Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief
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.