SPRING!!! When flowers bloom, when you can finally breathe deeply without wintry Nebraska air making your face hurt, when you can go on a walk and feel the sun’s warmth shining bright. I. LOVE. SPRING.
May might be one of my favorite months, especially now that I have little boys running free in the backyard. The giggles, the smiles, the JOY I see after they’ve been cooped up inside all winter is just AWESOME.
The young woman you’re about to meet also looks ahead to May every year, but for a very different reason. To her, this month is about work, awareness, and in many cases, answering cries for help.
MISS GERING 2015 KAYLEE CARLBERG
(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)
“My platform has been ‘changing minds’ by educating and promoting awareness about mental illness in a positive light,” Kaylee told me recently. “May is Mental Health Awareness Month.”
Like many of this year’s Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants, Kaylee’s fight is personal.
“During my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with Type II Bipolar Disorder,” said Kaylee. “I unknowingly dealt with this for a couple of years prior to receiving any professional help. The impact the illness had on me and my family is what inspired me to speak out about this issue, because we don’t have enough people sharing their stories.”
Kaylee’s been sharing her story for several years now, holding local titles twice before in the Miss Nebraska system. Her Facebook page is FULL of images like the three you see above, promoting awareness and understanding of mental health disorders, as well as resources for those affected and their families. Kaylee is also involved with The Kim Foundation, NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), Bring Change 2 Mind,and Don’t Be Sidelined (in association with the University of Nebraska’s Husker Sports Marketing Department).
“The number of families who are affected by mental, emotional and behavioral health disorders in America is staggering,” said Kaylee. “Statistics show that mental illness affects one in four adults and that nine out of ten people who experience a mental health problem will also experience social stigma and discrimination. These ever-growing reactions and behavior of others towards mental health patients can be more damaging than the diagnosis itself. I wholeheartedly believe this is a very serious issue in America, and the timing of my platform is crucial.”
From this journalist’s perspective, current events certainly seem to back Kaylee’s assertion. From mass shootings, to prison overcrowding, to health care, mental health is an issue that is constantly surfacing and part of national policy debate.
Kaylee wants to take that debate to as many people as possible.
“I have been able to present my program at schools and educational events as well as being featured in local press, television interviews, and as a guest on a radio podcast,” said Kaylee. “I was also blessed to be the keynote speaker at an event for the Central Nebraska’s National Alliance on Mental Illness.”
To explain such a complex issue to children, Kaylee has developed a presentation geared towards kids, describing the brain using colors in a way children can understand.
“What’s so touching is I have had kids (as young as 2nd grade) tell me they take medicine and see a therapist, too,” said Kaylee. “They are excited to see someone else who deals with the same thing as them. It’s wonderful being able to give them hope!”
For Kaylee, the Miss America Organization provided an outlet for her to share her story, while offering opportunities to sing and earn money for school.
“Not being a vocal major I never get the opportunity to sing outside of pageants!” said Kaylee. “How many programs offer young women the chance to speak out on a personal issue near to their heart, receive scholarships for college, gain valuable interview and marketing experience, perform a talent, travel the state, dress up in beautiful gowns, make children smile because you’re a ‘princess’ and bring awareness to important causes in the community ALL in one year!?”
That has now become part of Kaylee’s mission as well, to spread word of the Miss Nebraska pageant and to change minds about Miss America.
Kaylee and Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson
“When a gentleman tells people he is an Eagle Scout he receives respect for his perseverance and discipline Society knows how much work goes [that] but all too often, people don’t know how much work goes into becoming Miss Nebraska,” said Kaylee. “I have been told on many occasions that the Miss America program is outdated, and being Miss Nebraska does nothing but reinforce society’s idea of ‘physical beauty’. That is FAR from the truth. This is a scholarship program that builds impactful leaders in their community. Miss Nebraska is a philanthropist, she has strong interpersonal communication skills, knows how to market herself and the charitable organizations she represents, she is committed to physical fitness, she utitlizes her life experiences to help inspire and change other lives, she knows how to entertain and pull an audience in with her talent, she has countless hours of community service, and she is resilient and convicted in her beliefs.”
Kaylee Carlberg is a college student at Southeast Community College. She works at Region V Services, helping people with developmental disabilities. She’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and huge Star Wars fan (I just teared up a little with pride about that..) She’s volunteered countless hours for animals, for children, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Salvation Army, and more.
Most importantly, this young woman is not only advocating for those with mental illness, she’s setting an inspiring example by bravely talking about her own challenges and successes.
“Today, I manage my illness with proper medication and by living a healthy lifestyle,” said Kaylee. “We need role models in our communities to help shed light on this issue so people won’t be afraid to ask for help.”
And when they do, when those struggling across Nebraska and beyond issue that May Day now or any other time, Kaylee Carlberg will answer.. as someone who understands, as a community leader, and possibly in a few weeks, as Miss Nebraska.
Follow Miss Gering 2015 Kaylee Carlberg
To contact Kaylee for appearances and events, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Mental Health Awareness (#ChangingMinds), click on any of the following resources:
For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Heather Hayes at 307-340-0601 or by email at Heather.Hayes@chartercom.com.
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.
To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.