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Amy Andrews/Written for Hometown News/2005

Whatís in a title?
If you asked newly crowned Miss Greater Union, Jessica Suber, she might tell you that this title in particular holds an opportunity of a lifetime. Winning the title of Miss Greater Union gives Jessica the opportunity to compete for Miss South Carolina. Winning Miss South Carolina holds the opportunity to compete for the coveted title of Miss America. And, her newly acquired title holds the opportunity to spread her platform about the importance of prenatal care.

The youngest in her category, 17 year-old Suber competed alongside contestants up to the age of 24. Suber decided to compete in the pageant, because as she says, "I love the challenge and it offers me the chance to educate people about something very close to my heart. I had no problem choosing a platform."

Suber had no problem choosing a platform because she saw first hand the fragility of life when her sister gave birth to her nephew, Riley.

Riley was born 6 months ago by C- Section. Due to an excess of amniotic fluids in his lungs, it was necessary for Riley to spend his first week of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Self Memorial Hospital in Greenwood. It was there that Jessica Suber would get a glimpse of a 1 pound, 4 ounce baby who was also in NICU. "He looked so helpless," said Suber, "In that moment I knew that I wanted to help babies live a healthier more prosperous life."

Shortly thereafter, Suber launched PALS: Prenatal Awareness Leap Start.

The objective of PALS is to generate public awareness and support for adequate prenatal care throughout pregnancy by incorporating a strong emphasis on receiving high quality health care within the first trimester. According to Suber, the pre-mature birth rate is the leading cause of death for infants in the state of South Carolina. Sadly, South Carolina is also rated 37th in the country in infant mortality. PALS has the potential to drastically reduce these statistics.

"One out of every four women in Union County alone receives less than adequate prenatal care. In order to stop this increasing trend, we need to increase awareness with effective education and community involvement. We need to make it available to females of all ages; this includes teen moms because not all of them have the maturity that adults do."

When asked if Suber considers herself a role model, she responds, "I do. I remember looking up to kids who are now my age. Now Iím beginning to realize how much influence I can have over one personís life. Iím the captain of the volleyball team and cheerleading squad. Iím also Vice President of the Senior Beta Club. These are all leadership roles. Now I want to broaden my knowledge by bringing pre-mature births down as much as possible. I want to know that Iíve tried to make a difference by putting everything I have into my community."

Suber plans on accomplishing her goals before the July 2006 Miss South Carolina pageant by attending the March of Dimes leadership conference in Columbia. Sheís also considering assembling a group of volunteers to crochet baby blankets to present to maternity wards. "The possibilities are endless," said Suber, "We just need to be sure that we educate people about the significance of living a healthy lifestyle." With the support of her community, her goal has the potential to convey the seriousness of prenatal care and provide expectant mothers with the tools they need to successfully carry their baby to full-term.

Along with her new sparkling crown of rhinestones, Suber also won a $1,000 scholarship towards her college education and took first place in the swim suit competition. "I have to thank my volleyball and cheerleading coaches for winning the swim suit competition because they encouraged me to work on my abs and keep physically fit!"

So, what is in a title? For Miss Union County, Jessica Suber, her title holds a goal. A goal tailored to improve the future of unborn children. She has an aggressive vision that was born from a glimpse of a helpless, grossly underweight baby, clinging to life in NICU.

17 year-old Suber has taken the first step to enhance the lives of individuals who otherwise might not get practical prenatal care. She has dedicated herself to a mission that began with a feeling a helplessness and turned into a dream of hope. Her dream holds the most precious gift we are given: Life.

Suber has applied for early admission to Lander College in Greenwood and plans to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. She is the daughter of Jim and Tammy Suber of Kinards and attends Whitmire Community School.









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