Merideth Pobst, who serves as the chief marketing and communications director for the Jackson R-2 School District, said she always tried to make helping others a core component of her life.
“I feel like our lives are short and we don’t know how much time we have,” Pobst said. “Everything is bigger than just us, and personally I feel like my obligation is to make an impact wherever I go.”
In her role at Jackson R-2, she oversees communication efforts across the district’s 10 schools and the Jackson R-2 Foundation – which raises additional educational and scholarship funding for the district.
“I really tend to be the one that bridges the school with the community,” Pobst said. “The way the school goes is the way the community goes, so it’s important that the community knows what’s going on in the school.”
In addition, Pobst said she helps the schools and students connect with area businesses, organizations and local government entities that make up the Jackson community. “We want our students, when they graduate, to be productive citizens – hopefully right here in their hometown.”
Pobst said that while she didn’t grow up in Jackson, she has always been red and black through and through. “Growing up in Sikeston, we were red and black,” she said. “Then I went to SEMO, and Southeast was red and black – so when I came here and knew I was passionate about the school, it was perfect that they were red and black.”
Her first real experience in Jackson was when she won the Miss Christmas pageant in Jackson when she was 14 years old. There she met former Jackson Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marybeth Williams, who ran the pageants in Jackson.
“When I graduated high school, I needed scholarship money for college,” Pobst said. “I had heard about the Miss Jackson contest and thought, ‘I love Jackson and Marybeth is so kind,’ so I entered and ended up winning.”
Pobst used the scholarship money to go to Southeast Missouri State University, where she received a degree in public relations, business communications and writing. Pobst said she originally planned on going into broadcast journalism but was drawn towards public relations once at Southeast.
“The more I learned about the different things under the umbrella of mass communications, I really started to love public relations,” Pobst said. “It is all about meeting people and establishing a relationship. For me, I always want things to be a win-win, so I liked being able to help a business meet their goals and help the community in the process.”
Pobst attended Southeast with her junior high sweetheart, Justin Pobst – whom she married in 2002. The couple lived in Farmington for around a year and a half before Merideth became pregnant with their oldest child, Lydia.
Merideth wanted to live closer to home and Justin was offered a job in Jackson, so they moved to what would become their new hometown. “Marybeth [Williams] and I just stayed in touch and she always said, ‘Someday when you’re grown and married, you should think about moving to Jackson,’” Merideth said.
Pobst said her first call when they moved to Jackson was to Williams, who helped introduce her to people in Jackson.
“Marybeth actually introduced me to Bill King, who had a real estate company at the time,” Pobst said. “He said, ‘You have a good personality, you can talk to people, you have this marketing experience – why don’t you try real estate?’ So I did, and I loved it.”
Pobst worked as a realtor for five years, saying she never expected she would do anything else. But when the economic downturn in 2008 affected the real estate market, she decided to try to use her public relations degree.
She had the opportunity to begin working for the educational nonprofit Junior Achievement – which was expanding to the southeast Missouri region – in addition to her real estate work.
“I knew I always loved schools and I liked fundraising for nonprofits – helping an organization that helps other people,” Pobst said. “I worked with schools all over Southeast Missouri and helped them basically get entrepreneurship programs for free. I would raise all the money and then work with the volunteers.”
During her time with Junior Achievement, she became friends with people working for the Jackson school district. “At that point, I knew I had another child on the way, and I knew I was going to have kiddos that were going to be in the Jackson school system,” Pobst said. “Jackson schools at that time were trying to build East Elementary and they asked me, just as a community member, if I would help with that initiative – and I was super excited to help.”
Pobst said that after that campaign was successful, she joined the district as an employee – initially splitting her time 50-50 between communication work and running the district’s foundation.
“As the district has continued to grow, we soon realized communication was going to take over,” Pobst said. “About six years ago, they restructured the role where I still oversee the foundation, but it now falls under my communication duties.”
In addition to her work at Jackson R-2, Pobst is very involved with the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce and was the president of the chamber’s board last year.
“I love the way that they bring business people together,” she said. “If you are a communications person, that networking piece is so key. I genuinely love to hear people’s stories and make all those connections.”
Pobst was involved with creating the Women’s Impact Network in 2018. The WIN program hosts luncheons every other month – including a variety of speakers and vendors.
“I really felt like we were missing that here,” Pobst said. “I’m very supportive of men too, but I wanted to do something for women, and we keep breaking our attendance records.” The program has grown to have more than 500 women in attendance at each luncheon.
Merideth also hosts a Christian morning show for KHIS Radio with her husband Justin, who is the general manager for the station and the campus pastor for Cape First Church of Sikeston.
“Five years ago, Justin was on the morning show with another co-host, and she took another job and moved away,” Merideth said. “They asked me to fill in and it was supposed to be a very short stint until they found a person, but five years later, I guess I’m no longer a fill in.”
Pobst said the show has been successful because they just have normal conversations about their everyday life. “We talked about the kids getting up in the morning, what we do on the weekends and just the hurriedness of life,” she said. “It seems to really resonate with people because it’s real.”
Merideth is very active in Cape First Church, and she has spoken for several women and Christian-based events. She said she tries to take the same approach to all her work – whether it is religious-based or not.
“For me, it’s all ministry,” Pobst said. “You don’t have to preach a sermon. You can just be positive and live your life in a way that helps others. I’m not perfect and I don’t always get it right, but I at least try to be positive and when I mess up, I say I’m sorry and try to do better the next day.”
Merideth said she and Justin have tried to raise their two daughters – Lydia and Layla – with the same approach. Lydia graduated from Jackson High School last year and now is attending Southeast Missouri State University, and Layla is currently a student at JHS.
“So far, they’re both level-headed, hard-working positive kids,” Merideth said. “And for us, they’re our biggest fruit, if you will. I just hope that they see that and learn how to help and connect with others in whatever they do.”
She said the hometown feel of Jackson was a major reason they moved to Jackson, saying she wanted her daughters to experience it. “I really liked the fact that it has a small town feel, yet we’re still a big enough city,” Pobst said. “I like that it’s a safe community and, obviously, I’m proud of the schools. We’ve had opportunities to go different places, but we wanted our kids to be a part of this.”
Pobst said she enjoys going to football games on Friday nights and “seeing 5,000 of my closest friends.” She said she can walk into almost anywhere in Jackson and see people she knows.
“It’s just such a welcoming place, however, you only enjoy things if you get involved,” Pobst said. “Your level of enjoyment is related to your level of involvement, so I always tell people who come here to get involved.”