Hometown Pride features a person each week who helps make the community better.
Merideth Pobst is the director of communications and the foundation for the Jackson R-2 School District.
She is a board member for the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Southeast Missouri and Junior Achievement. She is a past president of the Southeast Council on Philanthropy, which helps non-profit organizations work together. She is also very involved with her church, Cape First, where her husband is on staff.
The foundation is a separate 501c3 from the Jackson R-2 School District, but they’re very much connected. One would not exist without the other — the foundation wouldn’t be able to function without the school district. It is the fundraising arm for the School District.
As director of the foundation, I’m mainly charged with trying to find funding that would be outside of the regular School District budget that could help fulfill the educational mission of the School District. That could be through grant funding [or] business and community sponsorships. And I also run several special events for the foundation.
Our biggest projects each year involve raising money for the teaching and learning grant fund. This year, we hope to give away $40,000 back to teachers. The process works where teachers identify a need — something that could expand educational experiences for their students outside what the normal school budget would allow. Maybe it’s extra technology in the classroom. Maybe it’s a field trip experience that would really bring education to life.
Teachers go and they research these ideas and bring that information back to us in the form of a grant [application]. Then we have our foundation board of directors, which includes 15 people, read and review those grants and make the decision of who to fund and how to fund.
We take the names off, so it’s an anonymous process. Honestly, the thing or idea that the teacher has written about is what gains the merit for their decision. It’s not a personal thing, which I think is great. Any event that we have is always tied to raising money to give back to the classroom.
It’s a big job because it is a 24/7 job. One of the main things that I am charged with is getting our wonderful stories and the things that happen day to day — including the great educational things that are happening in the classroom, the projects students are doing and the extra mile that the teacher is going — my job is to make sure the community is aware of all of those things that happen, because there’s a lot of cool things that happen in our school district.
But my job is to also make sure that parents and community members are aware of things that are going on in the school district, and that they feel like they’re able to contact and communicate back with us. We know communication is a two-way street, so we want to be transparent and be approachable.
We want to be seen in the community and involved in the community. We want people to know who our school leaders are, so that they feel like they can come to any of us at any time if they have something good to say or if they have a concern. We want to be that open door for everyone.
Everyone thinks that I’m a native to Jackson, but I was born and raised down the road in Sikeston.
I was actually introduced to the Jackson community when I was a teenager by Marybeth Williams, who has since passed away. She was a hero of Jackson and a big supporter of women. I got to know her very well, when I was Miss Jackson at age 19. When I held that title, she said, “When you graduate college and you settle down, you should think about living in Jackson.”
I was so young, but at that time I remember thinking I really liked Jackson. Through that experience as Miss Jackson, I spoke to every civic club. I was all over the place. I got to know a lot of people, and they kind of took me in. I would have dinner with their families, and I was introduced to a lot of people. It made me realize Jackson was an awesome place.
Fast-forward a few years later, I graduated from college, my husband and I had a baby girl and we were living in Farmington at the time for his job. We wanted to be a little closer to home, and when it came to Jackson it was an easy choice. Not only did he get a job here, but also the school district is so strong. We moved here 13 years ago now and we’ve been here ever since. We’re red-and-black, through and through. I don’t think you can tell where Jackson starts and ends in our family.
I am a person who thoroughly enjoys people. I think that one of my strengths is relationship building, so the opportunity to get to work with people, meet people and hear their story has always intrigued me. My degree is in public relations, and one of the main reasons why I choose that field over television or other subsets of mass communications was those personal relationships.
You’ll often find me sitting with graduates and listening to their stories. I’m a lover of people and I like to connect with folks and figure out how I can help you and see if there’s a way you might be interested in giving back. It takes a lot of listening.
I believe you bloom where you’re planted, so I try to work hard to give back to the community. In my professional life and my personal life, I see the importance of getting outside of yourself and giving back in whatever way that you can.
I love that Jackson truly is one of those small towns that you would read about in a book. I love that there are beautiful parks that we can take our children to and feel safe. I love that it’s small enough that I know most people’s name and most people know me.
I just really love the small town feel. I love that you can go to the football stadium on Friday night and see 5,000 of your closest friends who are all there cheering on a team with so much passion and excitement — that people are proud to say they’re from Jackson.