If you follow my blog (THANK YOU!!) you may have noticed I LOVE highlighting good people doing good things. It reminds me our future is bright, that there are kids and young people willing to work hard, who put others first, who simply want to make the world a better place. With that in mind.. last February, I pursued a story about the Millard West Varsity Cheer Squad, heading back to nationals after winning the title the previous EIGHT years. I wanted to give these girls some attention and publicity for their hard work, but I don’t know that I had a vision in my mind of what cheer would look like.. or how much it takes to win a national title.
One of the first things I saw was EVERY, SINGLE, GIRL do a standing back tuck. At the same time. Synchronized. These girls tumbled. They danced. They had attitude and energy. They took a break, and they did it all over again. I think I pulled my hammy just watching them.
This ain’t your momma’s cheerleading. Brianna Little knows that. 452 miles west of Omaha, the Scottsbluff native is hard at work several hours a week as a member of one of the top cheer programs in the region.
Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography
“The only All Star squad in Nebraska is about 6 hours away, so I attend Windsor All Stars in Windsor, Colorado,” Brianna told me recently. “That means traveling a little over two hours, both ways, twice a week for a three hour practice! I spend countless hours in the car studying and doing homework.”
Maybe it’s the cheerleader mentality.. anytime you feel tired you shake it off and yell ‘O-K!’ My apologies. Terrible cheerleader joke.. especially considering what this young lady has accomplished over the last year.
At just 15-years old, Brianna was crowned Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen 2016. The sophomore at Scottsbluff High School is also a nationals-qualifying member of HOSA (Future Health Professionals of America Club), a peer to peer mentor with her school’s special education program, and she maintains a 4.043 GPA despite her advanced course schedule. Still, when given a crown and sash that represents style, success, scholarship, and service, Brianna said ‘BRING IT ON.’
“To me, the most important thing in life is to not back down from it, but embrace it,” said Brianna. “Don’t be afraid to make your own path because it just may lead to life’s greatest joys and secrets. Everyday I thank God for blessing me with a determination to go after all life has to give, not only to myself but to others as well.”
Brianna devoted herself to BEING an outstanding teen in her community, volunteering at event after event, week after week. She especially sought out anything to do with her platform, ‘Special Love for Special Needs,’ after forming a close friendship with a boy with Autism.
“Through my platform this year, I have helped with the Team Lydia Benefit, attended the Special Needs Prom for Meridian Schools, ran in the Torch Run for the Special Olympics, and participated in the Polar Plunge,” said Brianna. “My dream is to one day partner with my role model, Tim Tebow, on his Tim Tebow Foundation.”
And just as her role model has raised millions of dollars for charity, Brianna too is already seeing tangible evidence of her hard work. Just weeks ago, Brianna organized the Special Love For Special Needs 5K, securing corporate sponsors and drawing numerous participants.
By the end of the event, Brianna had not only raised awareness for Camp Scott, a summer program for children with special needs, and for the Autism Society of Nebraska… she donated THOUSANDS of dollars to both causes.
AT the time she presented these checks, Brianna had NOT YET turned 16 years old.
“One of the most amazing experiences in my life has been receiving my title and helping those around me,” said Brianna. “It has opened my eyes to a whole new world of service. True joy is not found when you worry about yourself; it’s found when you impact others. When you see the smiles and laughter of a child who is in need, the hope that is given to families, the sparkle in a girl’s eyes when she finally sees the beauty in herself, THAT is the purest, truest joy in life.”
Brianna on Facebook: “I got to spend the evening with a pretty special little girl Saturday night. Lydia has temporal lobe epilepsy and was given a service dog. Training, however, is going to cost approximately $15,000. Our community raised $6,200 Saturday to help with the costs.
Brianna and Miss Old West Balloon Fest 2016 Claire Holsinger have also done extensive work in their local schools, visiting classes and raising thousands MORE dollars for Miss America’s Community partner, Children’s Miracle Network.
Adding up those checks? That’s $4,200 IN DONATIONS, collected by Brianna in just a few months. Yet, this young woman says she is the one who benefits.
“Through my participation in the Miss Nebraska Organization, I have really come out of my shell,” said Brianna. “Before I became involved, I was really shy when meeting or being around a lot of people. My communication skills have grown tremendously. I am now confident expressing my opinion in all matters and have no problem talking to people I don’t know. This has helped me achieve so many things in life, such as being a board member of the Team Lydia Foundation at just 15 years old, being successful as a salesperson, being able to express myself in any environment, and organizing an eent all of my own (which involves contacting many businesses and being able to project yourself as a professional partner in business agreements.)”
Wanna take a dig at cheerleaders?
If you weren’t convinced by the acrobatics and contagious work ethic from the Millard West Wildcats, just watch Brianna Little disprove EVERY stereotype you may have about cheerleaders.. and pageant girls for that matter. A Scottsbluff camp now has an additional $1500 in their budget this summer. The Autism Society of Nebraska can arrange family events and needed support activities with their donation. Kids, who face so many challenges in life, felt extra-important on prom night.. because someone took a little extra time just for them.
This, all thanks to ONE YOUNG WOMAN. A cheerleader and outstanding teen with limitless energy and zeal for life, who is still hungry to do more.
“I feel I should be the next Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen beause I strive to be a role model for and serve others,” said Brianna. “I will show young girls to be confident in who they are and not let society define their beauty. I will also be an example of scholarship and character for others to follow. I will take every opportunity to serve in my community and my state, as well as be the best role model I can be through leading by example.”
For more information about the Miss Old West Balloon Fest Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page. You can also find more information via the Scotts Bluff County Fair Pageant HERE on Facebook, and HERE on their website. For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by phone at 308-783-2940 or at 308-635-8615.
For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or Director Kali Tripp at email@example.com.
To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!