Sierra Minott Jones comes from music and theater background and that was exactly the route she planned to pursue when applying for the George E. Judd Scholarship. But something interesting happened on the way to her degree at Palm Beach Atlantic University: The 2006 local Fort Myers high school graduate got involved in the Miss America Organization during her sophomore year and in 2008 was crowned Miss Florida.
She was named fourth-runner up during the national pageant the following year.
“The value and heart of the Miss America program are the private scholarships,” says Jones. “It was an unbelievable experience and because of the scholarship money, I completed my education debt-free.”
And it all started with the first scholarship awarded by the community foundation. “I knew I wanted to go to a private Christian school in Palm Beach and I took advantage of every scholarship,” Jones says. “Finding out I got the scholarship was huge as was the confirmation from others. It felt like one small step to college.”
After graduating from Palm Beach Atlantic in 2010, Jones continued her education, receiving a master’s in Christian ministry from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“You never know how much of a part you play in someone’s story,” Jones says of the Judd scholarship. “Every dollar counts and enables a young person’s dream to come true. It gives them the freedom to pursue their dreams without having so many financial restrictions.”
Now back in Fort Myers, Jones is a mother, a mentor to young woman through her church, and runs a home-based business.
The George E. Judd Scholarship is awarded to Lee County high school graduates pursuing a degree in fine or performing arts.