JirNeicia Ward made the decision it was now or never. And saying now was the time led to her being named as the 63rd Miss Northwestern – Lady of the Bracelet at Northwestern State University. Ward, a senior computer information systems major from Bossier City, will represent the university at this summer’s Miss Louisiana Pageant in Monroe.
Meghan Woods of Monroe was first runner up, Alana Lewis of Haughton was second runner up and Sarah Shiflett of Covington was third runner up. Woods won the talent competition. Shiflett won the Children’s Miracle Network Miracle Maker Award and Chileigh Mitchell of Lafayette won the Liz Carroll People’s Choice Award and Miss Congeniality Award.
“There are lots of things that I wanted to do and accomplish during my college career,” said Ward, a graduate of Airline High School. “I was a junior at the time of applying for LOB and was running out of time in college. During the fall 2020 semester, I took every opportunity that I came across because I felt like it was either now or never.”
Ward is a lieutenant in the Demon Dazzlers and has been in the Dazzlers for three years. She will be an orientation leader in the university’s Freshman Connection program this summer.
Ward’s social impact initiative is to “Inspire an Innovative Youth in Technology.”
She became interested in technology through a mini camp and noticed the area offers few opportunities for those interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“Throughout grade school, I did receive invitations to several academic conferences, summer STEM programs, and trainings. However, I was not able to take the opportunities in Florida, California, or D.C.,” said Ward. “I knew that developing technology was something that I wanted to be involved in, but I had very little exposure to it growing up. I felt unprepared for future studies in the field.”
She did not let that stop her from enrolling in Northwestern State’s highly regarded computer information systems program.
“I didn’t give up,” said Ward. “I progressed. I am nearing completion of my B.S. in CIS. Now, I want to give others the exposure I didn’t have. I want to create opportunities for the youth to get involved with technology in order to inspire them to be rising developers.”
Few first-time pageant competitors have won the Miss Northwestern – Lady of the Bracelet Pageant in recent history including some who have later been top five finishers at the Miss Louisiana Pageant. Going through the preparation process for the pageant helped Ward gain confidence.
“As I got to know some of the other candidates who have competed before. I would think ‘They’re used to competing. They’ve won pageants before. They must know all of the in’s and out’s to be able to breeze through this pageant,’” said Ward. “As I learned more about what Lady of the Bracelet actually is, embraced my uniqueness, and became more passionate about the impact that I want to have, I became more confident in myself to do well in the pageant.”
Ward said events of the last 12-18 months also inspired her to compete.
“Considering recent events, I truly feel I am great for representing the university,” said Ward. “It takes so much more strength, understanding, and determination now to just get through the basics of life. As a young, black woman, those are definitely dominant qualities that I have. I have seen peers and people around me struggling and stressing way more than usual; myself included. I kept pushing through the struggles and kept taking opportunities that were presented. I want to reassure people that great things can still happen now.”
She said it is important to her to represent Northwestern State on a statewide stage.
“Northwestern is a great university, and every Demon here has so much potential that is being hindered by the continuing effects of 2020,” said Ward. “I can use my success stories to encourage and inspire others.”
Ward plans to graduate in May 2022. She is applying to Officer Training School in the U.S. Air Force.
“As I serve the country, I want to work on achieving my masters in video game development so that I can move straight into that after,” she said. “Along the way, I want to continue working on ways to impact and benefit others.”
Ward will be joined at the Miss Louisiana Pageant by 2020 Miss Northwestern Lady of the Bracelet Madeleine Hensley, who will be Miss Pride of NSU. Last year’s Miss Louisiana Pageant was cancelled due to pandemic and those who qualified were given the opportunity to compete in this year’s pageant. Current NSU student Joy Davis of Minden will be competing as Miss Minden.