Teresa Parson

First lady delivers words of encouragement at Mark Twain
Posted on 10/11/2022
Teresa Parson

“If it is to be, it is up to me.”

These 10 two-letter words inspired Missouri first lady Teresa Parson to initially become involved with the Jobs for America’s Graduates program on which she now serves with Gov. Mike Parson as co-chair of the Board of Directors.

Teresa Parson visited Mark Twain School as part of a tour of JAG-Missouri programs on Tuesday, Oct. 4, and shared with students a story about that original conference in Washington, D.C. she attended with her husband before he became lieutenant governor, when there were only six participating schools across the state.

The event's keynote was a graduate she referred to as ‘Sam,’ who had a rough home life, and was very shy when he entered the program. By his second year of JAG, however, he had won a national essay contest and delivered a speech with confidence in front of 1,000 people, including the first lady several years ago.

Sam was the originator of the aforementioned mantra which, Teresa Parson said: “completely cinched my idea of working with JAG.” She explained its significance: “He realized his present lifestyle did not define him, and he cannot blame the environment for his own poor choices.”

Today there are 107 JAG programs in 74 schools statewide – 22 of which are located in Southeast Missouri. The 15 that the first lady’s team had visited this school year prior to coming to Poplar Bluff all look differently, according to JAG-Missouri Program Director Teresa Smith, but the four tenets remain the same. The JAG model includes trauma-informed care, employer engagement, project-based learning and a year-long follow-up component, she noted.

Teresa Parson proceeded to open up to the class, sharing how the governor and herself both grew up in small rural Missouri towns. One of four children with young parents, Teresa Parson said that her family was likely considered below the poverty line by modern standards.

Her mother returned to school to receive her high school equivalency diploma, yet her father never completed his secondary education. Nevertheless, he had a strong work ethic as a cattle farmer, and did an apprenticeship for a carpenter when she was a young girl, and went on to build numerous houses in the Bolivar area.

While the first lady admitted she lived to regret it, neither Mike nor Teresa Parson have college degrees, they only took some classes. Teresa Parson discontinued her higher education to work full-time at a bank and the governor joined the U.S. Army, later serving in law enforcement. Mike Parson’s political career began when he was asked to run for the state House of Representatives, and Teresa Parson said she supported his decision.

“We stand today to encourage you that you can make good—if you have the desire, positive attitude and are willing to work hard—you can make something of yourself,” Teresa Parson stated. “If the governor and I had not walked through the doors that opened up, we would not be where we are at today.”

She gave each student a specially made ‘challenge coin’ that read: Dream, prepare, persist and succeed. She also signed a book entitled “You Can, Too,” co-authored by the elected females of the Missouri Senate. While there have only been 36 female senators of 1,100 in the state's history, Teresa Parson pointed out how this year there is the largest contingent ever – with 11 of 34 seats being held by women.

Mark Twain was established on North Main Street in 2020 as a non-traditional school serving grades 4-12. Besides credit recovery services offered, the school houses the district’s JAG program under the instruction of specialist Darla Nunn.


Cutline: Missouri first lady Teresa Parson (far right) asks second-year JAG student Brooke Weaver (forefront) about the classes’ volunteer service with the Bread Shed.

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2024 SchoolMessenger Corporation. All rights reserved.