Leah Boyd

Miss Mississippi State University

Hometown:   Madison, AL

Social Impact Initiative Description:      My social impact initiative advocates for greater access to quality music education in schools. As a music student and now a music teacher, I know firsthand that music classes teach more than just music – they enhance student confidence, critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, and appreciation of diverse cultures – important life skills that transfer to college and a wide variety of careers. Through my social impact initiative, I raise money for music programs, am a role model for my music students, and strive to raise awareness for the benefits of music education.

Talent:     Piano

What college do you attend, or have attended, or will attend if High School graduating senior?      Mississippi State University

What is your major?      Bachelor of Music Education (Piano and Voice)

List scholastic honors:      4.0 GPA (Stephen D. Lee Scholar), President’s List, Presidential Endowed Scholar, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, MSU Music Department Most Outstanding Musician Award and Director’s Award

What is your scholastic ambition?     I am pursuing a Master of Music in Church Music and a Master of Divinity at seminary in hopes of being a music teacher and a music minister

Greatest non-academic accomplishment:     I loved having the opportunity to sing onstage at Carnegie Hall twice. I think that performing on that iconic stage is every musician’s dream. One day, I hope to go back as a headliner! 

What has been your greatest adventure?  Please provide an answer outside of the Miss America program.      Attending Mississippi State for college has been my greatest adventure so far! I have had so many incredible experiences there both on campus and off: I have had the opportunity to make lifelong friends, take a leadership class with our President, Dr. Keenum, travel abroad to Italy, Spain, and Germany, student conduct and accompany our choirs, teach in the MSU community music school, perform in operas, plays, and musicals, travel to Washington DC and meet our state representatives, meet other students who come from places around the world, and be mentored by wonderful faculty that have shaped me as a person, teacher, student, and musician. I cannot have asked for a better adventure than my four years in college at Mississippi State!!

What trip shaped your life? Please provide an answer distinct from your social impact initiative.     I have been most shaped by my international trips – my international mission trips, study abroad experiences, and an international choir tour with the MSU choir. Travelling internationally has allowed me to become a globally-conscious, independent, and confident individual; through these trips, I have experienced other cultures, other languages, and have met incredible new people from a wide variety of backgrounds. These trips have shaped my career ambitions and my life, and I know I am more well-rounded because of them. 

Use three (3) words to describe your greatest assets.      Charismatic, Work-ethic, Empathetic

Are you a person of intelligence or of common sense?    I like to think I have a good balance of both!

Who is the most influential person in your life other than your mother?     In the past year, I have lived with both of my grandmothers for extended periods of time. There’s nothing like spending time with them to really appreciate how they have shaped me as an individual in many deeply impactful and positive ways.

What are your 2 favorite hobbies and what led you to them? Participation in the Miss Mississippi program is not considered a hobby for this question.     Because music and pageants take up most of my time, two of my other favorite hobbies are fairly quiet and calm – reading and cooking! I have been a bookworm my whole life, so curling up after a long day to escape by reading has always been a favorite hobby of mine. I also love to cook southern dinner staples alongside the guidance and company of my grandmother, mother, and aunts.

Who is your most interesting relative and why?     My great-great-great-great-great grandfather sold his house to George Washington, who gave it to his mother as a gift. You can still visit the house today!

What is the best advice you have received and from whom? Please answer this question with information from outside of the Miss America program.     The best advice that I have ever gotten from my voice teacher was “hard work will beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” As a musician, it is sometimes difficult to see so many naturally talented people vying for the same jobs and opportunities that I want as well. However, this advice has allowed me not to get discouraged by reminding me to always work hard and give my 100% every time, no matter what anyone else is doing.  I have personally experienced how rewarding it is to see that hard work pay off!

What is your favorite quote?      “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” -Mother Teresa

Who is your most influential mentor and why? Please answer this question with an individual from outside of the Miss America program.     My most influential mentor has been my piano teachers, Mrs. Diana Pettit and Dr. Sebba. They have both taught me so much more than just how to read music and play the piano. Though sometimes lovingly tough on me, they have pushed me to strive to be the best I can possibly be, to have self-discipline, work hard, and to share music with a selfless heart. So much of my life has been shaped from their mentorship and instruction.

Other than being Miss Mississippi, what is your dream job?      I dream of being a music teacher and performing opera in Europe during summer breaks. I love to teach and I love my students, but I also love to perform, travel, and share music with others! Hopefully, one day, I will be able to do both.

What is the one thing about you that people you meet may not immediately realize?      I enjoy learning and talking about cars and how they work.

What success have you learned most from?  Please answer this question with an experience outside of the Miss America program.     A success that I have loved to learn from has been attending Mississippi State University and successfully attaining my Bachelor’s degree with a 4.0 GPA.  I learned so much about what it means to be passionate, to work hard for my goals and dreams, and how important it is to try and make a positive difference in everything that I do.

What failure have you learned most from? Please answer this question with an experience outside of the Miss America program.      When I was applying to graduate school, I auditioned at a school that I thought would be a perfect fit for me. To my dismay, I was rejected, but the closing of that door opened up so many others for me. It allowed me to be led into opportunities not just in music performance and education, but in music ministry as well! I am now very excited for what the future holds, and have learned that failure is not always a bad thing. 

What is one important thing you have learned from being in the Miss America Program?       I have learned that despite the message of modern media, young women do not have to choose between being a smart, world changing, independent, empowered woman or being a “beautiful” woman. Women in the Miss America Program are all of the above.

If you are crowned Miss Mississippi, what do you want to accomplish during your Year of Service?      As Miss Mississippi, I would visit schools statewide and interact with students directly as a mentor and cheerleader to support music performances and to encourage students to get involved in the arts. I also would talk with and advocate to state lawmakers and school administrators about the benefits of music education in order to expand access to quality music education programs and the Mississippi Whole Arts Initiative for Mississippi students. I believe every one of our state’s students could benefit positively from music education and the integration of the arts into our classrooms, and I want to convey that message across Mississippi.

Is there a personal connection that made you pick your personal social impact project?      I advocate for music education because I have personally experienced its many benefits as a music student, and now, as a music teacher. Music classes have also been a deeply integral and positive part of my life; they have given me confidence, personal discipline, opportunities to express myself, and a community of lifelong friends. However, now that I am a teacher, I have personally seen the incredible and powerful ways that music education impacts and touches the lives of my own students in the same ways and more!

When is your sense of humor most evident?      When I am around my best friends and family, I feel funny enough to have my own Netflix special!

What historical figure best represents who you are striving to be?     I look up to many women, but I especially connect with Cheryl Prewitt. She was also a Miss MSU (and, of course, a Miss Mississippi and Miss America) who now uses her musical talents to heal others and in ministry. Her selfless spirit, positive attitude, and humility inspire me both in my journey in the Miss America Organization as well as my personal and spiritual life.

What gadget can you not live without?     I probably could not life without my phone – I use it for school, work, and to stay connected with friends!

What is your favorite sport and sport team?      All things Mississippi State. Hail State!