Miss Mississippi gives encouragement at West Clay

Staff Writer

Asysa Branch never imagined she would one day been crowned Miss Mississippi as a little girl growing up in Booneville.

She had a tremendous bond with her father, and when he was incarcerated, it changed her world and the way she lived her life.

"Everything changed for me when my father was incarcerated," Branch said. "All of my classmates treated me differently, some wouldn't be my friend. Sometimes they made fun of me. But all of that helped me become the person I am today."

Branch shared what could make young people a success in life with the students at West Clay Elementary, Friday.

The beauty queen from Ole Miss talked to them about what they can do now to achieve their dreams in the future.

"As Miss Mississippi, my platform is empowering the children of incarcerated parents," Branch said. "What happened to my father was not my fault. It was shameful. I didn't ask for this. It had nothing to do with me as a person. But the kids at school treated me differently when he went to jail."

Branch uses her platform to reach out to children, to let them know she understands and has overcome the adversity she experienced.

"We can't rise up until we lift someone up," Branch said. "I want to give you four things you can do to be successful. These are things all of you can do."

She told the children to focus on making good grades and how important education is to overall success. She asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. All of the answers were positive: doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, singers, dancers, nurses and actors.

"To be any of those things you have to make good grades," Branch said. "I am a student at Ole Miss. I want to work in communications and marketing. I have to make good grades to get the career I want."
She then stressed good behavior and asked if any of the students liked to get in trouble. She said if they are making trouble now, they will be in even deeper trouble as they grow older. "Trouble can cost you everything,” Branch said. "So stay out of trouble if you plan to grow up and be something wonderful. Everything you do now prepares you for the future."

Being a friend is also crucial, she said. Branch learned that not everyone is a friend when her father was incarcerated. Some people she thought were her friends didn't treat her the same.

"I try to be a friend to everyone," Branch said, "You never know what someone else my be experiencing. They may look like they have everything, but you never know what may be going on. Be kind."
She said a kind word or a complement makes everyone smile and feel better about themselves.

Branch then mentioned the importance of good health, saying the students can't become an athlete, dancer, singer, doctor or nurse, unless they are in good health.

"Please don't smoke," Branch said. "I know everyone here knows someone who does. It doesn't make you look cool, or older. It's a bad habit that doesn't do anything good for you."

She brought out a set of nasty teeth that were brown and discolored. The teeth of a smoker.

"See they are awful," Branch said. "And some of them are missing. Smoking makes your teeth brown, your breath stink and your teeth fall out."

Branch brought out a head and torso with one black lung and one healthy lung.

"How could an athlete run or jump if their lungs were full of tar?" Branch said. "You have to have healthy lungs. Your future can't be bright if you have nasty teeth and can't breathe."

She talked about vaping and how it is not a safe substitute for cigarettes, saying there is the same amount of nicotine in a vape cartridge as there is in a pack of cigarettes.

"I want you to be everything you dream of being," Branch said. "Do what you know is right and try your best."