Special Feature: The Future of Miss Nebraska

For 90 years, one young woman in our state has annually been crowned Miss Nebraska.

90 YEARS.

This tradition, recognizing one of the most talented, intelligent, striking women in the state and sending that representative to the Miss America Pageant, has taken place through six wars, through national crises, through times of celebration and times of despair.  Behind every state pageant, and behind every Miss Nebraska who joins the sisterhood, there have been state directors, a person or two who help guide that young woman through deadlines, paperwork, wardrobe needs, appearances and more.. all without much, if any, time in the spotlight.

For the past seven years, Jay and Amy Engel, have held that role.  They announced this weekend this year’s Miss Nebraska pageant will be their last as Executive Directors.

jay and amy

“We started out as a host family for the pageant {in 1995}.  We realized the amazing things this program was doing for young women and wanted to become involved,” said Jay Engel via a press release issued Monday.  “Between the two of us we had many jobs over the last 20 years-from writing the script to being Executive Directors.”

On the Engels’ watch, Miss Nebraska winners have taken home tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money.  Donors have stepped forward to support these women during their years of service financially, with vehicles, wardrobes, and services. The Engels’ Miss Nebraska’s have also soared to the top at Miss America; Brittany Jeffers-Hannema was Nebraska’s first Top 10 finalist since 1983.  Kayla Batt-Jacox won preliminary talent and Miss Congeniality awards.  And of course, the Engels also crowned, and mentored, Nebraska’s first and only Miss America, Teresa Scanlan.

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“We are grateful for the opportunity to meet the variety of people across the state & across the nation because of our involvement with the pageant,” said Amy Engel.  “We are thankful for the support of our board, volunteers and the community of North Platte.”

Jay and Amy Engel are leaving some VERY big shoes to fill.  The two women, named as new Executive Directors, are READY to step up in their Manolos and continue this trajectory making Miss Nebraska and this pageant viable, relevant and successful.

Kayla and Rachel

KAYLA JACOX and RACHEL DALY, newly named Miss Nebraska Pageant Executive Directors

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“Having both been former competitors in the Miss Nebraska Pageant, we both hold a certain relationship with the program and only want to see it succeed,” Kayla and Rachel told me recently.  “We think we have the potential to bring fresh ideas to the organization.  We obviously strive to continue to grow and strengthen the program by implementing and supporting more local pageants, creating relationships with new and potential sponsors, and maintaining connections with our longtime sponsors.”

Currently this ‘dynamic duo’ works together as Co-Executive Directors of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, a partnership that bloomed from friendship while both women competed in the Miss America system.

tbt kayla and rachel

2008, Kayla had just been crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen and Rachel finished 1st Runner Up to Miss Nebraska.

“We’ve both been through the ringer,” said Kayla and Rachel.  “We have been the ones competing, working our butts off for swimsuit, participating in mock interviews, focusing on platform work and community service.  How cool would it be to have directors, who just years ago were in your shoes?”

Now in their third year leading the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program, Kayla and Rachel say they both bring strengths to their partnership that have helped to build an organization only in it’s 10th year nationally.

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“Rachel has been the paperwork, parental and contestant contact, keeper of the budget planning, etc, while I prep things for state pageant on the producer side of things, contacting formers, etc,” said Kayla.  “Together we’ve had three teen titleholders go through this process with us and we’ve learned an incredible amount from both the teens and their families and have also developed a well functioning system of running this pageant.”

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These two have ALSO had success at the helm; they crowned and coached Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen, who finished in the Top 5 at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, a FIRST for Nebraska.  They consider their move to the Miss Nebraska Pageant as a way to continue their work on a larger scale.

The task at hand is not an easy one; as I’ve touched on previously contestant participation across the state seems to be decreasing in recent years.  Kayla and Rachel confirm that nationally these numbers have dropped, as well as lower ratings numbers for Miss America.  They call these stats motivation.

“We have watched many competitions and competition shows adapt to audience appeal and attraction, and we think that’s important.  People need to get excited about the program again, excited about the opportunities it can provide to our members of society and {to be} proud to have women like this in our state,” said Kayla and Rachel.  “What makes it challenging is doing so while maintaining the culture and history of the Miss America Organization.  Miss America is viewed as an American tradition, and it sometimes feels as though the traditional things aren’t always the exciting things anymore.”

One of the ways these women intend to build that excitement is to embrace social media.  They’ve already drawn more than 1,000 likes to the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen organization’s Facebook page and hundreds more followers on Twitter.

“These, among other social media tools, are the stomping ground of our country’s youth,” said Kayla and Rachel.  “We plan on continuing to use these tools to reach people, attract interest from a competition standpoint by showing what our contestants are doing and accomplishing, and turn around and promote those who support us.”

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But if you don’t know these contestants.. if you didn’t know Kayla and Rachel back when they dazzled the audience with their talent and beauty, WHY should you care about Miss Nebraska?

Here are two reasons why, within the answers from these young women, working and married (Rachel with her second baby on the way!), about why they want to take on this new role.

“Simply put, I love helping people,” said Kayla.  “It’s part of my nature to serve as a mentor and give to people.  I love the idea that I will be a person for the new Miss Nebraskas to look to for support, opinions and knowledge.”

“My husband and I have always agreed that everyone should do something, other than your income-drive job, to give back and help build your community and/or state,” said Rachel.  “Being a volunteer for the Miss Nebraska Organization is my ‘something’.  Miss Nebraska is all about spotlighting, nourishing and helping to grow the exact type of people we want more of in our society; successful, driven, educated role models who focus on volunteering and helping those who need it.”

Evidence of the character, and drive for service the young women who compete in this program exhibit, people who are helped along the way by volunteers like Jay and Amy Engel.  This couple has given countless hours helping young women with varied backgrounds and interests pay their way through college, improve life and career skills, and blossom into incredible people.

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This June, everything will come full circle.  After 20 years of devotion to this program, the Engels will pass on the torch to two of the young women they once helped.  Kayla and Rachel will take that, hoping to light the way for another generation of Miss Nebraska contestants and winners.

On behalf of former contestants everywhere who have participated in this program, THANK YOU, Jay and Amy, for taking Miss Nebraska to the next level and building this strong foundation for future success.  To Kayla and Rachel, CONGRATULATIONS and GOOD LUCK; the sky is the limit.

***

The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  For more information, click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Allison Baird

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Grace Heggem

To read more about the Miss Nebraska & Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Classes of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

3 thoughts on “Special Feature: The Future of Miss Nebraska

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