On Tuesday September 26, 2018, the candidates for Jacksonville State’s homecoming king and queen were joined with tons of JSU students, faculty members, and other supporters in Leone Cole Auditorium for the much-anticipated homecoming announcement.
Everyone was on the edge of their seat as they patiently waited for President Beehler and SGA President Kasey Gamble to announce the homecoming king and queen for the 2018-2019 year.
Finally, it was announced.
Jacksonville State’s 2018-19 Homecoming Queen and King are Madison Burrell and Stone Alexander.
“Representing the university I call home has always been such a great honor to me,” Alexander said after the announcement. “I am truly appreciative of the immense support I have received over the past few weeks and I can’t wait to continue working with m philanthropy on campus! I would like to thank everyone who voted for me! This is an amazing opportunity to reach the campus and community in a unique way, and I’m looking forward to it!”
Alexander was sponsored by Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. He is a junior majoring in pre-health professional biology.
Madison Burrell was sponsored by Sigma Alpha Omega Christian Sorority and serves as social committee head. She is a junior majoring in family and consumer science, with a focus in merchandising.
The homecoming queen took to Facebook to give a bit of a background about herself while running for homecoming queen. Madison’s platform is known as Know Your Worth. Burrell posted “I am so blessed to have this opportunity!”
Filling out the rest of the homecoming court for 2018 are Brianna Caudle, Dayleigh Dorsett, Ashlee Goff, Camden Swatts, Jakobe Perry, Jack Gehrdes, Antonio Dix and Eric Cline.
The new Homecoming court will take the field Saturday afternoon as Jacksonville State hosts Austin Peay for the homecoming game.
It may have literally rained on their parade, but the weather didn’t dampen the spirits of JSU’s 2017 Homecoming King and Queen, Paris Coleman and Shea O’Donnell. The pair qualified for candidacy at the annual Homecoming Showcase on October 11. After voting on October 24, Coleman and O’Donnell learned that they had made the top five, and they were crowned at the homecoming pep rally on October 26. The King, Queen and their court were honored during halftime at the JSU vs. SEMO football game on Saturday, October 28.
A recent addition to JSU’s Homecoming Court requirements is that each candidate must choose a philanthropy and that the King and Queen must conduct one or more events benefitting those two groups during their reign.
Coleman’s philanthropy is Active Minds, a national non-profit mental health advocacy group.
“I chose Active Minds because I know that, through the teachings and plethora of information, this organization is able to not only change lives but to save them,” Coleman, a senior psychology major, said. “I’ve seen it happen firsthand. I helped a student through suicidal thoughts and actually stopped them from completing suicide. If I had not learned so much from my time with Active Minds, I don’t believe I could confidently say I would have been able to save them.”
Coleman hopes to raise money for Active Minds’ Send Silence Packing program, where backpacks containing the names, pictures and stories of people who have committed suicide are put on display in a public place. The goal is help visitors put faces and experiences together to combat the stigma behind depression and suicide.
O’Donnell’s philanthropy is music education in elementary schools. As an elementary education major and a Marching Ballerina, the philanthropy unites her two passions.
“I know that Homecoming elections used to be just a popularity contest, but now with the philanthropy portion added in, it has become much more than that,” O’Donnell, a sophomore, said. “Now we have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. I chose my philanthropy because I was personally affected by it. As a Jacksonville native, I attended the local elementary school, Kitty Stone Elementary. I grew up with a mom who played piano, and began taking lessons in the third grade. I joined Kitty Stone Singers—the choir—in the fourth grade, and then joined band in sixth grade. I grew up in a family that was blessed enough to be able to allow me to join these musical groups and to grow in music. However, I know some families are not as fortunate as mine. Therefore, with my service project, all the proceeds raised would go back to the Kitty Stone music program to help buy instruments for students that might not have been able to have otherwise.”
One of O’Donnell’s plans for a fundraiser includes hosting a concert that brings back Kitty Stone alumni to show the community where how far music education can take a student.
For both Coleman and O’Donnell, the philanthropic element of their titles has been more important than the crown.
“I felt so ecstatic when I heard my name being called over the speaker in the Burgess-Snow Stadium,” Coleman said. “I felt so relieved that my message of a better community experience, and hard work paid off. My favorite part of the Homecoming experience was the ‘hope’ that came with the title. Students that I had never even met before came up to me stating that they supported who I was and what I stood for. They said that they were really happy that I could be a representative for them on this campus. They hoped that I could start a movement of mental health awareness and really bring light to the stigma that no one really wants to talk about. I’m just glad that I could be that hope for someone until they can be that hope for themselves.”
“I think that overall, my absolute favorite part of Homecoming was meeting everyone,” O’Donnell added. “I am a people person, and I love getting to meet new people. Through the showcase and all of the campaigning, I have gotten the wonderful opportunity of meeting some of the most incredible people at JSU. Along with these people, I have heard their hearts about their philanthropies, and seen them work to promote awareness about something much bigger than they are.”
The other members of the 2017 Homecoming Court who were recognized at the homecoming game are DeLena Harris, Jalia Wilkins, Carlee Waits, Leah Strain, Patrick Hubbard, Cory Deerman, Skylar Fontaine and Kyle Burt.
On Monday October 23, JSU’s 2nd annual Homecoming candidate meet and greet took place at the TMB auditorium at 6:00 p.m. The meet and greet is an opportunity for students to come and meet the 2017 candidates for Homecoming King and Queen. Each candidate uses the event as an opportunity to share information about themselves and their philanthropy with students. This marks the second year that Homecoming candidates are required to have a philanthropic element to their campaign. Each candidate brought plenty of information about themselves and their respective philanthropies, as well as treats to influence voters. In addition to the booths candidates had set up, there was also free pizza and music.
“The Homecoming meet and greet is not only an opportunity to learn about candidates, but a great opportunity to meet new people,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Casey Gamble. There were plenty of students in attendance to support their friends, learn about the candidates, and eat free pizza.
The nine candidates for 2017 JSU Homecoming King are: Patrick Yim, a broadcast/digital journalism major supporting The Trevor Project and sponsored by Zeta Phi Eta; Max Gallegos, a marketing major supporting St. Jude’s Research Hospital and sponsored by Kappa Sigma; Patrick Hubbard, a nursing major supporting The National Down Syndrome Society and sponsored by Gamecock Orientation; George Meehan, an applied engineering major supporting Pediatric Cancer Research; Skylar Fontaine, an occupational safety and health management major supporting The “V” Foundation and sponsored by Gamecock Orientation; Corey Deerman, a political science major supporting Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and sponsored by Pi Kappa Phi; Kyle Burt, a finance and accounting major supporting Volunteer Firefighters and sponsored by Kappa Alpha Order; Jack Gherdes, a political science major supporting Mission 22 and sponsored by Kappa Sigma; and Paris Coleman, a psychology/Spanish major supporting Active Minds and sponsored by Alpha Kappa Psi.
The ten candidates for 2017 JSU Homecoming Queen are: Brooklyn Wright, a nursing major supporting JSUnity and sponsored by Alpha Omicron Pi; Delena Harris, a broadcast journalism major supporting ALS Association and sponsored by Gamecock Orientation; Rebekah Beasley, a pre-health biology major supporting Be Con-Fi-Dental and sponsored by JSU Ambassadors; Taylor West, a pre-health major supporting literacy and sponsored by Alpha Omicron Pi; Carlee Waits, a nursing major supporting A League of Our Own and sponsored by Zeta Tau Alpha; Brooke Bennefield, a special education major supporting Disabled Children’s Partnership and sponsored by JSU Ambassadors; Jalia Wilkins, a criminal justice/forensics major supporting Music for Memory and sponsored by Gamecock Orientation; Leah Strain, a nursing major supporting Immunizations for Children and sponsored by Alpha Omicron Pi; Shea O’Donnell an elementary education major supporting Music and Arts in Early Education and sponsored by Alpha Xi Delta; and Bailee Bryant, a public relations major promoting United Cerebral Palsy and sponsored by Zeta Tau Alpha.
Elections for Homecoming King and Queen are open today until 4:00 p.m. at jsu.edu/elections. The 2017 Homecoming King and Queen winners will be announced on October 26 during the Homecoming Pep Rally at Burgess-Snow Field at 8:00 p.m. The Homecoming Parade will take place on Saturday, October 28 at 10:30 a.m. followed by the Homecoming game against Southeast Missouri State at 3:00 p.m. at Burgess Snow Field.
Homecoming Week reached its peak on Thursday, October 30 at Burgess-Snow field with the annual homecoming pep rally and the crowning of this year’s Homecoming king and queen.
There was tension and anticipation in the cold October air as the Homecoming Court was announced and candidates took to the field. By popular vote, Santiago Hechart and Kaleigh Garner took the respective crowns.
Hechart, a junior majoring in Economics, graduated from Oxford High School before attending JSU. He is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Most recently, he has been seen on campus as a JSU GO! Leader for Freshman Orientation. As friends and family flooded the field following the announcement, Hechart appeared relatively calm, but he could not keep the ear-to-ear smile from spreading across his face.
“It’s awesome!” he exclaimed when asked how it felt to be able to represent JSU as King. “JSU’s done a lot for me. I’m honored to get to do this.”
Garner is a freshman Communication major who graduated from Gadsden City High School. She is a Ballerina in the Marching Southerners and a member of Phi Mu sorority. “I’m really excited,” she said, “I’m honored to represent the faculty and student body of JSU. Throughout my campaign, I told people that there was nothing I’d like more. I’m just really excited!”
To be elected as Homecoming queen, Garner had to qualify for the top ten via the homecoming pageant held on October 15 and then two rounds of online voting.
Behind the glitz and glamour of homecoming, it is a very special campus organization: the SGA.
SGA is responsible for organizing all the homecoming activities, from the homecoming pageant to the homecoming parade itself. “I love the anticipation of the Homecoming king and queen announcement,” said Brett Johnson, a senior majoring in Political Science and Communication and the 2014-2015 SGA president. “My second favorite tradition would be the homecoming pageant. It’s not something that many places do anymore, and this year, we had standing room only.”
The homecoming parade that everyone loves? That is the work of the SGA, too. “Everyone knows that it happens, but they don’t know it’s us,” said Johnson. “They just know it’s a tradition.”
Homecoming involves hard work on the parts of everyone involved. From the Homecoming Court candidates to the organizations crafting floats to the SGA, everyone has spent hours making sure that every sequin is in place to make 2014’s homecoming the best yet.
All this doesn’t even take the high anticipation of the football game into consideration.