• 77°

Crenshaw County#039;s Lester named Alabama#039;s Junior Miss

Two weeks ago, Laura Lynn Lester, a 17-year-old senior at Crenshaw Christian Academy, was one of 61 eager contestants trying to win the title of Alabama's Junior Miss. Just days later, she has become the state's representative to the national competition, which will be held in Mobile, Ala., the last week of June.

"I've always wanted to be on TV, but I am going to pretend that no one else is there so I can do my very best to represent Alabama," Laura Lynn said.

She will this time be competing with 49 other state representatives for the national title, but more importantly, she has gone into the history books of Crenshaw County as the county's first Junior Miss.

"I feel truly honored to represent all the other fine candidates in Alabama in national competition," she said.

A true leader among her peers, Laura Lynn has made an impressive record, both in school, and out.

On the list of "Who's Who Among American High School Students," she is a member of the National Honor Society, president of the Student Government Association, and a Presidential Scholar.

Outside of school, she is a dance instructor under the supervision of Stephanie Jones at The Dance Center, located on Fifth Avenue in Luverne, where she honed her skills to fine perfection, with her presentation of a lyrical ballet to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" at the competition.

Jones was one of the 72 Crenshaw Countians in attendance

last Saturday and Sunday night, and Laura Lynn said she too was excited.

"She was so thrilled that she was crying," she said.

But what is most impressive is that the win does not seem to have affected her one bit.

She is still just as modest, and down-to-earth, as she was 10 days ago.

On Monday afternoon, she said reality was starting to settle in.

"When I awoke this morning, it finally started to sink in, but I still can't believe it," she said. "I feel really honored and undeserving n winning was not the ultimate goal for me, but rather, gaining the experiences of new friendships to last a lifetime."

The week in Montgomery did not go without its perks, according to Laura Lynn.

"We went to the Kiwanis Club, the Cattlemen's Association, and the Lions Club," she said. "Everywhere we went we rode on trolley cars."

She said while she made new friendships that she will cherish for the rest of her life, what made the whole event even better

was that her lifelong best friend was there to share the memories with her.

Lauren Williams, her classmate at CCA since kindergarten, was the Junior Miss winner representing Butler County.

"Lauren had a wonderful time n we all had a wonderful time," she said.

"Its even more special because I have someone here at home to share the memories with me n someone else who was actually there, feeling the things I was feeling," she said.

Seventeen-year-old Lauren heartily agrees with her friend's comments.

"I just don't think you can understand what an incredible experience those 10 days were unless you were there, so it was so great to come back to school and have someone who completely knew where you were coming from," she remarked.

A program like Junior Miss certainly isn't just fun and glamour as some might imagine, but Lauren says she considers it all, even the enforced separation from family, to be a fabulous learning experience.

"I felt I grew during that timeand I never imagined making so many friends in such a short time.

By late in the week, everyone is having such a good time together you honestly don't care whether you win or not; there is no competition with each other.

You do your best for yourself and for God.

"There were really long, hard days of rehearsingsometimes 15 hoursbut we also had great times at the events we attendedthe Lion's Club was really a blast, they were so much fun," added Lauren.

One person who perhaps was even more elated by the judge's choice than Laura Lynn herself was Lauren, who was right on stage with Alabama's new Junior Miss.

"Oh, yes, I was the very first one over there to hug her.

Her family's been a part of Junior Miss for years so this means so much to them.

I am really proud of her," said Lauren.

"And there's something I want to add.

I want to tell all those Butler County juniors to really think about this and plan to take part in the program next year.

It's a great experience and everyone has been so good to me.

I want to say thanks to all my supporters," Lauren adds.

Laura Lynn said when the competition was over and the crowds had dwindled away, her parents, Rene and Jimmy Lester, swooped her up and took her back to their room at Embassy Suites so she could enjoy a retreat away from the rush she had been subjected to over the previous week.

"When I got up on Monday morning, I went to WSFA-TV 12, where I was on the Today in Alabama' show with Joey Parker," she said. "I just had a ball n it was so cool to be on TV.

"But you know, what really makes this so special is that I am the first girl from Crenshaw County to make it this far. I am really glad our county is finally getting some positive recognition," she said. "We have a lot of deserving girls here, and there will be many more to follow behind me."

She said she is going to take a couple of weeks off and then the work will begin again.

"I am going to just chill out for a couple of weeks," she said. "And when I get back to work, I plan to re-take the ACT exam, to try and increase my score, and I have to work on my talent to improve upon it."

After winning a scholarship in the amount of $1,800 in local competition, Lester took an additional $12,500 in scholarship awards from the state competition.

"I am planning to attend the University of Alabama," she said. "I am going to major in psychology, but I intend on staying in theater also."

Crenshaw County Junior Miss Chairman Jean Sims, involved with the program since 1991, was elated with the win.

"We are all in the clouds right now," Sims said, "and we haven't come down yet. I am really looking forward to when she will be in the national competition in Mobile n we're just so excited, because she is the first state winner for our county.

"We have had runners up before, but never a state winner," Sims said. "And I am so proud for Laura Lynn's parents. Rene and Jimmy have been working with the program for 16 years."

A congratulatory reception for Laura Lynn will be held on Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Luverne Country Club, from 3 p.m. n 4:30 p.m., and the public is invited to attend, and welcome their winner home. The competition is set for June and will air on PAX-TV.

You can bet her best bud', classmate and fellow Junior Miss Lauren Williams a young lady who understands what this program really means will be one of many rooting for Alabama's representative.