One Moment In Time

One year ago, I sat alongside my fellow ‘retired’ journalist Kamie Stephen in the front row of the North Platte High School auditorium. Hearts racing, we waited impatiently for the announcement of the new Miss Nebraska, the woman who would represent our state and continue another chapter in a program that’s spanned 80 years.

It came down to two: Allison and Wellesley. Both were PHENOMENAL young women. Both were well spoken, driven and purposeful, organized and responsible, charismatic and exceptional in all aspects. When host Dave Griek announced Allison had won, I watched her… she hugged Wellesley, she focused on her, Wellesley walked away… and all of the sudden emotion engulfed her.

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

Tears filled my eyes as I realized several things in that one moment. What an INCREDIBLE woman to focus her words and thoughts in those first few seconds on her fellow titleholder, who has just finished second. Then, watching a woman who was typically so composed, even reserved, allowing herself to become overcome with joy and gratitude, it truly hit home how much of her heart and soul Allison had put into the journey to become Miss Nebraska.

That one moment was just the beginning.

 

“I remember after I won Miss Nebraska that I wanted my goal to be to visit every county in Nebraska,” Allison told me recently.” There has only been one Miss Nebraska who was able to accomplish that, Kelly Keiser Terrell – Miss Nebraska 2005, and she was one of the judges!  She was able to do so much during her year of service and I wanted to have a year like hers. I have visited students in 57 schools across Nebraska.  School visits was not the only thing that I focused on this year.  I had 165 appearances which includes meeting many Kiwanis, Rotary, and Legion clubs.  I visited nursings homes, VA hospitals and clinics, retirements communities, pre-schools, and attended many fundraisers all across the state.  With attending all these different events, I traveled over 40,000 miles.  I went through a lot of audio books this year with all the long drives.”

There are titleholders who slow down after winning Miss Nebraska, or competing at Miss America. The high wears off; the goal has been reached. For Allison, the mission continued every, single day she held the title Miss Nebraska 2017. In her first few weeks, I threw about 12 radio, TV and newspaper interviews at her, one after another. I told her once, ‘feel free to say no if you’re getting burned out.’ Her response: ‘I’m only Miss Nebraska for one year. I want to do as much as I can.’

 

Allison was our first Miss Nebraska to work directly with Governor Pete Ricketts, attending Homecoming at the Governor’s Mansion and traveling with his office to Nebraska’s four Blue Ribbon Schools. She solidified our new partnership with Teammates Mentoring Program, securing a new arena of speaking opportunities and networking. She was invited to the College World Series, kicking off the team barbecue at arguably one of our state’s biggest events. She attended the Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Heart Ball, spoke with hundreds of veterans in La Vista before their Honor Flight, performed live on Omaha TV for a fundraising telethon.. the list goes on and on.

“Another highlight of my year was each school visit,” said Allison. “I visited schools all over the state of Nebraska had so much fun learning what made each school unique.  I also had an absolute BLAST giving my presentations and answering all of the students’ wild questions.  While traveling Nebraska and meeting the students, teachers, and citizens of these communities, it gave me a great sense of pride for our state.  I was able to meet some of most genuine and hard working individuals in Nebraska.   I will forever cherish the people and communities that treated me with such kindness when I came to visit.  I can tell you that “Nebraska Nice” is a true statement!”

 

THIS is what I want people to know about Miss Nebraska and our program. Allison Tietjen is a woman of SUBSTANCE. All of America got a glimpse of that in September, when she represented our state at the iconic Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.

 

“Miss America was the first big moment for me,” said Allison. “I remember being very nervous for Miss America, not knowing how it was going to go.  Miss America was a mix of emotions, but overall it was pure joy.  I met some of the most amazing women, and friends that would help me all throughout my year as Miss Nebraska. In the dressing room I sat next to Miss Missouri (Jennifer Davis) and Miss Illinois (Abby Foster) and in those two weeks we became really close.  There were many times all three of us would be in tears we were laughing so hard.  These are the moments that I always look back on and cannot help but smile.   I also will never forget walking out on the Miss America stage for the first time in my gown.  I have never had a gown that I have loved more and having that moment on the Miss America stage is probably going to be a highlight of my life. I would not trade those two weeks at Miss America for anything, and if I had the chance I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

The sentiment about her year of service is the same – and that’s exactly what it was for Allison Tietjen. We refer to this title as a job, and folks, it is absolutely that and so much more. These women put their lives on hold – their college careers, marriage plans, and off the free time, partying and adventurine’ing you so often see in early 20-somethings. They dedicate their lives to others. For Allison – to children, to our nation’s heroes, to military families, and so many more.

 

CLICK HERE to watch Allison’s Miss Nebraska 2017 video.

   “I have had an absolute incredible year and have loved every moment of being Miss Nebraska, for that reason I am sad that it is coming to an end,” said Allison. “For something that I have put so much work into and has been my life for the past year,  it is a unique feeling that my Miss Nebraska journey will be over.  I am not going to let this chapter end completely though.  I will always support the pageant and want to continue to help in any way that I can.”

And with that, Allison Tietjen continues a journey, incredible with or without that crown. She’ll gain a new sister when her brother gets married this summer, she’ll regain some privacy with her longtime boyfriend, Garrett, and she’ll continue her work at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, pursuing a Bachelors degree in Family Science with an emphasis in Nutrition and Psychology. Her hope is to be accepted into graduate school for Occupational Therapy.

 

At a time when ‘pageants’ are under near-constant scrutiny – that they degrade and objectify women, that they place a woman’s focus on outer beauty rather than intelligence and talent – Allison Tietjen has a message for all young women who want the absolute best in all facets of their lives.

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

“I was someone who had to take a leap of faith and try something completely out of my comfort zone. I was someone who thought “what if I would try to compete for Miss Nebraska”.  I can say with 100% confidence that I have not a single regret for taking that leap of faith,” said Allison. “Miss Nebraska pushes you to become the best version of yourself and it pulls you outside of your comfort zone.  With girls that might be considering it but don’t know for sure, I would encourage them to watch Miss Nebraska.  I remember being unsure of it but interested in the program when I was in high school.  My mom and I watched Miss Nebraska 2013, and from then on I was hooked.  From there I competed in the next local and learned along the way.  For me, becoming Miss Nebraska didn’t happen overnight.  It took years of hard work.  I encourage anyone who may be considering it to take that chance and try!”

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Close your eyes, and think of the moments that define your life. Moments in time, adding up to one story. You have ONE life. None of us know how many moments we’ll get.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Thank you, Allie, for showing all of us how to make the absolute most of every, single moment. Thank you for taking our organization to the next level and building a legacy that can continue to titleholders down the road; you gave everyone reason to pause and say ‘yes, this is something I want to support and be part of.’ And thank you for sharing those moments with so many others. Your one moment in time, your year as Miss Nebraska, may be over, but your impact will certainly live on – in photographs, in autographs, in memories, and in countless hearts.

You are forever our Miss Nebraska.

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Click here to read more about the 2018 Miss Nebraska contestants, and the 2018 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants.

Click here to learn more about the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program.

Contestant #16

‘Mental health is as important as physical health. Please reach out to someone if you need help. You are not alone and you are worth so much ❤’ 

Posted by Kaelia Nelson, August 17, 2017.

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Right now, 15 young women are taking part in rehearsals at North Platte High School, hoping to be crowned the next Miss Nebraska. An important piece is missing from the Class of 2018.

Kaelia

Her name: Kaelia Nelson, crowned Miss Chadron 2018 on September 9.

“Extremely excited for the year ahead as your Miss Chadron 2018,” she shared just days after she won the title. Just weeks later, Kaelia began classes at Peru State College and jumped right into her active scheduled as a collegiate cheerleader and local Miss Nebraska titleholder.

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“Last weekend I had the opportunity to perform a dance in honor of all the men and women who have risked their lives for us to live in this amazing country,” said Kaelia. “I feel absolutely honored to have been in the same room as so many of these wonderful and brave individuals. Thank you for your service. ❤️💙🇺🇸”

October 15, Kaelia got all dolled up for a photo shoot, courtesy of a new sponsor for the Miss Chadron program.

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“Thank you so much to the wonderful Heidi Barnes for donating a photo shoot for us title holders,” said Kaelia. “I can’t wait to see how they turned out!”

Two weeks after Kaelia posted this, she took her own life.

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In the days that immediately followed Kaelia’s death, I reached out to her mom to offer our condolences and any support the Miss Nebraska Organization could provide. Her mother said to me that day ‘we really thought that someday she was going to be Miss Nebraska.’

For good reason. Kaelia was 1st Runner Up to Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2012. She was named Nebraska’s Homecoming Queen, finishing 3rd in the country in 2015. She had a natural gift for dance and performance, a Gold Rush Dance Team member at Nebraska Wesleyan before transferring to Peru State, where she was a cheer squad flyer. She was a caring advocate for children, setting the 2017 Miss Nebraska record for fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and she planned to become a teacher. She was kind, charismatic, talented and driven.

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Behind the smile, the light that seemed to impact everyone she touched, Kaelia also battled darkness in the form of mental illness. Ironically, this was the very cause she so passionately spread awareness of as a Miss Nebraska titleholder: Stomping The Stigma.

“I live with anxiety, depression, bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” Kaelia told me last Spring. “People are afraid to step forward and admit to having a mental illness because society has made it such a taboo thing to the point where people are afraid to even talk about it.”

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Kaelia took her message everywhere: to elementary schools, across college campuses and organizations, and to local media. She opened herself up to connect with others, sharing personal details about her own battle and even revealing she had attempted to commit suicide in June 2016.

“I felt extremely alone and hopeless in the battle against my own illnesses,” Kaelia told me. “Individuals are scared of what people may think of them and therefore, do not seek treatment.  The consequences can be life threatening.  I never want anyone else to feel alone or ashamed like I did, especially not for something they cannot control.  This is why I have made it my mission to speak out and share my story in hopes that people will see and understand that it can happen to anyone and it definitely not something to be ashamed of.”

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YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Here is proof, through Kaelia herself.

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More than 107,000 people impacted in some way by news of Kaelia’s death. 435 people shared this, most using Kaelia’s message #StompingTheStigma. More than 1,100 people who GRIEVED, who are hurting, who suffered because of this loss.

YOU MATTER.

YOU ARE LOVED.

YOU MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR SOMEONE ELSE IN THIS WORLD.

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Girls with Kaelia

This week, the Miss Nebraska Organization will honor the life of Kaelia Nelson, and the impact she had on others through her powerful message of mental health awareness. All contestants are wearing #StompingTheStigma shirts during rehearsals and sharing across their social media. For the first time, we will present a Kaelia Nelson Memorial Spirit Award. News outlets across the state have shared her story to compel others to seek help for themselves or their loved ones. CLICK HERE to watch KETV’s special feature on Kaelia; CLICK HERE to read the special feature in the North Platte Telegraph.

Kaelia should be up on that stage rehearsing. She should be preparing to share her talent in front of a roaring crowd, ready to walk across the stage with her radiant smile, waving to her mom and family.

Kaelia dance

To anyone reading this, remember Kaelia. Remember her message. Think of her family, her friends, and all who loved her – and then think of everyone who loves YOU. Help us keep #StompingTheStigma.

“I would absolutely love to win Miss Nebraska and get to represent this amazing state, but my main goal isn’t about the crown on my head,” Kaelia told me.  “Instead, it’s the message I have to share and the people I get to meet because of it. It’s what you set your mind and heart to that will count in the long run.”

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Kaelia, we miss you, and we pray you have found peace.

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Click here to read more from Kaelia herself.

The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Always listening, never judging, confidential. Text CONNECT to 741741.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

 

 

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Scotts Bluff County Brianna Little

COMING SOON.. Miss Nebraska 2017 Allison Tietjen

Be Kind

This has been one of those years that make you question everything.

Parkland. Santa Fe. Kentucky.

As our country mourned, debated and prayed over school shootings and tragedies repeatedly happening across America, students and in some cases, teachers, walked out of class to protest the violence, demanding change.

Did it make a difference? I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m alone in believing there were many kids who walked out that didn’t fully understand what or why they were protesting.. but simply wanted to get out of class.

At Westside Community Schools, building leaders and staff members tried something different.. they encouraged students to take action with clear and well-thought out plans to enact change, not only outside our schools, but INSIDE them. Westside High students staged a sit-in; they lined the hallways with posters, signs and silence not only paying tribute to the victims lost, but spreading awareness to each other  about violence and to anyone who saw photos and videos of their event. Westside Middle School took this a step further, planning an entire week of activities promoting Safer Schools.

Organized by Student Council members, students created and sold T-shirts uniting their student body and benefitting their school. They made posters reminding each other to report problems and concerns, and they gathered together for an emotional assembly with a resounding message: KINDNESS MATTERS.

That was the theme of their week – to simply be kind to one another. Love always wins. That spirit of brotherhood and respect was palpable during the final assembly wrapping up their Safer Schools week.

It’s the same mentality that has compelled a young woman from western Nebraska to accumulate more than 1,000 hours of time serving others here, and around the world.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“We need to accept people for who they are and embrace their uniqueness,” said Brianna Little, crowned Miss Scotts Bluff County last summer. “My platform is Be Kind, Be The Change, bringing acts of inclusion, acceptance and kindness into our daily lives.”

Brianna is no stranger to service, an active member of her community for the last several years as a teen titleholder in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program. However, she credits a trip to Nicaragua last summer as a key turning point in her mission as both a Miss Nebraska contestant, and a human being.

“I not only was made aware of the need in the world, but I saw just how grateful someone could be for the things we take for granted,” said Brianna. “When a young child, not even school age, runs up to you, dirty bowl in hand begging for beans with big, hopeful eyes, or when a mother will take any clothing you have to offer for her child, your view of the world will change the way mine did.”

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Brianna continued that mission when she returned home to Harrisburg, Nebraska, working to deliver meals to those in need throughout her community. She’s also volunteered with the Salvation Army, hospital patients, and the Special Olympics. Still, she wanted to do more.

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“I got and talk to schools about the importance of being kind to one another, and creating kindness challenges for them,” said Brianna. “Intertwining my platform with the national Miss America Organization partner, one of the first challenges I present is for the kids to collet coins for the Children’s Miracle Network. I speak with other local organizations such as our Scottsbluff Kiwanis Club about my platform. Whenever I volunteer or make an appearance, I also give away shirts, lanyards, bracelets and chapsticks with the Be Kind, Be The Change logo to remind people to always remember they, too, can be the change.”

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Brianna, a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Scottsbluff High School who has already earned an astonishing 51 college credits, notes the facts and statistics that back up the impact movements like her platform can have.. and the problems we all see in society without this work.

“The biggest issue facing my generation is self image,” said Brianna. “There are so many expectations for kids and teens that are both mentally and physically exhausting. There always seems to be something about yourself that needs change, from outward appearance to how to act. 20% of kids and teens in any given year will experience depression. 14% will at least consider suicide. 8% will make an actual attempt on their life. This is one of the many reasons why my platform is so tremendously needed. As a society, we need to change how we view the world and treat people.”

 

 

Reinforcing Brianna’s message are the connections and friendships she’s made by being part of the Miss Nebraska Organization.

Brianna

“The girls are amazing, kind and very likeminded,” said Brianna. “When they say it’s a sisterhood, it’s true. No matter what happens, I will have spent countless hours with some of the most wonderful women across Nebraska.”

Maya Angelou once said ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Brianna Little shows through her words and actions she is brilliant, driven and determined. She is an award-winning cheerleader, a future University of Nebraska-Lincoln college student who hopes to become a Maternal Fetal Medicine Obstetrician. People certainly see the impact she’s having already, named just this week as a 2018 Miss Nebraska Community Service Award finalist.

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

Still, she hopes she’s remembered for KINDNESS. For making people feel better about themselves and the world around them, and for paying that powerful feeling forward to impact change in others.

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

“Knowing just how much of an impact I can make is the sole reason I pursued the title of Miss Nebraska 2018 and wanted to be part of this,” said Brianna. “Beyond the title, I want to show everyone what I stand for and share my message. I hope to inspire people to push the limits of their capabilities and always reach ahead of them to the next great thing awaiting in life. For me, if that is the title of Miss Nebraska, I will be thrilled and ready to represent my state sharing my platform.”

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To follow Scotts Bluff County Brianna Little click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BRIANNA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Energizer Bunny

CLICK HERE * 2016 * Bring It On

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Alliance Kodi Baumann

COMING SOON.. Miss Chadron Kaelia Nelson

Your Best Yes

Choose your best yes.

I was blessed this week to be part of a Gallup summit thanks to my great employer, Westside Community Schools. In this day long learning event, we discussed our own personal strengths, and how we can say yes to everything… but in doing that, there’s no way we can be GREAT at anything. Choose your best YES – what are the things you should say yes to, to bring out your best traits and therefore, have the best impact upon others and the world around us?

This is the year Kodi Baumann said her best yes was to work to become Miss Nebraska.

Kodi Baumann - Miss Alliance

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Kodi is 23, a Chadron, Nebraska native currently serving as Miss Alliance 2018. She started competing in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen program at just 13 years old, and has already competed twice at the Miss Nebraska Pageant. As Miss Chadron 2014, she thought she was done.

“That year, I experienced so much and made so many friends,” said Kodi. “Unfortunately, I realized that I was not at a place in my life that I could give attention to the title it deserved. Fast forward three years later and I know my heart and determination are in the right place to do the title of Miss Nebraska justice.”

 

 

Flashback to November 2017. I, along with many others, had been hoping to convince Kodi to once again, compete for a Miss Nebraska local title. Her voice is breathtaking, her smile is unforgettable, her spirit is infectious. Still, Kodi herself had her doubts, memories she now uses as fuel for her fire.

Kodi Rugby

“I have always struggled with body image, but this year, I am not looking at it as an obstacle,” said Kodi, pictured above after playing competitive rugby with her teammates. “I am taking this on as a challenge to better myself. I am not allowing the scale to define my success. I am focused on becoming stronger.”

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HELL YES, KODI, HELL YES.

Between November and February, Kodi lost an astonishing 25 pounds by taking part in boot camp classes. ‘Strong is the new skinny’, she posted. And PS – that mentality and drive will serve Kodi, and ALL of us, very well. She’s a recent Criminal Justice graduate at Chadron State College, planning on a career in law enforcement. AKA – all that muscle will come in VERY handy taking down bad guys.

Tell me again ‘what type’ of girls compete in pageants.

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“Service lines up with my interest in Law Enforcement,” said Kodi. “Just look at the side of any police car. Protect and Serve. I have always enjoyed giving of myself; it doesn’t matter if it is collecting warm winter clothing, supplies for Doves recipients, raising awareness of our servicemen and women, or sharing my passion for seatbelt use to keep my community safe.”

That final mission is Kodi’s platform of service as Miss Alliance, one that she’s advocated for for several years now, is ‘Fasten Your Seat Belt! Cross Your Heart, Not Your Fingers.’

Kodi platform

“I founded my platform nine years ago after my brother’s accident where he almost lost his life,” said Kodi. “I wanted to share the importance of buckling up and stress that your choice to wear a seatbelt not only affects you, but your loved ones. I wanted to make sure my platform was something I would continue to advocate for once I was done competing in pageants. By choosing a platform so closely related to law enforcement, I know I will continue to spread awareness throughout my lifetime.”

Kodi’s best yes was to amplify her message for an important cause. That yes also opened doors to connect with others, personally confronting one of the biggest issues Kodi feels is facing her generation and more; a lack of face to face interaction, networking and productive communication.

“I’m gaining confidence; I’ll walk into an interview with five judges and am gaining the qualities employers are looking for,” said Kodi. “Successful people are goal oriented. This organizations helps set goals and work to achieve them. I’m also a team player. The sisterhood that this organization creates can be so strong. Many of support one another at events, building our ability of networking and creating lifelong friendships.”

THAT is what ultimately convinced Kodi to say yes one more time: friendships, a very special one in particular.

Kodi & Kaelia

“I decided to compete because the Miss Alliance Pageant was being held in honor of my friend, Kaelia Shae Nelson, the reigning Miss Alliance 2017 and current Miss Chadron 2018,” said Kodi. “Kaelia was struggling with depression and took her own life. The loss of such a talented and passionate individual made me realize how fleeting life really is and I decided I would embrace her motto, Stomping the Stigma, and enter despite all my own internal battles with not being what society holds as pageant material. I wanted to honor our friendship and her memory.”

Kaelia crowned

Choose your best yes. Kodi said ‘yes’ in 2014, and will be the first to tell you it wasn’t her BEST yes. Now, her yes honors a friend. Her yes is highlighting, strengthening her talents and gifts.  Her yes brings her closer to achieving her goals in both her community and for her future career.

Kodi Baumann knows THIS is her best yes, and she’s ready to compete for  the title of Miss Nebraska.

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‘As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.’ Audrey Hepburn,” said Kodi. “My ultimate goal is to walk away with the title and serve my state for a year, sharing my platform and advocating for Children’s Miracle Network. I know that I am prepared to the best of my ability and will put my best foot forward. I feel blessed to represent the Panhandle of Nebraska, where I call home, and will do everything I can to make them proud.”

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To follow Miss Alliance Kodi Lee Baumann, click here

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KODI?

CLICK HERE * 2014* If Nebraska Had An Ocean

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest Makinzie Gregory

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County Brianna Little

Just a Number

‘Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.’ – Luis Bunuel

I kind of think that’s hilarious… and darn true. How much does age truly impact what we are capable of? As a journalist, I shared stories about octogenarians running marathons and toddlers belting our national anthem… on the flipside, I often saw/see people aged years and more because of smoking, pessimism, or sometimes, life’s hard knocks. How much of us is because of the number of rings around our trunks.. and how much is because of our gifts, hard work, and attitude about what we WANT to accomplish?

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Photo courtesy GlamCheck.com

At 17 years old, Teresa Scanlan was the youngest Miss Nebraska we have on record. 6 months later, she became the youngest Miss America in 80+ years. She had just graduated high school months earlier, had only gotten her driver’s license less than 2 years prior, and now she was set to travel the world representing our program and country. How did a 17-year old become Miss America??

Answer: CLICK HERE. Watch Teresa’s post-Miss America crowning-press conference. She is articulate. Intelligent. Confident. Charming. And the fact that she was 17 doesn’t take away from any of those impressive qualities, it catapults each of them ten-fold; these skills were natural, instinctual, and this teen/woman was something incredibly special.

Less than one year ago, Teresa congratulated another 17-year old, hoping to follow in her footsteps.

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

Her name is Makinzie Gregory, crowned Miss Old West Balloon Fest before she even started her senior year of high school.

“The Scotts Bluff County Pageant, where I won my title, was actually the very first pageant I had ever entered, so to actually win seemed like a dream!” said Makinzie. “I told one of the girls backstage that I would LOVE to get a picture with Teresa, my female role model. Sometimes I wonder about God’s sense of humor because I did indeed get a picture with Teresa – presenting me the award in her name!”

 

 

Makinzie says she admires Teresa because she is articulate, kind and genuine, the epitome of strength and empathy. For the last year (likely longer), Makinzie has also worked to show those same characteristics as a Miss Nebraska local titleholder.

“Being a spiritual person, I believe in what the Bible has to say about service,” said Makinzie. “We should all serve one another, no matter the circumstances.”

Makinzie is channeling that mission through her personal platform: Different-Abled, Educating, Empowering, and Equipping the Special Needs.

“My presentations to the three elementary schools in my school district are definitely some of the highlights for this year!” said Makinzie. “I hosted a change drive in conjunction with my presentations, and we raised $2400 that has been donated to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals! I adore the kiddos wanting to take pictures, asking tons of questions, being shy, and acting goofy. Furthermore, it inspires me to know that I have the unique opportunity to impact these kids and act as a positive role model for them.”

Makinzie’s message is personal; the Gering High School valedictorian plans to pursue degrees in Elementary Education, specializing in serving children with special needs. She’s partnered with the United Way and volunteers with Buckboard Therapeutic Riding Academy. In both roles, Makinzie is working to learn the office work, marketing, event planning and presentation skills, to best advocate for this cause as it relates to families, government, and the business world.

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“I would like to either obtain my Master’s degree in either education, special education, or school administration to further influence the direction of younger generations,” said Makinzie.

She’s got a great start, scoring a perfect 36 on part of her ACT exam, and potentially earning Miss Nebraska college scholarships at her chosen schools: Western Nebraska Community College and Chadron State.

Makinzie Gregory - Miss Old West Balloon Fest

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Most of the people I talk to are shocked by just how many opportunities for growth, scholarship and networking connections Miss Nebraska titleholders are exposed to,” said Makinzie. “One of my favorites is the growth I have witnessed in myself in only these past few months. I cannot even put into words how much I have learned and gained through my involvement in this organization.”

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“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Unknown

The lesson we can all learn from women like Makinzie and Teresa, is to not let age define us. YOU define you. Maybe it’s a pageant. Maybe it’s a marathon. Maybe it’s a new love, a new job, a new adventure. Be vibrant. Be hungry. Take no prisoners, and see what happens, no matter what stage of your life. Makinzie Gregory may be one of the youngest women this year competing for Miss Nebraska… and she’s proud of it.

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

“I realized that if I didn’t compete, I would be constantly asking myself, ‘why?’,” said Makinzie. “My goal is to be able to see God’s work in everything. This is worth so much more than just an ‘experience’, as I have learned and gained so much for my short time as a titleholder. For that, I am extremely grateful.”

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To follow Miss Old West Balloon Fest Makinzie Gregory, click here.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Omaha Allie Swanson

COMING SOON.. Miss Alliance Kodi Baumann

Finding Balance

It’s a vicious cycle.

I desperately want the candy. Just one taste turns into a handful, then some crackers, then FORGET MY DIET, I’LL START OVER TOMORROW. Then I see those photos.. of others looking fabulous, and of myself… not so much. Maybe it’s karma. I was barely 110 my senior year of high school – couldn’t even donate blood because I didn’t weigh enough – and that was visiting McD’s every day after school for a shake and fries. Calories had no effect on me.

The changes came gradually… crazy work schedules, shifts in metabolism, two babies, and career changes… and all of the sudden I weigh more than I did after my first maternity leave, and I can’t say no to the candy.

I’m trying to focus on LIFESTYLE changes and not short-term diets. Healthier choices. Now when my sweet tooth takes hold and won’t loosen its grip, I reach for the Halo Top instead of my kids’ Drumsticks.

This is one of the things I love about the Miss Nebraska program. (‘Woah, Petersen, that was a leap! Where you going with this?’) No, really, hear me out – the young women who compete in our program are learning BALANCE. Yes, they have a set date and goal, fast approaching in less than 2 weeks, but so many of these girls are learning the science behind health and nutrition. They are NOT starving themselves to get skinny – they are fueling their bodies to become STRONG. The lessons they take from this year or several help shape how many of them balance their choices for years after.

Case in point: the current Miss Omaha, a former collegiate athlete who owns her own personal training business.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Yup. A beauty who could beat you up. (Not that she ever would.)

“I have been an athlete my whole life, and I am a competitor at heart,” Allie Swanson told me recently. “I love pushing myself to the limit in all areas of my life.”

In Allie’s case, that balance I referred to all equates to being extremely well-rounded; she’s also a Cum Laude graduate and All-American scholar, a talented vocalist chosen to sing at this year’s College World Series, and a driven public servant with clear missions she hopes to achieve as the next Miss Nebraska.

“I decided to try the Miss Nebraska pageant because I new it could be a great vessel to enact the type of change I want to see in the state of Nebraska,” said Allie. “I have seen so much growth in my personal life even just preparing for Miss Omaha and now preparing for Miss Nebraska. I am combining all of my favorite things – promoting digital literacy, service, music, public speaking, style, and confidence, among other things.”

Oh, where to begin?

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How about October, when Allie was crowned Miss Omaha 2018. In the audience, cheering on her every move was her big sister, Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson. Allie, too, was a constant supporter for her sister when she competed, but she draws her inspiration from powerful women like US Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Nebraska Governor Kay Orr, and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert. Allie is a woman who knows her leaders, noting 13 of Nebraska’s State Senators are women.

 

 

“My goal is to impact 20,000 lives this year, and I understand that this is no small feat,” said Allie. “I have gotten to speak to students, sports teams, educators, parents and government officials about my platform, and that alone makes this job so worth it. Being a titleholder has gotten me in the door to places that normal ‘Allie’ wouldn’t have, and because of this I have been able to spread my message of CyberSmartz to people of all ages and backgrounds.”

That’s how Allie Swanson hopes to make her mark, by helping as many people as possible protect themselves in a digital world. She visits school assemblies and other groups with some scary statistics:

  • 97% of American children under the age of four use mobile devices, regardless of family income.
  • The average teenager spends 72 hours PER WEEK using media, but only 38.5 MINUTES per week participating in face-to-face, meaningful conversation with their parents.
  • The average US parent says they do not fully understand today’s most popular ‘apps’ or the extent of content their children are using on digital media platforms.

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“As Program Coordinator for Smart Girl Society, a non-profit based in Omaha, I have seen firsthand the need in Nebraska and across the country for this message,” said Allie. “The biggest issue facing all generations, all states, and beyond is the technology crisis. People are addicted to technology, losing the ability to have face-to-face conversations with people, unaware of the effects of their digital footprints, and oversharing online. We can start by raising awareness and educating people on proper privacy and safety settings, as well as techniques to take back control.”

As Allie noted, she may be attracting more and bigger audiences because of her ‘Miss Omaha’ status.. but her run at Miss Nebraska could also directly benefit her mission with CyberSmartz, through scholarships financing her higher education and career plans. At this year’s Miss Nebraska competition, we are offering $70,000 in cash scholarships, gifts and services, and an additional $1.4 million, MILLION, in in-kind college scholarships. Miss Nebraska 2018 will receive at least $10,000 in cash to pay for her college education.

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“This Miss America program will allow me to obtain a Masters of Media Communication and Psychology, in the hopes of one day studying at the Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab,” said Allie. “I plan to continue working at Smart Girl Society, but move up in position, and I hope to eventually take over as CEO to continue to spread the message of digital literacy and safety.”

Here’s a young woman who could do, and IS doing, EVERYTHING. Speaking, singing, and scoring points with fans everywhere she goes…

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…literally and figuratively. I look to women like Allie, MANY years my junior, and am inspired by all they are, all they hope to be, and the BALANCE they have discovered and are honing at such young ages.

Start somewhere. Find your October. Tonight, I said no to the candy and reached for the Halo Top.

Allie Swanson is reaching, too… for the VERY top, and no less.

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“I am thankful that my family encouraged me to pursue a variety of interests, extracurricular activities, and to get out of my comfort zone to learn about the world and myself,” said Allie. “With core values of hard work, integrity, responsibility and truth, I aspire to be a woman of great influence, and my background gives me the support to be the change I want to see in this world. I was and still m the girl who wants to do it all.”

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To follow Miss Omaha Allie Swanson, click here.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Sandhills Regan Kolbo

NEXT.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest Makinzie Gregory

La La Land

We are deep in graduation season both here at Westside and across the country, which means I have been writing, writing, writing, and WRITING nonstop. This is a time of year when we are celebrating the achievements of all students, our teachers, and of course, the Class of 2018.

In so many presentations I hear and write, the message is simple: JUST DO IT. Whatever your dreams and goals may be, whatever you want to do, and wherever your path in life may lead you, follow it with everything you’ve got. Work hard, be kind, appreciate the help others give you, and offer the same to those who follow. Be PASSIONATE about the desires of your heart in both career and life in general, and just DO it.

Regan Kolbo is a Nebraska girl hailing from Crete, population 7,000. She’s proud of her state, forever in love with her hometown, but she also heard a calling 1,500 miles away… to La La Land.

Regan Kolbo - Miss Sandhills

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“The scary part of life is in the unknowing,” said 19-year old Regan Kolbo, who left for California shortly after graduating from Crete High School. She’s a gifted dancer, model, and the former World’s Miss Glamorous Teen, winning the national competition while representing Nebraska. That experience confirmed several things Regan already knew.. she was drawn to the spotlight, and belonged in the world of entertainment and performing.

Regan courtesy Ali Marie Photography

Photo courtesy Ali Marie Photography

So where to begin? How to dive into this world of fame and fortune?

Regan joined the Miss Nebraska sisterhood.

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“Miss America titleholders seem to have a genuine heart and strong poise, and I knew that I needed to be a part of it,” Regan told me. “This is a system where I can mix my passion for dance and community service. Miss Nebraska is a program to be a part of because it creates a supportive environment for young women to grow and celebrate their successes, past and future.”

 

 

She could have competed anywhere, but Regan wanted to represent the state that owns her heart. She was crowned Miss Sandhills 2018, punching her ticket to compete at the 2018 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition.

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“I am a fifth generation Nebraskan,” said Regan. “Nebraska will always be my home because of the hardworking, passionate and charismatic people that I grew up around. I cherish every ‘ope’ and ‘Go Big Red’ I hear, and top of the steering wheel wave I receive. From my family, to the Crete Cardinal Pride, to small town businesses, there is nothing like Nebraska.”

And history has shown there’s nothing like a little Miss America notoriety to get a leg up in show business. Past Miss America winners and finalists have gone on to find terrific success in Hollywood, including Kira Kazantsev, Vanessa Williams, and Phyllis George to name a few.

“This is an organization of strong, smart and talented women supporting each other and loving each other,” said Regan. “My goal at Miss Nebraska is to challenge myself and become the best women I can be. I challenge myself not to stress, and to enjoy being in the moment.”

Helping in that goal, Regan has focused on a key element of the Miss Nebraska program: service.

“My platform is Adopt, Don’t Shop,” said Regan. “While in LA, I have devoted more than 150 hours volunteering for rescue organizations Catmandoo and Tommy’s Lil Angels. In Nebraska, I lobbied for LB893, a bill that would require the humane sourcing of pets for sale or up for adoption in pet stores. I also plan to work with the Humane Society of the United States – Nebraska and the national nonprofit, Bailing Out Benji, to educate people about and end puppy mills. Nebraska ranks in the bottom four states in the country, described as the worst in the US regarding puppy mills.”

Purpose. Passion. Positivity.

Regan says she aspires to be like the women who will surround her at Miss Nebraska, and some of those in her adopted home of Los Angeles.

“Ellen DeGeneres is a superhero in my eyes,” said Regan. “She uses her show to make the world a better place through laughter, and she recognizes and rewards those who are also extraordinary in this world. As I begin my journey in the entertainment industry, I choose to remain like Ellen, who just wants to positively make people happy.”

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Here’s what makes Regan happy: stepping on stage, posing in front of a camera, and walking up to a little girl in awe because of that sparkly crown and sash. Splitting her time between her two favorite places on the planet: Los Angeles and Nebraska. Regan Kolbo’s not living in La La Land, she’s actively PURSUING it. To all the Coulda Woulda Shoulda’s out there reading this, I’d argue because of that, this young lady has already won.

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“Honestly, I do not quite have a plan,” said Regan. “This Miss Nebraska journey has already taught me so much about who I am and where I belong. It has given me the skills and confidence to embrace the unknown and just to enjoy life’s rollercoaster.”

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Star City 2018 Allison Baird

NEXT.. Miss Omaha 2018 Allie Swanson