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Pascagoula-Gautier’s Jessica McNeel named 2024 Mississippi Parent of the Year

Jessica McNeel
Jessica McNeel (Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Education)

The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has announced Jessica Banahan McNeel as the 2024 Mississippi Parent of the Year.

McNeel, a mother of three, two of whom are in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District, was nominated by the school district and is described as a humble, dedicated advocate of public education in the Coast community.

She is said to have a passion for fostering a positive and enriching environment for students and families. As a partner in the law firm Byran, Nelson, Schroeder, Castigiola, & Banahan, PLLC, McNeel allocates time to invest in schools, communities, and children to make an attractive area for the next generation.

McNeel believes one of the most impactful ways to benefit her children and other children in the community is to be present, involved, and give back to the district. She wants her children to always understand that their parents support them and value the community. McNeel’s goal is to raise children who are kind, open-minded, intelligent, and have a desire to work hard in accomplishing their endeavors.

She has invested numerous hours in various service-oriented activities and organizations serving as Parent Teacher Student Organization President for three years and representative for the Parent Advisory Board. McNeel chaired fundraisers, organized annual campus cleanups, chaperoned field trips, and actively engaged in various school events such as Teacher Appreciation Week and Accelerated Reading parties.

Additionally, McNeel has annually served as a community interviewer in the legal sector for the You’re Hired! mock interview program sponsored by the Jackson County Chamber and served as a member of the PGSD’s most recent Strategic Planning Committee.

She is a founding member of the Pascagoula Gautier Foundation for Educational Excellence (PGFEE), a non-profit dedicated to fostering connections between individuals, businesses, and industries to the PGSD to support and promote education within the community. For the past 12 years, she has chaired the Rotary Club of Pascagoula’s annual scholarship program, which awards approximately $40,000 to seniors from local high schools.

The MDE committee reviewed numerous applications submitted by school districts and selected a Parent of the Year finalist from each of the four congressional districts. From those four district winners, the 2024 Parent of the Year is determined.

Other Parent of the Year finalists for 2024 were:

  • Congressional District 1 finalist is Leigh Ann Whitehead — Nominated by the Tupelo School District for being an unconditionally supportive parent with a heart of gold who gives her time and resources. She has two children currently in the district.
  • Congressional District 2 finalist is Paula Morris — Nominated by Natchez-Adams School District for her exceptional dedication and unwavering support in creating a nurturing and enriching environment for students, parents, and faculty. She has two children, with one in the district.
  • Congressional District 3 finalist is Lakeitha Atkinson — Nominated by the McComb School District for her outstanding contributions and being an amazing role model parent, who supports the school’s mission and vision, and advocates for students, teachers, and parents. She has one child currently in the district.

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