Miss Benton Harbor 2017 Jurnee Agbowu is many things. She is a student, a daughter, a friend, an intern, an advocate, an activist, and a teen member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor. Jurnee didn’t have a Boys & Girls Club to attend while living in Ohio. After moving to Benton Harbor in early 2016, Jurnee came to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor Teen Center with a friend for her first visit. “I really wanted to see what it was all about, so my friend Curtis, who was a member, invited me to come in,” says the teen. Jurnee joined the next day.
At the Teen Center, Jurnee found a safe, fun place where she felt free to be herself. “The staff members are always there for you,” said Jurnee. She later became a volunteer for the summer Night Court basketball mentoring program on Friday nights where she forged friendships and bonds with those staff members.
With the encouragement of her mother, Jurnee entered the Miss Benton Harbor pageant. “There is definitely more to it than I thought,” Jurnee says of her role as Miss Benton Harbor. “It is definitely a lifestyle change.” Jurnee, who tends to focus on sports and being active, is giving up her tennis shoes for high heels, with the hope of using her platform to give back to the community of Benton Harbor.
Her passion is water safety. Last summer, Jurnee’s close friend and fellow Club member Tra’Vone Shannon drowned after jumping off the pier at Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan. Having experienced a close call herself while on a white water rafting trip with her school, Tra’Vone’s loss hit Jurnee particularly hard. She and Tra’Vone had bonded at the Teen Center through their mutual interest in sports. “He coached me to do the high jump in track. It was one of my least favorite competitions, but Tra’Vone gave me the self-confidence to compete. He was right there on the sidelines cheering me on,” she said. Jurnee plans to run track again this year to honor their friendship and the investment Tra’Vone made in her.