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Edge Of Glory

Every time I begin writing an article featuring a Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen titleholder, I scroll through our conversation and their photos. I look not only at their words and pictures, but their faces and body language within those images. Are they engaged? What did they say about their experiences? How often are they serving as their community’s local titleholder?

When it comes to Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, I simply don’t think WordPress has enough space online to share everything she’s doing.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

She is a patriot. She is a community servant. She is a natural performer. She is a proud Nebraskan. She is wise. SHE IS 13. 

When I was crowned Miss Douglas County in October of 2000, former Miss Omaha and Miss Nebraska Jodi Miller-Holen told me, “you do what you want with this title. You can do nothing, and we won’t be happy but that’s your choice, or you can do everything.”

Here’s what Phoenix told me after being crowned Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen: “Most teens are not interested in giving up their time and energy for a greater cause. I want to change that. We are the future of America. We will inherit the social issues affecting our parents now. I’m only 13 years old, a freshman in high school. I want to lead by example because if we can motivate teenagers now to be the change, just imagine the great things they will accomplish as civically engaged adults.”

Guys. When I was 13, I sat in my brother’s room for hours playing Nintendo and read Babysitter’s Club books walking home from school.

 

This young lady isn’t just talk, either. Phoenix Stanford is proving herself through action, a tireless civil servant advocating for Children’s Miracle Network, school safety and security, sexual assault awareness and women’s rights, world health causes, Autism awareness.. and for several years now, support for military families.

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“I have been a military brat my entire life and to me civilians don’t completely understand the sacrifices made by military families,” said Phoenix. “It’s not easy being a military child. Deployments and relocations not only affect their academic success, but their social and mental well-being are affected. These kids are at risk for depression and anxiety. I get involved with Offutt Air Force Base’s events that are designed to boost family morale. I help raise scholarship money for military dependents, I’ve testified for a military bill, I’ve collected food for veterans, visited sick veterans at the VA Hospital, talked to schools about the hardships of being a military child, collected books for a free, little library at base housing, helped with Gold Star family events, etc.”

 

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Many of Phoenix’s efforts coincide with the work of the current Miss Nebraska Allison Tietjen, who has spent her year of service advocating for our nation’s past and present military heroes. Much like Allie, Phoenix says she’s deeply impacted by the stories she hears from the very people she’s helping.

“Volunteer work is important to me,” said Phoenix. “While being a titleholder, not only have I found out so much about the world around me but I have found out so much about myself. My title has given me the opportunities to meet and connect with amazing people and hear their uplifting stories. Coming across these people has helped me expand my platform to places I didn’t know it would go. I have come across many different non-profit organizations that I didn’t even know existed. These organizations inspire me to do more.”

Being a titleholder has also provided Phoenix with a way to explore two of her passions: education and singing.

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“So far, I have won five scholarships as a local titleholder,” said Phoenix. “My career goal is to become a professional singer. I am working on getting to my dream college, Juilliard. I not only want to break into the music industry but I want to know exactly what I’m doing, and I want something to fall back on in case things don’t go as planned. Nebraska should care about the Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen Pageant because it helps shape the future leaders of America. Providing scholarships to well-rounded young women is worth investing in.”

“I have dreamed of performing the most amazing shows for the biggest audiences since I was a little girl,” said Phoenix. “All I have wanted to do is sing and perform my heart out and that is what I intend on doing. Performing gives me a sense of freedom and a power I look for in life. This program has been a blessing and a huge stepping stone for me.”

No surprise then that Phoenix’s female role model comes from the world of music: Lady Gaga.

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“We have one life, so live it regardless of what anyone else says. That is what Lady Gaga has taught me,” said Phoenix. “I also look up to her untouchable music career. She writes the majority of her own music and performs at high profile events. Even if you are not a Gaga fan, you will certainly be entertained by one of her cinematic shows. I praise her amazing work ethic; she is a rolling stone showing no sign of stopping any time soon. It is people like her I admire and dream of being.”

I would argue Lady Gaga has shifted her status from sensation to legacy by ensuring there is substance and meaning behind every song and every performance. Phoenix is already emulating that.. certainly thinking of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen crown she’ll compete for in 2 weeks, but also using her microphone to make sure people hear and understand things happening in our world. Proof… a message the Miss Nebraska Organization received from Phoenix on March 14, just a few short months after we lost a beloved member of our pageant family, Miss Chadron Kaelia Nelson.

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“Just wanted to let you know that Kaelia won’t be forgotten and people are still fighting for her even on this day,” wrote Phoenix. “Attended the Nebraska State Advocacy day held by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”

At just 13 years old, Phoenix is now also helping Stomp The Stigma against mental illness, the very personal cause that Kaelia fought so passionately for.

“The biggest issue my generation is facing is suicide,” said Phoenix. “It’s an epidemic that is sweeping the nation. More teens have been diagnosed with mental illness in this generation than ever before. We need to pass Nebraska’s LB998, a collaborative school behavioral and mental health program. We also need to eliminate the stigma of mental illness so teens can comfortably seek help and not feel ashamed of what they are going through.”

Lady Gaga once told a journalist she wrote ‘The Edge of Glory” in about 10 minutes, the same night her grandfather passed away. She told Lisa Capretto, “I started playing and I said to my dad, I said, ‘Don’t be sad. He’s on the edge of the most glorious moment in life, when you realize that you won. I said, ‘Look how much he won at life. He won at love with Grandma, and he’s on the edge of a glorious moment.’”

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Look at the women in these articles. Look at Phoenix Stanford. Look at how much they are winning at life. At 24, 17, even 13 years old, they are using every moment they are given, feeling the rush, and pushing themselves to the edge.

Who are you, and in this one, beautiful life you have.. where are you?

“I try to focus on performing at the best of my abilities,” said Phoenix. “If I know I did my best, then I will be content with whatever I leave with. That, to me, is still success.”

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To follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SHELBY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Just The Way You Are

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

PREVIOUS.. Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen Jadyn Wetherington

Enjoying Life’s Journey

I LOVE to travel!!! Every time my family explores a new place, we put a pushpin in that city or country on our big, world map. Every place is unique, with its own defining traits and memories.

 

The Dominican Republic, always on ‘island’ time. South Dakota, the ease and simplicity of good friends and campsites. Hawaii, a place so beautiful I think God himself used it as a personal canvas. Phoenix, home of Spring Training, aka sheer happiness: BASEBALL. My paradise: Cancun, water so blue it captivates you.. you can’t look away, and you never want to.

I want to see it all. I want to walk the same fields in England Queen Elizabeth did in 1560. I want to climb Skellig Michael, the iconic Irish island Rey visits in Star Wars. I want to see South Africa, New Zealand, Denmark, Tahiti… and Harry Potter World in Orlando.

Travel is expensive. I miss my kids every single moment we’re apart if they don’t join us. But the moment I land after an adventure, I’m ready to choose a new destination and do it again. There are 7.6 billion people on our planet. Our globe includes endless oceans, 195 countries, nearly 7,000 different languages. In the United States alone, every city has it’s own sound, feel, people, food and pace. This isn’t the stuff of fairy tales or movies.. this is REAL. This is our world. We each only have one life… I want to fill it with as many experiences as possible.

At just 14 years old.. Rachel Young also has her passport ready.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I believe a problem facing our youth today is the lack of experiences they get,” Rachel told me. “Most kids don’t get to travel the world or see many interesting places. It’s so important that the youth of today see other cultures and learn about the history of the world.”

Rachel’s had great inspiration, encouraging her mindset through example. She was a Little Sister to Miss Nebraska finalist Steffani Jiroux, who has spent time dancing and modeling in cities across the world including Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Rome.

with STeffani

“When I was a Little Sister for the Miss Nebraska Organization, I got the opportunity to take a deeper look into what being Miss Nebraska really meant,” said Rachel. “I became inspired by all the contestants, including my Big Sister Steffani, to follow in their footprints. I’ve always wanted little girls to look up to me in a positive way, as I did to my Big Sister and the rest of the contestants. They really ignited my passion for performing and competing in these pageants.”

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Rachel was crowned Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen 2018 in February. Just as she saw her mentors share their talents at Miss Nebraska, Rachel was provided more opportunities to sing, a passion she’s been fine-tuning for several years.

“When I graduate in 2022, I really want to go to Juilliard in New York City and be on Broadway,” said Rachel, currently  student at Adams Middle School in North Platte. “I get to perform in front of people that will help me ready my goal of getting on Broadway. I can also get scholarship money from these pageants to be able to afford to go to Juilliard.”

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Rachel is also using her title to encourage her peers to find their passions, whatever they may be.

“My platform is ‘Express Yourself, The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities’,” said Rachel. “I talk about joining activities and how you can benefit from them to kids of all ages. I talk to different groups and try to get kids involved in school. With high schoolers, they can get scholarships and go to college through these activities. I post things on my social media and try to talk to as many people as I can about it.”

Ask Rachel and she’ll tell you service is key for any Miss Nebraska titleholder.

 

“You should put others before yourself, especially when you have something to offer others to benefit them,” said Rachel. “Most [titleholders] don’t serve because they are required to. Most girls love to serve their communities and help others, this just gives them more chances to inspire people and help out.”

 

 

Even at this young age, Rachel knows she can lead others. People like her vocal coach, Nikki Schmidt, (“She is one of the most reassuring people in my life; she is busy, but somehow she always has room to help me learn and grow”), and the Miss Nebraska contestants she met as a little girl taught her that someone is always watching.. and it’s up to you what you show them.

“My favorite part has been the reaction of kids and how their faces light up when I come and talk to them and visit them,” said Rachel. “Little kids think it’s the coolest thing in the world when young ladies with crowns and sashes come take an interest in them. You are being an inspiration to these kids and it reminds you why you were chosen to have the title you do.”

Rachel will take that reminder on her next adventure.. to Omaha later this month, where she’ll compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. Her current cover photo on Facebook perfectly describes her outlook, one that translates to this journey and most others we may all embark on throughout our lives.

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“My goal is to have fun, meet as many people I can that will help me benefit in the future, meet new friends, and do the very best I can,” said Rachel. “I am a very empathetic person and I care about everyone. I love volunteering and meeting new people. If you have fun, that’s a win right there. I can’t wait to see what this year will bring me.”

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To follow Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen Rachel Young on Facebook, click here.

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska State Fair Courtney Pelland

NEXT.. Miss Sandhills Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey

Miss NE Loves PS

I am a proud Papillion-La Vista Schools graduate, attending Kindergarten through 12th grade in the district.

My children are Gretna Dragons, a place and school district we plan to raise our family.

My husband is in the middle of his 13th season coaching the Millard North Mustangs Varsity Baseball team; he’s a Millard South graduate.

Everyday, I am grateful and excited to work for Westside Community Schools.

My past, present and future are deeply intertwined with Nebraska’s incredible schools, just one of many success stories about how our powerful system of public education teaches, empowers and shapes countless young people every day.

Chris Klein was in Millard West High School’s musical Westside Story before he was cast in American Pie by Academy Award winning director Alexander Payne, also from Omaha. Emmy Award winning actress Marg Helgenberger played in the band at North Bend Central High School. Merle Dandridge was the lead in countless plays at Papillion-La Vista High School, winning a State One Act Championship before scoring roles on shows like Sons of Anarchy, The Night Shift and Greenleaf.

They’re all Nebraska natives, and their talents were all nurtured in their time in Nebraska’s public schools. A terrific group of people with the organization Nebraska Loves Public Schools was created to share their stories and successes. And a Chadron, Nebraska teenager hopes to follow in their footsteps.

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Shelby Blundell is a junior at Chadron High School and a passionate supporter of all things Arts.

“I love helping people achieve their goals and feel happy,” Shelby told me recently. “Performing arts are a way for individuals to learn who they are.” The 16-year old would know, as she’s matured and grown while participating in theater at her school and within her community.

 She’s a girl who’s tried a little bit of everything – Shelby is also a hunter, a softball player, and the current Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

That last role is what spurred Shelby to take action for the world of theater she loves so dearly, to make sure that others will have the same opportunities in the arts as she has.

 

 

“My platform is The Art Of It All: Supporting Performing Arts in Schools,” said Shelby. “Arts programs are struggling because their funding is pulled and further lessened. I am combatting this by doing several fundraisers for our deteriorating situation in our auditorium. We are currently in need of new spotlights and sound systems. I have raffles in motion and a fundraiser event on the calendar!”

Shelby also wants to do more; she’ll compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in April, and if she wins, she already has a to-do list ready to go.

“My goals include three points. The first would be to increase the amount of funding to schools in Nebraska and hopefully beyond,” said Shelby. “Second is to raise funds for Community Health Charities of Nebraska. And lastly, fund new materials for the Post Playhouse at Fort Robinson.”

An ambitious plan, but one Shelby has confidence in, in part, thanks to the time she’s spent being a titleholder in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program.

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“This program has been amazingly influential in my life,” said Shelby. “It has opened me up into the happy and outgoing person that I now am. My future has become more and more clear and feasible with each pageant. The experience has given me the edge on my competition in the job world and the rest of my life.”

Shelby hopes to one day be a set designer for musicals, combining her passion for the arts with her love of math. She wants to join the ranks of other proud Nebraska schools graduates, hoping to put Chadron High on the mark as the place where her journey began, and possibly, the school that produced Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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“As my mother says, ‘if you like your job, you won’t work a day in your life’,” said Shelby. “My favorite part of being a titleholder is the overwhelming feeling of having power to help your community. I’m glad to be able to represent western Nebraska!”

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To follow Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Shelby Blundell, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SHELBY?

CLICK HERE * 2015 * Big Things Come In Little Packages

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival Alexandria Warneke

COMING SOON.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen Jade Vak

Leading Through Reading

I have a gift for you: 800 hours.

What will you do?

I would take a nap. Then a run. Then maybe another nap while lying by a pool. I would take a trip with my kids and husband to watch baseball somewhere. Come home and take a nap. (Guys.. naps are GREAT.)

Perspective changes over time.. what you do with every hour as a working mom is vastly different than what you did with that time 10 years before. And 10 years before that, how many of us were at home around this time with 800+ hours of summer vacation ahead, whining to our parents ‘I’m bored!!’

You’re about to meet a young lady who is different, using every spare hour she has to serve others.

Miss Scotts Bluff County 2017 Nikki-Catrina Anderson

“I have volunteered over 800 hours since my Freshman year of high school, more than 300 hours the past two years, Nikki-Catrina told me recently. “Studying rigorously at college hasn’t slowed me down. BYU’s motto is ‘Enter to Learn—Go Forth to Serve’, so I have had several opportunities to continue to serve while at school.”

I’ve done the math; as a busy college student, Nikki-Catrina has volunteered, on average, 3 hours a week. EVERY WEEK. (She deserves a nap!) Much of that time has been devoted to a cause Nikki-Catrina has been passionate about most of her life: literacy.

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“I have always loved reading, even when I was too young to read I loved having my parents read with me,” said Nikki-Catrina. “When I moved to Scottsbluff at the age of five I became involved at the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library participating in the annual summer reading program each year. When I became a teenager, I was asked to join the Teen Advisory Council (TAC). This group introduced me to upperclassmen who became my role models as I went through a tough time of bullying (to the extent of being told to kill myself one time) during my middle school years. Instead of focusing on the bullying going on at school, I turned to reading and volunteering at the library. I continue to volunteer at the library (more than 400 hours, the record for most hours volunteered by a young adult).”

Eventually, Nikki-Catrina found another opportunity to share that passion when she competed for, and won, the title of Miss Scotts Bluff County in her hometown.

“I watched the Miss Scotts Bluff County pageant for years, always wanting to try it, but never having the courage to do so,” said Nikki-Catrina. “I knew a handful of the past titleholders and after talking with some of them about it, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try. Being crowned Miss Scotts Bluff County was so humbling. This program has taught me how to think on my feet and how to be comfortable expressing who and what I am. With the title of Miss Scotts Bluff County, I have had the opportunity to touch thousands of people’s lives and make an impact on a very fast growing and diverse community.”

An opportunity Nikki-Catrina embraced whole-heartedly.

She gave her mission a name, ‘Ready, Set, Read!’ and began visiting schools all over western Nebraska to promote reading. She’s spearheaded several book drives, collecting hundreds of gently used books for a new generation of readers. She shares facts and figures about reading, solidifying the power of literacy.

 Most importantly, she’s helping hundreds of children form the same love of reading she’s felt since she was a little girl. Nikki-Catrina has also worked with after-school programs, helped raise money for a little girl with cancer, and recorded personal messages, in Spanish, to send with care packages for open-heart surgery patients in La Paz, Mexico.

“My goal is to push myself,” said Nikki-Catrina. “I no longer want to be timid of doing something big because it is out of my comfort zone. I have grown, felt the benefits, and seen the impact I can have on others if I am willing to be brave and go for big things.”

That’s the message Nikki-Catrina shares with the students she meets, and what she will share with a panel of judges next week as she competes to become Miss Nebraska 2017. It’s a journey that’s connected Nikki with new friends from several states.

Nikki Nebraska

“My favorite part of this competition and organization is meeting wonderful, kind and successful women,” said Nikki-Catrina. “I have met some of the most intelligent, polite, confident women in my life. I have also been able to work with Miss Utah girls while I’m at school. The Miss America Organization connects girls from around the country and together we can work to accomplish great things. Being a part of that has been truly life changing.”

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When you open a book, you transport yourself to a different place and time. The benefits then extend beyond when you close that book and return to the ‘real world’;  research shows reading increases your intelligence and boosts your brain power. People who read are statistically more empathetic to others and more understanding of the world around them.

To Nikki-Catrina.. this journey is very similar. Next week, she’ll be part of what many consider a fairy-tale, competing to become a Queen representing our whole state. But no matter what happens during those final crowning moments next Saturday night, Nikki-Catrina says she will long see the benefits from this experience and her service.. all 800 hours and counting.

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“I have developed more self-confidence and self-understanding and I have learned skills to effectively communicate my beliefs and who I am,” said Nikki-Catrina. “I have met and become great friends with positive girls. I have had the opportunity to make great changes and positively impact my community. I have developed skills I will use in my future career as an elementary school teacher. I have been able to become a better, more well-rounded individual while earning scholarship money to take my education further.”

“One of my favorite things about being a titleholder is the ability to connect with people from all around and hopefully bring a light to their day,” said Nikki-Catrina. “God has a plan for each of us. I know that whoever is supposed to be crowned Miss Nebraska will be. I want to go in, give it my all, and learn and grow in whatever ways He has planned for me.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Scotts Bluff County 2017 Nikki-Catrina Anderson on Facebook!

For more information about Miss Scotts Bluff County or for details about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE.  You can also learn more about the Miss Scotts Bluff County Fair Pageant by visiting their Facebook page (CLICK HERE), or by contacting Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by email atcengelhaupt@fnbnp.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Heartland 2017 Allison Tietjen

NEXT.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival 2017 Lianna Prill

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!

Cheer Rules

I’ve never been a cheerleader.  The closest I ever came was borrowing my friend Elisa’s cheerleading uniform in high school to do a drama skit during a pep rally at PLHS.  I am, however, a former pageant girl.  And I daresay we have all faced the same stereotypes.

We care more about makeup than we do about talent.

We are all Valley girls.. as in the Valley of Dumb.

We are just for show.. we objectify ourselves by taking part.. we should do more and be more.

To all of this, I laugh.  HARD.  I know how hard I worked for two straight years as I competed for Miss Nebraska and served my local community as a titleholder.  I’ve also seen my friends, my cousin, and now the same young women I work with at Westside and with pageants spend countless hours in the gym perfecting routines and skills.  I’m excited to meet yet another one this weekend in Omaha.

Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Whitney Miller

Whitney Miller will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this weekend, representing the North Platte Bulldog Varsity Cheer Squad.  She is one of SEVERAL NPHS students competing for a title this year; two of them are cheerleaders.

Whitney Cheer

Yes, they smile.  Yes, they are beautiful.  But as a squad, these girls are also making an impact in their community.

Last May, Whitney was part of the group that surprised little Jack at his 4th birthday party.  This was right in the middle of Districts and State for Spring sports, finals prep, and graduation parties, yet Whitney and her fellow cheerleaders made an effort to make this little guy’s birthday party a little more memorable.

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In October, the Varsity Cheer squad sold memory cards like this, displaying names of survivors and those lost to cancer.  They raised awareness through events like their ‘Purple Out’ game and donated all proceeds of their efforts to the Callahan Cancer Center.

Just last month, Whitney and her fellow cheerleaders went to Buffalo Elementary school for a last minute pep rally, to pump up students taking NeSA tests!  The response: simply amazing.  CLICK HERE to see for yourself!

Whitney Dance Factory

Just making the Varsity squad is not an easy task; Whitney is a talented, competitive dancer at the North Platte Dance Factory, owned and led by Miss Nebraska 1999 Becky Smith.  She spends hours at the studio every week, in addition to her studies at North Platte High.

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Dedication to education that earned Whitney an Academic Letter this Spring.

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So did we cover it, haters?  Talent. Brains.  An activity that requires the young women who take part to work hard and dedicate themselves to goals and to their community.  Imagine what the world would be like if we all let our inner cheerleaders take hold once in a while?

Pageant girls do.  And this weekend, Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Whitney Miller is ready to prove it.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.  For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com

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PREVIOUS.. Miss York County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alexandria Warneke

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Hannah Miller

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!

 

Getting To Know You

This afternoon, I was honored to be interviewed by one of Westside’s incredible high school students, Emily Kutler, who is writing an essay on the sexualization of women in the media.  We discussed my experiences working in broadcast news, my observations of national media.. and almost naturally, my time with the Miss Nebraska Organization surfaced.  I explained to Emily how my hope lies within our titleholders and the women they inspire… that the key to ‘girl power’ is to do what we love.  To be confident.  To do good and share good in our world.  And if you feel good wearing lipstick and high heels while you dominate life, then so be it 🙂

There’s always more to the story, the ‘behind the scenes’ element that isn’t always shared.   The 34 women competing for two state titles this year aren’t just girls slapping on makeup and waving in parades, they are role models and leaders driven by 34 compelling stories.  For a teenager out west, her journey and mission include a medical diagnosis she refers to as the forgotten disability.

Cherokee official

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen 2017 Cherokee Purviance

“I have Dyslexia and I know what it means to have it,” Cherokee told me recently.  “I know what accommodations need to be made and I know the benefits of it as well.”

Cherokee shared her personal story with me in 2015 and last year; as both Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen and Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen, she worked to spread awareness about Dyslexia and to support children and teens facing the same diagnosis.  That mission continued this year when she won the title of Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen.

Cherokee courtesy pageant

“I love my time as a local titleholder building up to state!”  said Cherokee.  “All of the girls are so kind and fun to be around.  These are the girls everyone loves.  So why wouldn’t I love them just as much?”

The character of the young women who compete is what initially drew Cherokee to Miss Nebraska in the first place.  She grew up idolizing the contestants who competed every summer and served all year long, and knew when she was eligible, she wanted to be just like them.  The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Organization provided Cherokee that opportunity.

Cherokee has visited schools, childrens’ groups and charity events, in addition to her studies at Alliance High School.  The 17-year old is an accomplished pianist and performer, winning the recent Alliance Stars of Tomorrow competition’s Overall Star of Stars Award and a $1000 cash scholarship.

The ‘Miss Fur Trade Days’ OT’ title has not only offered Cherokee more opportunities to perform, but experiences to hone in on communications and networking skills.

“I’ve become more well-spoken, made some great friends and developed a greater love for serving my community,” said Cherokee.

Get to know a ‘pageant girl’ like Cherokee.. and you’ll meet a young woman with goals, willing to work hard to make those dreams happen.  Throughout this journey, Dyslexia hasn’t been a curse Cherokee has tried to hide from.  Rather, she shares her story and advice for others, like how the Orton-Gillingham reading program benefited her.  This self described initiator, a devoted and methodical young woman, has a plan and vision that extends beyond a diagnosis.  She may be a ‘beauty queen’, but she, like all of her pageant sisters in the Class of 2017, are proving what that title really means.

These are people you want to know.. they are the women who are changing the world.

Cherokee final

“Whether or not I win the state pageant, I want to be remembered for changing the way people view Dyslexia,” said Cherokee.  “It isn’t just an excuse.  You can’t cure it.  You have to deal with it.”

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WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHEROKEE?

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen 2017 Cherokee Purviance!

CLICK HERE * 2015 * Girls And Dolls

CLICK HERE * 2016 * When I Grow Up

For more information about the Miss Chadron/Miss Northwest/Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen Program or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook.  You can also email Director Amanda Vogel by emailing maoteenchadron@gmail.com or calling 308-665-5595.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.  For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Twin Rivers 2017 Emma Wilkinson

NEXT.. Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Brianna Little

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!

Courage With a Smile

Each of us has a hidden story.. something we don’t openly share with others because it’s embarrassing, something we can’t change, something we wish would just GO AWAY.

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I’ve performed the national anthem DOZENS of times in the Omaha area for crowds of a few hundred to 15,000+.  Last fall, I waited off-ice at UNO’s first hockey game of the season, ready to perform once more.  I was running through the lyrics in my head, and about two minutes before I was up… I BLANKED.  I got to a middle stanza in the anthem and could not come up with the words.  In a panic, I googled the lyrics on my phone, just to have them ready in my pocket if my memory didn’t kick back into gear.

It didn’t.  In front of 5,000 fans, I had to pull out my phone in the middle of our country’s anthem and look down for help.  I LOVE MY COUNTRY.  I KNOW THIS SONG.  AND I WAS MORTIFIED.

I still shudder when I think about it… because to anyone who HADN’T heard me sing before, I will forever be the idiot who didn’t know the words to the national anthem.  I’ve only performed the anthem once since then… terrified this could happen again.

Now, an example of COURAGE.  A woman who not only accepts mistakes, she shares them to empower others to shrug their shoulders, learn and move on.

Miss Twin Rivers 2017 Emma Wilkinson

Though I had interviewed Emma last year during her time as Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen, I had never heard her perform.  When she sang at the 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.. this was me in the audience.

Emma won 1st runner up, an honor in large part due to that extraordinary vocal performance.  It’s something she’s quite accustomed to; a senior at North Platte High School, Emma’s earned the lead role in school productions, she’s a member of the NPHS Pacers dance team, and and she’s competed in multiple vocal and dance competitions.  CLICK HERE to read the North Platte Telegraph’s article on Emma when she was crowned in February.

Just this week, Emma shared a clip of her performance as part of a high school music contest.  (CLICK HERE TO WATCH!)  BUT… she also noted on the same post, ‘this was before I forgot the words.’  She wrote: After working for a month, I let myself down when I forgot many of the lyrics due to nerves and poor confidence. I walked away extremely upset with my performance. • I have chosen to take this experience as a lesson. All I can do from here is work harder next time, show up with confidence, and hope that I prove my worth. • Always take each experience as an opportunity to become a better you, no matter the end result. #motivationmonday#missnebraska2017

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Emma Wilkinson will turn 18 years old tomorrow.

An amazing display of maturity, acceptance and understanding, the result of a personal journey that Emma bravely speaks about as Miss Twin Rivers 2017.

“My platform, ‘Rethink Your Drink’, is focused on informing children of alcoholic parents that they are not alone,” Emma told me recently, noting alcoholism has touched her family as well.  “Once I reached the fifth grade, I made a best friend with similar experiences to my own.  We shared our struggles and helped each other cope with the pain brought about by alcoholism.  Addiction does not have to debilitate a child’s aptitude to achieve success and I want to spread those words like wildfire, especially to those who need to hear them most.”

Emma class

Emma has visited several schools throughout the North Platte area to share her story, her message carrying extra weight as a local girl who will compete right in her city at this summer’s Miss Nebraska Pageant.  As she told me last year, it was those former Miss Nebraska’s (namely Brittany Jeffers and Becky Smith-Wagner) who greatly impacted her life as she grew up.

“I hope to reach every person when making appearances by sharing the negative effects that alcohol can leave on everyone,” said Emma.  “Children are often informed about alcohol in elementary school, but I feel like they forget about the dangers of alcohol once they are surrounded by it in high school.  This is about spreading awareness of alcoholism in order to make people realize that it is not a rare occurrence.”

Emma is also already taking her title statewide, including a 8-hour roundtrip trek to Omaha to take part in the Miss Nebraska Princess Party fundraiser last month.  Emma and Miss Fur Trade Days Courtney Pelland left North Platte early, met dozens of little girls at the event, and drove BACK to North Platte the same day to take part in a dance team gala the same night.

“The amazing thing about the Miss Nebraska Organization is that it brings together poised, confident and beautiful young women from all over the state to catalyze positive change,” said Emma.  “Whenever I see one of our girls at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital visiting patients, I hold a huge smile on my face because this is what we’re about; making a positive impact within every life we can.”

And that includes their own lives.  Emma notes her own growth within the last year alone, crediting it to her time as both a teen and now miss titleholder.

“My social skills and confidence have improved the most through appearances and performances,” said Emma.  “My main goal is to use my platform as a tool to serve as a mentor to those who are affected by alcoholism, but I also want to continue to grow as a person through this organization.  I am one of the youngest in the pageant this year; I have so much more to learn and I trust this will help me become the best woman I can be.”

Emma with girl

A woman who aims to be warm and open to others.  A woman who is open-minded and remains positive, despite challenges and hurdles she has come across throughout her life.

“I do not judge someone based upon their values and beliefs,” said Emma.  “Everyone has been raised in different ways and has gone through different struggles; it is incredibly important to me that we accept people as they are.”

Someday, I want to sing the anthem again just to prove to myself that I will not let one embarrassing moment define me.  And if I feel those nerves, that fear, bubbling up again… I will remind myself of this amazing young woman, suck it up, smile, and rock every single lyric.  Here’s hoping I make my hometown as proud of Emma Wilkinson is making hers.

“I sometimes get upset when people think that our pageant is all about beauty, but I’ve realized, maybe it is about beauty; the beauty found within,” said Emma.  “Through any circumstance, I try to remain as positive as possible.  Any challenge can be overcome and I like to live through those words within every aspect of my life.”

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Click here to follow Miss Twin Rivers 2017 Emma Wilkinson on Facebook!

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EMMA?

CLICK HERE * 2016 * Sister Act

Emma was crowned at Crowns & Gowns 2017, Nebraska’s largest annual prom/pageant showcase.  CLICK HERE for more details about the 2018 pageant and event! For more information about the Miss Twin Rivers/Miss Sandhills Pageant or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more detailsHERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Sheridan Blanco

NEXT.. Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen 2017 Cherokee Purviance

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!