Jessie Hayward of Joseph is a soft-spoken, poised young woman with a shy smile. She recently graduated from Joseph High School as valedictorian of her class.
Hayward is now looking forward to another milestone in her life that will make her the center of attention and a role model for other young women all over Oregon for the next year.
This week in Albany she will be installed as Grand Worthy Advisor for the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls in Oregon - the top office in Rainbow Girls in the state.
One of her installing officers will be Christy Kiser Wells, a teacher at Joseph High School and the only other Wallowa County resident to previously serve as the state's Grand Worthy Advisor, back in 1974-75 over a quarter of a century ago.
"I'm excited for her," said Wells of Jessie's installation. "It was a very exciting time in my life."
Wells has not only been Hayward's math teacher at school, but was also the Mother Advisor (adult leader) of the Maxine Assembly when Jessie and about four of her friends joined the Rainbow group as 11- and 12- year-olds back in about 1995. At the time they joined the assembly had dwindled down to two or three members. Today, merged with the former Mother Ortman assembly of Enterprise, the group has grown again to some 24 members, including a few college students, and is one of the most active assemblies in the state.
"I remember driving back from the first Grand Assembly their first year with Jessie and her friends, and they said to me, 'One of us has to be Grand Worthy Advisor someday,'" said Wells.
She feels that Hayward will do a great job in the head office. "She's intelligent, she's hard working and she's on top of things," said Wells.
Jessie Hayward, the daughter of Mike and Bev Hayward, will be traveling this week to Albany for Grand Assembly with an entourage of 12 members of the Maxine Assembly and four adults, including her mother, Bev, who is the current Mother Advisor for the assembly.
Also present will be another Joseph teacher, Claudia Boswell, who was Oregon's Grand Mother Advisor this past year while Jessie Hayward was serving a year's apprenticeship as Grand Worthy Associate Advisor to this year's top girl, Melissa Loveland of Portland. Boswell and Hayward often traveled together to Rainbow activities all over the state, including official visitations to all of Oregon's 24 assemblies. In Wells' day there were 75 assemblies in Oregon, and one of Jessie's goals is to increase membership.
The fancy titles, the pretty dresses and the ritual work that are all part of the organization usually called Rainbow Girls have been an integral part of Jessie Hayward's life for over seven years.
"I joined when I was 11 in November of 1994," recalls Hayward. "It's always been important to me. It became natural, every other week it was time for Rainbows." She said that the organization provided a social outlet for her and her friends at first, but through the years she gained much more. "There's tons of opportunities for public speaking," she said. "You learn self respect and self confidence, you meet a lot of people, and it gives you a chance to give back to your community."
The Rainbow Girls is a service, character building organization for young women between the ages of 11 and 20, sponsored by the Masons and Eastern Stars.
She noted that if you watch the girls who join Rainbows, you can see how they change. "You see that the shy and timid ones are coming out of their shell, and the loud and wild ones are calming down," Hayward observed. She admitted that she was one of the "shy and timid' girls