Trinity senior Ogden named National Merit finalist

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 4, 2010

NATCHEZ — Jheri Dupreé Ogden knew she wanted to be Trinity Episcopal Day School’s valedictorian before she started attending classes.

“Before kindergarten, I told myself, ‘I’m going to be the valedictorian when I graduate,’” the 18-year-old said.

Ogden’s mom, Shirley Ogden, said her daughter, who is on track to be Trinity’s valedictorian, is a goal setter who has worked as hard as she could to accomplish her goals.

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Ogden’s latest goal was being named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist in February.

“I expected I might get it,” Ogden said. “Of course, it was a big relief when I did.”

Trinity has had 14 National Merit Finalists since it was founded in 1963.

Ogden said being a National Merit finalist takes her academic career to the next level.

“I knew I could stand out on the Natchez level,” Ogden said. “But standing out on the national level was a whole different thing. I’m proud to know I can compete on any level.”

Ogden has accepted a scholarship to Southern Methodist University in Dallas to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. National Merit is paying half of her tuition, which in total is $31,200 a year.

“I love college football,” she said. “Everyone looks at me like I’m nuts when I say what I want to do, but I hope to be a broadcaster on ESPN one day.”

Because she is intelligent, Ogden said people typically think she is going to medical school. Ogden said she thought about working in the health field, but later said she wanted to do something she knew would make her happy.

“I’m that girl who wakes up at 9 a.m. to watch College Gameday,” she said. “I want to do something I’d be glad to do every day for the rest of my life. I couldn’t think of a job that was more me.”

Alabama football is her favorite, and she went with her dad, Jerry Ogden, to the Bowl Championship Series this year in Pasadena, Calif. to watch the Tide win. Jerry said she started watching old Alabama football videos when she was 1 and a half year old.

“She would put (the VHS tapes) in and pull them out on her own,” he said. “She is well versed in football.

“If somebody did something wrong on the field, she can tell you what they did wrong.”

Ogden does the typical teenager things in her free time, such as watch movies, TV, text and play on Facebook.

“I wish everyone could know the Jheri Dupreé that I know,” Shirley Ogden said. “Most people know the studious and focused Jheri Dupreé, and I know that individual well, but there is more to her.”

“One of our favorite pastimes is going to the movies,” Shirley Ogden said. “She and I are like best friends.”

Jerry Ogden said he and his daughter took summer trips to Dallas, where they went to Six Flags Over Texas and took in Texas Rangers games, but Ogden would also sit in on his business trips.

“As a 9-year-old girl, she could sit in those meetings and tell me what the people were going to decide when we came out,” he said. “She has a well-rounded education and knows how business operates already.”

Athletics and the outdoors are another one of her favorite things. Her father said Ogden used to give her softball teams a message before games about strong teamwork being able to overcome the odds.

“Her teams didn’t always have the best players, but she’d tell them that they were not going to lose because they didn’t play,” he said. “And they’d always come in first or second place. You didn’t need the best players as long as they worked hard as a team and everybody did their best.”

Shirley Ogden said her daughter was reaching for workbooks instead of toys when she was two.

“Her work ethic comes from within, and it has since she was an little-bitty girl,” she said. “When carrying her, I would sit in what was to be her room and just read to her.

“She is truly, from the bottom of my heart, my hero,” Shirley said.

Hope for the future is what motivates Ogden to work so hard, and also, to prove that she could do it.

“(It) just goes to say that wherever you are, you can excel,” Ogden said. “You don’t have to live in a big city or go to a humongous school, you can make the best of where you are.”