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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.