I opened up my paper Saturday morning to an awesome surprise…
High School Speech. FRONT PAGE of the Omaha World Herald.
This is absolutely fantastic!!! So often the first thing we see on the front page, or leading the news, is the negative or controversial. I get it; I understand the process that goes into those decisions and often these subjects are extremely important and affect a large amount of people. Our media members are also serving our communities; what is the state talking about? The Huskers often steal the spotlight during football season, and once in awhile, fantastic moments of celebration and joy. Seeing speech kids, on the front page? THAT. IS. AWESOME.
A few years ago (ok.. long ago in a galaxy far, far away..) I was one of those kids. I am a proud 2-time Nebraska State Champion in Original Oratory. Just last week, a new generation of students joined our exclusive club.
Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long
She’s just a junior, but Carsyn Long is also now a 2-time state speech champion.
She was named Champion in Serious Prose just one day after she turned 17. And this moment atop the podium at UNK was just one highlight for a teen so extraordinary, she’s competing to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.
“The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organization empowers young girls of all shapes, sizes, races, religions, etc. to achieve their dreams and do things that are so much greater than themselves,” Carsyn told me recently. “From my time being an Outstanding Teen, I have gained so much confidence and have grown so much as a young woman. My dreams and goals have become more of a reality to me and the work I have done throughout the state has made my heart strong and completely full.”
You name it, Carsyn’s involved in it at Gering High School. She’s involved in theater, cast in a leading role for Gering’s competitive One Acts earlier this year. She’s a State DECA qualifier. She’s a consistent member of Honor Roll and an Honor Society inductee. She’s an active advocate for her faith, even appearing on NBC Nebraska Scottsbluff in October to promote one of the biggest events in her diocese (CLICK HERE to watch!) And this year, she was selected for the prestigious Doane Honor Choir. Still, Carsyn told me last year (click here to read more!) she has long dreamed of pursuing another goal since meeting Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan as a little girl.
“Looking back on it now, Teresa has represented everything I have ever wanted to be as a young woman,” said Carsyn. “I had seen all of the amazing things she was accomplishing and all of the service she was doing during her time as Miss America. I wanted to be that girl, too. I wanted to be the girl who changed the world. I wanted to be that girl who served her community, state, nation and world. And I wanted to be that girl who would possibly touch an 11-year old girl on the shoulder and she would have the same feeling and attitude towards me as I did with Teresa.”
Last fall, Carsyn was crowned Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen, punching her ticket to the state competition. Almost immediately, in addition to her studies and activities in high school, she lined up a slew of appearances and volunteer events.
“[Miss America 2015] Kira Kazantsev said something that really struck me at Crowns and Gowns,” said Carsyn. “[She said]: ‘You want to get something done? A pageant contestant is the best person to go to.’ We are always working on things greater than ourselves. We are self starters. It isn’t beauty or just a time for a girl to walk around on stage aimlessly. [Pageants] are a time to show all the hard work and effort these girls have put in to better themselves and their state.”
Proof: Carsyn has been implementing her personal platform of service in every facet of her life, from home to school to Facebook. She calls it ‘Real Queens Fix Each Other’s Crowns’.
“A few months ago there was a girl in Kearney who chose to end her life because of other girls’ hurtful actions,” said Carsyn. “She had become a target for mean comments, cyberbullying, etc. After reading about her story, I had realized that I am her. I am the girl that had become the brunt of other girls’ snide and just plain mean , rumors, dirty looks, etc. I felt so hurt and so alone and wondered what I did to make these girls dislike me so much. I had a decision to make each morning: I could either let these girls have power over me and make me feel small, or I could remind myself that this won’t matter in 5 years. I chose [the latter]. I can’t stop thinking about that girl in Kearney and ‘what if I had been her friend? What if I had been that one girl who was actually kind to her?'”
So Carsyn spreads that kindness everywhere she can, for example, posting surprise well wishes for strangers when she competed for that state speech title. She posted on Facebook: “Not only was it a perfect day to bring my A game, but it was a perfect day to spread some love! I know all too well the importance of saying kind and uplifting words to others. With left over sticky notes I had in my bag, I gathered some of my sister Queens to team up with me to spread empowerment and brighten someone’s day. Speech days can be really tough for some kids and so we thought we’d offer up some encouragement for some beautiful girls competing yesterday. #realqueensfixeachotherscrowns #mneoteen #misskearneysot 👑”
“I am here to let girls know that they are not alone in their hurting – even someone competing for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen goes through this,” said Carsyn. “It is my job to show girls how to stop looking at each other as competition and as threats, but rather as a sister or a friend. We all bring something so unique and special to the table, so why can’t we just encourage each other to use these gifts rather than tear each other down? Strong and confident women choose to fix each other’s crowns instead of breaking them.”
A phenomenal message for women everywhere, especially for little girls who may look at Carsyn just as she looks at her Miss America idols.
Last Fall, as Nebraska speech season kicked off for high school teams across the state, the NSAA used a state champion to serve as the face of their #MyReasonWhy campaign… Carsyn Long. They posted her photo on Facebook, with the caption: “Whether it’s preparing for the big debate or practicing for the big solo, setting goals for tomorrow helps you set goals for life.”
From one speech kid to another, I wish this outstanding teen good luck no matter what the stage.
“If I don’t win the state pageant, I’ll be busy preparing for senior year and pursuing my dreams of performing,” said Carsyn. “I love to say that ‘I may be small, but I have giant plans’. And I know that whatever God has in store for me will exhibit that.”
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CARSYN?
For more information about the Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen program or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook. You can also email Director Megan Goeke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.
To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!