From left to right, professor Graham, JeaDa Lay; President Cynthia Pemberton


Lay's busy schedule helps push her to do more

If you want to know about a club, an event or generally anything that is going on at Lewis-Clark State College, JeaDa Lay (pictured center above with Music Professor Sarah Graham, left, and President Cynthia Pemberton, right) probably can help you.

At least when she has the time to help.

Lay is a senior at LC State, majoring in Business & Communication with minors in both Marketing and Theatre. When she graduates in May, she will leave with a vast variety of experiences, honors, and awards, as well as a bright future ahead of her.

In her four years at the college, Lay has immersed herself in several activities. This past month alone was absolutely crazy. She was part of the Black History Month organizing committee at LC State and led a student panel discussion with the audience at one of the February events on race and experiences of minorities in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.

She also attended the Region VII Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACFT) at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., where she was named the region’s KCACTF/LORT ASPIRE Leadership Fellow/winner. She won the competition over eight other semifinalists from colleges and universities in the region, which includes Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and northern California.

To win the competition, among other things, she developed a six-page theater company proposal and wrote an essay on how the entertainment industry has affected her life. She will head to the national conference in Washington, D.C., in April where she is up for the national award against other region winners.

In the last month, she also attended numerous meetings on campus where she is involved with a variety of clubs and serves as student body vice president for the Associated Students of LCSC.

And then there was the third annual LC State Women’s Leadership Conference, a day-long event where she was honored with the Rising Women’s Leadership Award. The award is given to an LC State student who is a role model to fellow students, a contributor to the community, and an advocate for gender equality and social justice.

Out of breath yet?

“I do all of this because I want to be able to connect to people,” Lay says. “Whatever leadership positions I go into, I want to find that common ground. I’m able to find that common ground because I am so well versed at so many things.”

Lay spent most of her years growing up in Troy, Idaho, a small town located 39 miles northeast of Lewiston. She was the oldest of six siblings and from an early age, she tried to be a role model for her brothers and sisters.

“I grew up with a single mother and was an immediate leader in my household so I learned about prioritizing and being flexible,” Lay says. “From there I also learned what hard work is, and that is a product of my grandparents as well. Throughout high school I was involved in everything as well. At Troy, they are very good at teaching you dedication, hard work, showing up, and being prompt and punctual.”

Lay was a three-sport athlete at Troy and earned a total of eight letters in volleyball, basketball and track, earning all-state honors in volleyball and track. She originally came to LC State to compete in throwing events in track, but after her second year, she wanted to get more involved with theatre and made the change.

“Part of the reason I came to LC is because it is close to home,” Lay says. “I wanted to make sure to see my brothers and sisters through high school. That being said, my brother Joshua does cross country and track here now. I really wanted to pave the way for my siblings. It is just cool because I feel like I’m really doing that. It feels so good to me because me trying to be involved isn’t about building my resume, it’s been because I truly find something I love in everything I see.”

That beauty in everything is Lay’s approach to life overall. She’s always trying to improve herself and no matter the situation, she can use it as a learning experience and find some good in it.

“That’s why I have worked on building different parts of who I am through these different programs,” Lay says.

Lay says the transition from high school to college was fairly easy. She says she spent a couple of summer months in Alaska before starting at LC State.

“I came down here and was able to really find family in my (track) team, and so I’ve been really good at developing community wherever I go,” Lay says. “My involvement here has kind of blossomed. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to leave a mark wherever I go and seeing a need, and seeing something that I bring to a need on campus, has motived me to do so much.”

With student government, she wanted to be the vice president because the position deals with finances, an area she wanted to gain more experience.

“I’ve really learned a lot about leadership,” she says. “Student government has really helped me to develop even more time management and critical thinking skills.”

Lay has had an enjoyable but busy four years at LC State. Last June, she was part of the LC Choir that performed at the Lincoln Center in New York. In November, she took part in the Business Division’s Entrepreneur Challenge. She and fellow student Ryann Conover came up with an idea for Project Begin, which helps foster care students between the ages of 18 and 25 learn career-readiness skills. The project featured six workshops that local companies helped design to get those students ready for jobs.

While she is involved in several clubs to help build her skills, her involvement in theatre is a little different.

“That comes from the little me, little baby JeaDa,” she says, laughing. “When I was little, my mom really found us connecting over movies. That was the one thing that we all really just could take time out of our busy schedules for because it’s not just me, my whole family is crazy with schedules. When I was little I used to do plays for my brothers and sisters, and make video cameras out of Legos and make horror films.

My love for theater really stems from the story of my life and the beauty that I can see. I just want to make sure everyone sees the beauty in the ordinary that I think we miss.”

After graduation, Lay hopes to tie all of her experiences together. She plans to move to Los Angeles and live with her aunt, who does marketing work for Disney. She would like to go to either film or performing arts school, but also would like to work in the nonprofit area.

“So the ultimate goal is maybe like having an interview job or doing documentaries,” she says. “I’ve always resonated with Oprah. Always!”

If she doesn’t go that route, she says she will probably put her business degree to work.

“I realize business is so much about people and just how we present ourselves and the things around us and establishing that need,” she says. “I’m using business more as a way to understand how the world works around me. Therefore, no matter what I do, if I have my own production company someday, or I make my own films, I know how to market myself.”

Lay says LC State helped her with her path.

“I do believe I have a lot of beautiful things coming into my life, and I work hard wherever I go, but opportunity wise, the small campus allowed me to do a lot of things and make great intimate relations on campus,” Lay says. “I really appreciate the faculty here.

“You know everyone talks about the small campus size, which is nice, but for me, honestly, it’s community. It really is. I just thought I wanted to leave my small town and I still do. I still want to go see the world. But you can’t just disregard these people in small towns because we have brilliant people around here. We have professors that are way more accredited than people would assume at LC State. I think it’s all about how you use your resources here. There are so many opportunities.”

Lay says she’s come a long way from the days of being a little girl who didn’t feel noticed and was unsure of all the things she could accomplish.

“Ultimately, what motivates me is family and friends,” she says. “I really work hard every day to be a better version of myself. I am not in a competition with anyone else around me. But I am here to be a leader and be a voice for those who are not feeling able to speak, or feel like they are too quiet. I want to listen to them and let them get their points across.”

Even if it means another thing for her to be involved with.