Graduate student takes on Mrs. Oklahoma pageant to share message of love and kindness
OSU-Tulsa graduate student Jessica Walter is facing life’s challenges with gusto.
But the latest challenge is one of her biggest.
As the reigning Mrs. Jenks, Walter will compete for the title of Mrs. Oklahoma on March 9-10 in Guthrie.
“I remember hearing about the Miss Oklahoma Pageant and I was too shy to enter. There was no way,” she said.
But years later, when Walter heard about the Mrs. Oklahoma Pageant, she saw it as a chance to promote her message that there is no shame in failure and love and kindness are the keys to success.
Dealing with anxiety, depression
During her freshman year as an elementary education major at OSU-Stillwater, Walter was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and severe panic disorder.
“There’s no cure but I’ve found several positive ways to deal with it,” she said.
With the support of family and friends, she made it through and taught third grade in Sapulpa for one year.
She then decided to enter OSU-Tulsa and pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in teaching, learning and leadership, with the curriculum studies option.
Her experience at OSU-Tulsa has encouraged Walter to reach further than she thought possible.
“The smaller class sizes at OSU-Tulsa give you more time to develop relationships with your professors and classmates. And that has really been important to me,” Walter said. “It’s a tight-knit community. I wouldn’t go anywhere else but OSU.”
Ultimately, she plans to design homeschool curriculum – particularly in social studies and science – with a goal of starting her own homeschool organization.
A special bond
But it is a horse named Johnny who has made the biggest impact on Walter.
She met the abused and neglected horse after he arrived at Tulsa Hills Youth Ranch where she is a volunteer. He was never able to work in the children’s therapy program because of severe anxiety.
Their shared struggle with anxiety helped Walter and Johnny form a bond. She adopted Johnny, took him home and he is now thriving.
“It was through him I learned that those who have experienced trauma can heal and that love and kindness is a mutual language,” Walter said. “He has shown me that you can overcome trauma and it doesn’t define you.”
Johnny’s recovery inspired her to do something outside of her comfort zone and enter the Mrs. Oklahoma Pageant.
“I have learned that failure and success are not separate paths. They are all one path,” Walter said. “Failure is a part of life. Thomas Edison figured out 10,000 ways to not make a light bulb before he succeeded.”
She has also found that helping others is important to happiness. She volunteers at more than a dozen charities that help women, children and animals.
“I want to show others that heroes don’t wear capes and you don’t need a crown or a title to make a difference,” she said. “On just an ordinary day, you can be a role model and a light in the darkness. You make that choice.”