstering the creative economy.
Henning will be traveling to Hattiesburg today and will be there throughout the week as she makes final preparations for the competition on Friday and Saturday at the historic Saenger Theater.
“I’m excited about getting to represent Brookhaven and getting to show off my hometown and getting to tell why it’s so special to me,” she said.
Henning is a rising sophomore at Mississippi College where she is studying nursing. She was named to the President’s List her freshman year and holds a 4.0 GPA. She has been chosen as a Blue and Gold mentor, where she will help in a freshmen transition course.
“I’ll help them through their first six months of college,” she said.
She also just finished serving as a leader at Super Summer at Mississippi College. Henning is the daughter of Paul and Deedee Henning and is a 2013 graduate of Brookhaven High School.