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Omaha Nursing Student and ‘Smart Girl’ Competing For Miss Nebraska

Alexandria Roth and Allie Swanson are adding to their already jam-packed schedules, both hoping to be crowned Miss Nebraska 2019 this week and compete in this year’s Miss America competition live on NBC. Roth is nursing student and Nurse Tech at CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy; Swanson is a graduate program student, state champion basketball coach, and Engagement Coordinator with Omaha based non-profit Smart Girl Society.

Alexandria Roth

Roth, a 24-year old Wall Lake, Iowa native who now lives in Omaha, studies at the College of Saint Mary and will graduate with multiple honors in July. She has participated in events across Nebraska and Iowa advocating for people with diabetes and educating others on what diabetes is and what the symptoms are. Roth, diagnosed with diabetes as a child, is the first Miss Nebraska candidate in recent years to display her insulin pump throughout all stages of competition.

“My social impact initiative, Don’t Sugarcoat It: Diabetes Awareness and Advocacy stems from my own diagnosis and struggle with diabetes. Although over 30 million Americans have diabetes, but I often run into individuals who do not know much about it,” said Roth. “As Miss Nebraska I plan to work with the Nebraska Legislature to draft a bill that would put a limit on how much diabetics are charged for their prescriptions. Ultimately, being selected as Miss Nebraska isn’t about me, it is about serving the state of Nebraska and being a good representative and role model. I hope that if chosen I can visit all parts of the state to educate everyone from children to adults and advocate for diabetics.”

Allie Swanson

Swanson, a 24-year old graduate and two time All-American athlete and Scholar All-American from Evangel University, is now pursuing her Master’s degree at Bellevue University. Swanson, who was selected to sing the national anthem at the 2018 College World Series, performs across the midwest through My City Church; she is an Assistant Girls Varsity Basketball Coach at her alma mater, Millard North High School; she is a certified barre-code instructor at The Barre Code-West Omaha; and she is the Society Engagement Coordinator at Smart Gen Society (formerly Smart Girl Society), a non-profit teaching students, parents, and educators how to safely use digital media. Swanson has been sharing that message across the state as both Miss Omaha and Miss Heartland, winning the Miss Nebraska Overall Interview Award and Community Service Award in 2018, and finishing as 3rd Runner Up. She is again nominated for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award this year.

“I love setting big goals and pushing myself to accomplish them,” said Swanson. “I have raised over $60,000 for SGS programming and education, while also acquiring partnerships from Microsoft, the FBI, and NCMEC. In a world where 3.2 Billion people use social media every day, my social impact initiative aims is a proven model across seven states that have drastically decreased digital based anxiety, depression, sexting, and cyberbullying. My message to everyone is that your online presence affects more than just you.”

Preliminary competition at the 2019 Miss Nebraska event begins tonight, June 6 in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be streamed live online at www.MissNebraska.org. Candidates are eligible for more than $70,000 in prize packages and an estimated $1.4 million in in-kind college scholarships. Tickets are still available for the event.

Bennington Native Shines Light On Human Trafficking

Hayden Richardson, a 20-year old student from Bennington, is competing for the title of Miss Nebraska this week. If crowned, she hopes to be educate Nebraska on the signs of human trafficking and to compete at the 2020 Miss America competition live on NBC.

Hayden Richardson

Richardson has shared her message about ending modern slavery for the last two years with schools and organizations across Nebraska and Illinois, where she attends Northwestern University. She was honored with the 2018 Miss America Community Service Award, and this week, was named a finalist for the 2019 Miss Nebraska Community Service Award.

“Being involved, hands-on, in our community allows me to make critical change across our state,” said Richardson. “Human trafficking is a topic that we don’t discuss and is a culture that has to change.”

Richardson, an award-winning dancer who graduated from Bennington High School in 2017, is a member of the Northwestern University Big 10 Cheerleading Team. As a semi-finalist at the 2018 Miss Nebraska competition she has earned more than $2250 in cash scholarships competing within the Miss Nebraska Organization.

“As Miss Nebraska, I intend to visit every school district across our state to educate students and faculty on the signs of human trafficking and what they can do to prevent it,” said Richardson. “The Miss America Organization has given me so much, ranging from scholarships to incredible public speaking skills, and I am so excited to showcase all of my growth.”

The Miss Nebraska Scholarship competition will be held June 2-8 in North Platte, Nebraska, where candidates are eligible for more than $70,000 in prize packages and an estimated $1.4 million in in-kind college scholarships. Tickets are available for the event, which will also be streamed live online, at www.MissNebraska.org.

Alliance Native Hopes To Inspire Others At Miss Nebraska

Cherokee Purviance, a 19-year old native of Alliance, Nebraska, hopes to inspire children and adults alike when she competes this week at the 2019 Miss Nebraska competition. Cherokee, crowned Miss Fur Trade Days in November, suffers from dyslexia, and is on a mission to spread awareness about the disorder affecting an estimated 43.5 million Americans.

Cherokee Purviance

As Miss Fur Trade Days, Cherokee has visited schools and groups throughout Chadron for the last several months. She is also an accomplished pianist and performer, winning the Alliance Stars of Tomorrow competition and numerous awards as a contestant in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program. If Cherokee is crowned Miss Nebraska 2019, she will take her personal platform of service across the state and beyond, and share her message at the 2020 Miss America competition broadcast live on NBC.

The Miss Nebraska Scholarship competition will be held June 2-8 in North Platte, Nebraska, where candidates are eligible for more than $70,000 in prize packages and an estimated $1.4 million in in-kind college scholarships. Tickets are available for the event, which will also be streamed live online, at http://www.MissNebraska.org.

Former “Little Sisters” Now Competing For Miss Nebraska Title

Whitney Miller, Courtney Pelland, and Kiera Rhodes grew up watching the Miss Nebraska competition every year in North Platte and idolizing the contestants they saw on stage. Now, all three former Little Sisters will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska, hoping to represent their hometown and state at this year’s Miss America competition.

Whitney Miller

Whitney Miller, 18, is a 2019 graduate of North Platte High School. An award-winning dancer, Honors Society student, model, and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen finalist, Miller has already earned hundreds of dollars in cash scholarships and has been offered $60,000 in college tuition to Midland University. Miller hopes to continue to speak at events across the state sharing her family’s story of hope and fire safety after losing their home in a devastating fire.

“I was inspired to become involved in the Miss America program when I was a Little Sister, and then participated in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program,” said Miller. “In 2017, my family and I lost all of our belongings in a house fire. While we were grateful no one was hurt, we realized the importance of fire safety. From then on I have made it my personal goal to educate Nebraska about fire safety with my social impact statement, S.P.A.R.K. – Fire Safety Starts with You. I can confidently say I have grown immensely as a person through this program and hope to continue being an active role model for young girls.”

Courtney Pelland

Courtney Pelland, 20, is a 2017 North Platte graduate and student at Midland University, where she earned an estimated $60,000 in scholarships by competing at the Miss Nebraska competition. Pelland, an award-winning dancer, was named a Top 8 Miss Nebraska finalist in 2018, and honored with a 2nd place Community Service award for her work advocating for blood donation and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“I have been blessed to represent my hometown of North Platte, Midland University and the towns of my local titles for three years in a row,” said Pelland. “The Miss Nebraska Organization has taught me that I can grown just as much from my failures as I do from my successes. I’m excited to get the competition started in order to gain more friendships across the state. I love my family, friends, and fans! It would be a dream come true if I could share my social impact, Be Selfless – Donate Blood, with the state of Nebraska and save lives while doing it. The absolute best part would be to receive a full ride to Midland University!”

Kiera Rhodes

Kiera Rhodes, 18, is a 2019 graduate of North Platte High School. Crowned Miss Harvest Moon Festival in November, the former Miss Nebraska Little Sister and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant has been travelling the state visiting schools, organizing donations, and arranging crafts and activities for hospitalized children. Rhodes also served as a Student Council leader, she’s an Academic letter winner, and is a previous Nebraska All State Choir member.

“This organization has not only taught me how to confidently speak in front of others and helped me gain self confidence, but it inspires all the younger generations and it always has,” said Rhodes. “As a former Miss Nebraska Little Sister, I have seen, firsthand, how the girls who compete make a positive impact on others. Even if I don’t walk away with the coveted crown I know that I still did not lose; I get to make an impact on so many kids, teens, and even adults around my community and state. That in itself is so rewarding.”

The Miss Nebraska Scholarship competition will be held June 2-8 in North Platte, Nebraska, where candidates are eligible for more than $70,000 in prize packages and an estimated $1.4 million in in-kind college scholarships. Tickets are available for the event, which will also be streamed live online, at http://www.MissNebraska.org.

Norfolk Native Ready To Shine At Miss Nebraska

Emma Groninger, Norfolk native and 2015 graduate of Norfolk High School, will compete at the 2019 Miss Nebraska competition, the official preliminary to the historic Miss America event.

Emma Groninger

Groninger, a recent graduate of the University of South Dakota with a degree in Business Management, was named Miss Twin Rivers 2019 in February. The 22-year old has since traveled parts of Nebraska and South Dakota promoting confidence and empowerment in young women through her social impact initiative ‘Beautifully You.’

“Becoming a part of the Miss Nebraska Organization has been truly amazing,” said Groninger. “Every person I’ve met has been so kind. Everyone wants each other to succeed. It’s very refreshing to meet women who want to build each other up instead of tearing them down. Through the Miss Nebraska Organization, I’ve been able to speak with various people across the state and country about what beauty means to them. I want to use my social impact initiative to help women and men to realize they true potential and to encourage them to be the most authentic version of themselves.”

Emma hopes to become the third Miss Nebraska from Norfolk; Mindee Zimmerman was crowned Miss Nebraska 1987, as was Miss Nebraska 1980 Paula Louise Mitchell, who won at Non-Finalist Talent Award at the 1981 Miss America competition.

“I would be honored to be among two very amazing women who represented Norfolk and Nebraska,” said Groninger. “Norfolk has been an amazing town to grow up in. This town has given me everything and now it’s my time to give back. At Miss Nebraska, I want to show everyone how kind and inspiring Norfolk natives can be.”

The Miss Nebraska Scholarship competition will be held June 2-8 in North Platte, Nebraska, where candidates are eligible for more than $70,000 in prize packages and an estimated $1.4 million in in-kind college scholarships. Tickets are available for the event, which will also be streamed live online, at http://www.MissNebraska.org.

Gering Women Hope To Bring Hometown 2nd Miss America Crown

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Sheridan Blanco, Makinzie Gregory and Carsyn Long were just little girls when Gering’s Teresa Scanlan made history as Nebraska’s first Miss America. Now, all three will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska, hoping to bring their hometown a second Miss America crown. Blanco, Gregory and Long, all 2018 Gering High graduates, will compete at the 2019 Miss Nebraska competition in June in North Platte.

Blanco, 19, has already won thousands of dollars in cash scholarships competing in the Miss Nebraska program, including a $2,000 scholarship to Western Nebraska Community College, where she is pursuing a degree in physical therapy. Blanco was crowned Miss Scotts Bluff County 2019 over the summer, and has since volunteered at events across Western Nebraska advocating for causes including Special Olympics, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and sharing her personal message about Arthritis Awareness.

SHERIDAN BLANCO

“The Miss Nebraska Organization has been a very rewarding program to be a part of,” said Blanco. “I have learned public speaking skills, how to promote myself, and am able to go to college for free all because of this organization.”

Gregory, 19, has won more than $7,000 in cash scholarships competing in the Miss Nebraska program. One of the youngest contestants at the 2018 state competition, she was named 2nd Runner Up, honored with a Preliminary Talent Award, and named a finalist for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award. In addition to volunteering across Western Nebraska, Gregory is an active social media advocate for individuals with special needs, serving as Miss Kool-Aid Days 2019.

MAKINZIE GREGORY

“I am so excited to represent all that I stand for in the Miss Nebraska competition this year from my spiritual beliefs, to my hometown and state, to various social issues, organizations, and businesses that I have become involved in!” said Gregory. “I am grateful for the voice and platform that the Miss America Organization gives me to advocate for my chosen causes!”

Long, 19, is currently a student at the University of Alabama on a full-ride scholarship she earned by winning the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017. Long travelled the state performing for various events, speaking to schools and organizations, and volunteering for a variety of causes. Long, whose parents now live in Bennington, was crowned Miss Douglas County in October, and has made frequent trips back to Omaha to promote foster care and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

CARSYN LONG

“It’s so incredible that Gering gets to be represented in this way, and it’s even more incredible to have such successful and esteemed young women representing it,” said Long. “We have seen each other’s successes throughout high school and it’s exciting that we get to continue to see each other’s success at the Miss Nebraska competition this summer. I am confident that any one of these young women would execute the job of Miss Nebraska so eloquently and beautifully! Our program truly does encourage us to be the best version of ourselves. We become advocates for causes larger than ourselves. We strive to achieve our educational goals in receiving cash scholarships. We evolve into the women that Nebraska truly needs.”

The Miss Nebraska Scholarship competition will be held June 2-8 in North Platte, Nebraska, where candidates are eligible for more than $70,000 in prize packages and an estimated $1.4 million in in-kind college scholarships. Tickets are available for the event, which will also be streamed live online, at http://www.MissNebraska.org.

Teacher Hopes To Become Next Miss Nebraska, Compete at Miss America

Nikki-Catrina Anderson intends to keep children as her top priority in 2019, either as an elementary school teacher or the next Miss Nebraska. The 23-year old Scottsbluff native is completing her degree in Elementary Education while preparing to compete at the 2019 Miss Nebraska competition, the official preliminary event for the Miss America Organization.

Nikki Catrina Anderson

“I am enthusiastic about this year!” said Anderson. “Several experiences in this organization, especially over the past year, have helped me grow tremendously and gain a deeper sense of who I am. I am excited to present my best, most confident self to the judges and audience and share the message I would be honored to share across the state.”

Anderson, who will graduate from Brigham Young University this spring, has already earned more than $9,000 in cash scholarships by competing in the Miss Nebraska Organization. She is eligible for thousands more in both cash and in-kind scholarships simply by qualifying for the 2019 competition, including scholarships for graduate programs at several Nebraska institutions.

Anderson has also accumulated more than 3,200 hours of community service in both Nebraska, Texas and Utah, advocating for her personal mission: ‘Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader’. Anderson, who is fluent in sign language and hopes to teach ESL learners, has focused many of her efforts on initiatives impacting children, including book drives, literacy events, and fundraisers for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“I’m passionate about promoting my platform across the state because it goes hand-in-hand with what I want to do with my career: work with kids, promote reading, and inspire others to reach their potential,” said Anderson. “Each opportunity to speak with different groups allows me to fine tune my presentation and teaching skills, strengthening my message and enhancing my future teaching.”

Anderson, currently serving as Miss Old West Balloon Fest, will compete at the Miss Nebraska Scholarship competition June 2-8 in North Platte, Nebraska, where candidates are eligible for more than $70,000 in prize packages and an estimated $1.4 million in in-kind college scholarships. Tickets are available for the event, which will also be streamed live online, at http://www.MissNebraska.org.

For more information, including on how to get involved or compete in the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program, email marketing@missnebraska.org.

Sisters Hope To Make History

Allison Baird, an award-winning performer and theater student, hopes to represent Nebraska at the 2020 Miss America competition. Her little sister Morgan understands that goal; she hopes to be crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this weekend. If both win, they will earn substantial college scholarships and be the first sisters in Nebraska history to hold organization state titles simultaneously.

Allison Baird, a Vocal Performance and Theater Major at Doane University, has been a featured vocalist at productions and events across the state. Her performance from the musical ‘The Greatest Showman’ won both Overall Talent and Preliminary Talent Awards at the 2018 Miss Nebraska competition, where she also placed 1st Runner Up. Baird, 22, has earned more than $10,000 in cash scholarships competing for Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. Baird, currently Miss Nebraska State Fair, will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska in June.

“I have been dreaming about having the opportunity to serve my state as Miss Nebraska for years, but being able to serve alongside my sister as sister queens would be a joy and privilege,” said Allison. “We have big plans if we are blessed with the chance!”

Morgan Baird, an award-winning dancer attending Scottsbluff High School, was a Top 5 finalist at the 2018 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen competition. She has won multiple state championships all while volunteering countless hours across her community serving as Miss Kool-Aid Days’ Outstanding Teen. Baird, 16, will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this Saturday in Omaha.

If they win, both sisters will be awarded thousands of dollars in cash scholarships and substantial prize packages including wardrobe, services and travel. They will compete at the Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competitions, and travel the state for the next year for events and appearances.

For more information on how to get involved or compete in the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program, email marketing@missnebraska.org.

The 2019 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition will take place June 6-8 in North Platte, Neb. and will be LIVE online. For tickets and to learn more about the Miss Nebraska Organization, click here.

The 2019 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition will take place May 11, in Omaha. For ticket information and to learn more about the organization, click here.

One Moment In Time

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.

Amy 4

Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

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.

 

CLICK HERE to watch Allison’s Miss Nebraska 2017 video.

   “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.

Allie END

Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

“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.

ALLIE END 2

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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.

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Click here to read more about the 2018 Miss Nebraska contestants, and the 2018 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants.

Click here to learn more about the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program.

Contestant #16

‘Mental health is as important as physical health. Please reach out to someone if you need help. You are not alone and you are worth so much ❤’ 

Posted by Kaelia Nelson, August 17, 2017.

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Right now, 15 young women are taking part in rehearsals at North Platte High School, hoping to be crowned the next Miss Nebraska. An important piece is missing from the Class of 2018.

Kaelia

Her name: Kaelia Nelson, crowned Miss Chadron 2018 on September 9.

“Extremely excited for the year ahead as your Miss Chadron 2018,” she shared just days after she won the title. Just weeks later, Kaelia began classes at Peru State College and jumped right into her active scheduled as a collegiate cheerleader and local Miss Nebraska titleholder.

Kaelia 2

“Last weekend I had the opportunity to perform a dance in honor of all the men and women who have risked their lives for us to live in this amazing country,” said Kaelia. “I feel absolutely honored to have been in the same room as so many of these wonderful and brave individuals. Thank you for your service. ❤️💙🇺🇸”

October 15, Kaelia got all dolled up for a photo shoot, courtesy of a new sponsor for the Miss Chadron program.

Kaelia 3.png

“Thank you so much to the wonderful Heidi Barnes for donating a photo shoot for us title holders,” said Kaelia. “I can’t wait to see how they turned out!”

Two weeks after Kaelia posted this, she took her own life.

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In the days that immediately followed Kaelia’s death, I reached out to her mom to offer our condolences and any support the Miss Nebraska Organization could provide. Her mother said to me that day ‘we really thought that someday she was going to be Miss Nebraska.’

For good reason. Kaelia was 1st Runner Up to Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2012. She was named Nebraska’s Homecoming Queen, finishing 3rd in the country in 2015. She had a natural gift for dance and performance, a Gold Rush Dance Team member at Nebraska Wesleyan before transferring to Peru State, where she was a cheer squad flyer. She was a caring advocate for children, setting the 2017 Miss Nebraska record for fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and she planned to become a teacher. She was kind, charismatic, talented and driven.

Kaelia 4

Behind the smile, the light that seemed to impact everyone she touched, Kaelia also battled darkness in the form of mental illness. Ironically, this was the very cause she so passionately spread awareness of as a Miss Nebraska titleholder: Stomping The Stigma.

“I live with anxiety, depression, bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” Kaelia told me last Spring. “People are afraid to step forward and admit to having a mental illness because society has made it such a taboo thing to the point where people are afraid to even talk about it.”

Kaelia school

Kaelia took her message everywhere: to elementary schools, across college campuses and organizations, and to local media. She opened herself up to connect with others, sharing personal details about her own battle and even revealing she had attempted to commit suicide in June 2016.

“I felt extremely alone and hopeless in the battle against my own illnesses,” Kaelia told me. “Individuals are scared of what people may think of them and therefore, do not seek treatment.  The consequences can be life threatening.  I never want anyone else to feel alone or ashamed like I did, especially not for something they cannot control.  This is why I have made it my mission to speak out and share my story in hopes that people will see and understand that it can happen to anyone and it definitely not something to be ashamed of.”

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YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Here is proof, through Kaelia herself.

Kaelia 6

More than 107,000 people impacted in some way by news of Kaelia’s death. 435 people shared this, most using Kaelia’s message #StompingTheStigma. More than 1,100 people who GRIEVED, who are hurting, who suffered because of this loss.

YOU MATTER.

YOU ARE LOVED.

YOU MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR SOMEONE ELSE IN THIS WORLD.

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Girls with Kaelia

This week, the Miss Nebraska Organization will honor the life of Kaelia Nelson, and the impact she had on others through her powerful message of mental health awareness. All contestants are wearing #StompingTheStigma shirts during rehearsals and sharing across their social media. For the first time, we will present a Kaelia Nelson Memorial Spirit Award. News outlets across the state have shared her story to compel others to seek help for themselves or their loved ones. CLICK HERE to watch KETV’s special feature on Kaelia; CLICK HERE to read the special feature in the North Platte Telegraph.

Kaelia should be up on that stage rehearsing. She should be preparing to share her talent in front of a roaring crowd, ready to walk across the stage with her radiant smile, waving to her mom and family.

Kaelia dance

To anyone reading this, remember Kaelia. Remember her message. Think of her family, her friends, and all who loved her – and then think of everyone who loves YOU. Help us keep #StompingTheStigma.

“I would absolutely love to win Miss Nebraska and get to represent this amazing state, but my main goal isn’t about the crown on my head,” Kaelia told me.  “Instead, it’s the message I have to share and the people I get to meet because of it. It’s what you set your mind and heart to that will count in the long run.”

kaelia nelson - miss alliance

Kaelia, we miss you, and we pray you have found peace.

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Click here to read more from Kaelia herself.

The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Always listening, never judging, confidential. Text CONNECT to 741741.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

 

 

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Scotts Bluff County Brianna Little

COMING SOON.. Miss Nebraska 2017 Allison Tietjen