Tag Archive | allison baird

Hoops For Hope

Be Great.

That was the Westside Warriors motto from day one of winter sports practice. Their coach asked them, what is your goal this season? The girls varsity team answered collectively: they wanted to be great. ‘What does that mean?’ Coach Clark responded.

I reached out to Coach Clark in November to see if some of his girls would be willing to visit Westside elementary schools for assemblies or guest opportunities; they had already been doing it for several weeks. They even volunteered at the District Kindness Retreat, mentoring students one on one. Their message: don’t make excuses, and don’t place blame. Love each other.

It was around this time these student athletes were also forced to practice what they preached; they’d suffered a tough loss to a top team in Class A, and lost their #2 and #3 players to season-ending injuries. They told each other and classroom after classroom, we won’t be defined by our challenges. We don’t make excuses. We don’t place blame. We love each other.

Every game day, the Warriors gathered together as a team for breakfast to reconnect and focus. After select home games, they ate pizza with a younger team, invited as their special guests. Their message when things got hard and when things started going right: no matter what happens, we won’t make excuses. We won’t place blame. We love each other.

District Champs

January – Westside won the Metro Holiday Tournament for the first time in 15 years.

February – Westside won the District Championship and a ticket to State.

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March – Westside won the NSAA Class A State Championship for just the 3rd time since Girls Basketball became a sanctioned sport in Nebraska. Their 28 wins in the 2017-2018 season set a new school record.

Monday night, less than 48 hours after their victory.. these players attended the 8th grade league championship, to support the younger girls they had invited to one of their games weeks earlier.

8th grade

Michael Jordan once said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

The Westside Warriors seemed to understand early on that to Be Great was so much more than taking the top prize at the end of the season; it was about meeting every challenge, and sharing what they learned with others along the way.

Jessica Shultis gets it, too… both the game, and the message.


She was a multi-sport high school athlete who went on to play collegiate basketball for Doane University. She had barely begun.. when everything in her world changed.

“During my sophomore year of college, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer,” Jessica told me. “I [now] speak to students about what it takes to overcome obstacles, whether it is bullying, academic struggles or terminal illness.”



At 23 years old, Jessica found a way to open more doors to share her story ,when she was crowned Miss Kearney and qualified to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska 2017. She finished as 2nd runner-up. Just months ago, Jessica was crowned Miss Lincoln.

“People are far more receptive to having Miss Lincoln come speak as opposed to simply Jessica Shultis. The title gives me an excellent platform to talk about issues that are important to me as well as make a difference in my community,” said Jessica. “Thanks to my connections in the basketball community, I am able to host fundamental camps free of any expense to myself, called Hoops for Hope. Due to the generous donations of others, all proceeds raised directly benefit Children’s Hospital in Omaha.”

But once again, Jessica faced challenges in her journey. At the ‘ripe old age’ of 24, Jessica was past the ‘age cutoff’ for women who hope to compete for Miss America and their state title, and didn’t think she’d be able to get a second chance to represent the state where she’s been her entire life.


“I fell in love with the job of Miss Kearney and was devastated that I only had one opportunity to compete at Miss Nebraska,” said Jessica. “Even though I didn’t walk away with the crown last year, I walked away with thousands of dollars in scholarships that I was able to apply to my educational endeavors. As someone who has completed her Bachelor’s degree and is about to complete a Master’s degree, I cannot emphasize the importance of scholarships enough.”

Then in January, the Miss America Organization announced a historic decision allowing women up to 25 years old to compete. It was the chance Jessica had been watching and waiting for.

“The week before the Miss Lincoln Pageant was a roller coaster waiting for confirmation,” said Jessica. “Friday night before the Saturday pageant, at 11pm, I received a text from Miss Nebraska Executive Director Rachel Daly that I was cleared to compete. I could hardly sleep that night, so I competed on pure adrenaline that stemmed from my excitement to step onstage again.”

Jessica Shultis is a woman who has set goals for herself her entire life. This summer, she will transition into the role of Human Resources Manager with that new Master’s Degree. She plans to earn her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She wants to continue advocating for equality across all social classes, races, and sexes, inspired by women like Oprah Winfrey and the other titleholders she’s gotten to know through the Miss Nebraska program.

Jessica 4

Just like her basketball sisters 50 miles east, Jessica wants to be great. Her state championship trophy is the Miss Nebraska crown.

“I want to walk away knowing that I did everything I could to prepare,” said Jessica. “These ladies know the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed in all aspects of life.”

Don’t make excuses. Don’t place blame. Love each other.

Be Great.

Olivia 1

Photo courtesy Olivia Washburn for Westside Journalism

“Love always wins. Love conquers fear. Love is what makes a team. I can whole-hearted say I love my team like sisters. We are truly better together.” – Elizabeth Robinson, Westside Warriors Basketball Player

“I’ve had the opportunity to share my message about the importance of never losing hope. While I hope I’ve had an impact on the kids in attendance, I leave a better person because of each of them.” – Miss Lincoln, Jessica Shultis.

Jessica final

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography


To follow Miss Lincoln Jessica Shultis on Facebook, click here.


CLICK HERE * 2017 * The Chameleon Queen

For more information about the Miss Lincoln/Miss Star City Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also email Director Christy Merritt at Christy.Merritt@TheWaterFord.net.


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


PREVIOUS.. Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Gabriella Wagner

NEXT.. Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen Chloe Blumanthal

Girls Rule The World

This week at Westside, I got to do one of the things I love most at work.

We put these incredible Westside High School students on TV, to recognize them for their achievements and talents. Ramya Iyer, Victoria Chin, Raeanne Sando and Emma Carlson have all been honored with NCWIT Awards in the field of computer science. As each of them talked to KMTV’s Emily Szink, they shared how they want to pursue coding and STEM in their careers… and how one teacher mentored and inspired all of them to explore this field and stick with it.


Kristeen Shabram is a Business and Technology Teacher at Westside Middle School. She’s also the leader of the Computer Programmer’s Club, organizes Family Code Nights across the district, participates in CodeCrush at UNO and Nebraska GenCyber Camp. Her students were Nebraska’s winner in the 2017 Verizon App Challenge, scoring free technology and $5000. Mrs. Shabram was named the 2016 Tech Educator of the Year by AIM, and takes part in conferences across Nebraska, working with other STEM teachers.

Shabram and Teachers

Through Mrs. Shabram, students learn the value of learning this complex and valuable field. Employment of health information technicians alone, which is what Emma Carlson wants to do, is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all other occupations. And at a time when the number of girls interested in STEM plummets as they grow older, Mrs. Shabram is a much needed female expert in this field. She inspires everyone around her, especially Westside’s female students, to learn MORE. (Click here to see for yourself, by following Mrs. Shabram on Twitter!)


We can spread a message through our words. We can tell lecture kids and young people to do something or say something.. but how often do those same kids grow up wanting to be something because of what a role model DID. You never know who is watching you, thinking ‘I want to be just like her when I grow up.’

Morgan Baird is proof of that.

Morgan 2

“My sister has gone through the [Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen] and [Miss Nebraska] programs and I’ve seen the positive impact it has had on her and other girls,” Morgan told me recently. “I wanted to have the opportunity to develop the life skills and confidence she had and also have the chance to serve my community.”


This year, Morgan was crowned Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2018. After admiring her mom Krista and her sister Allison for nearly all of her life, it’s now her turn to inspire.

Morgan has helped with fundraisers to support Special Olympics and Children’s Miracle Network. She also visits schools, talking to younger students about her personal platform, ‘Be Here Now’.



“It’s about putting away the distractions and experiencing life to the fullest with the people around you,” said Morgan. “I am promoting it by being the example. I try my best to not be on my phone excessively in public or when I’m with family and friends.”


Many of those friends are fellow titleholders from across Nebraska who are sharing their passions through service and performance, just like Morgan. They will compete against one another in April, for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, but this year more than ever, these young women use phrases like ‘competing with’, instead focusing on the benefits of organizations that bring together women of all ages to support and inspire each other.

“That’s what the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organization is all about: The sisterhood,” said Morgan. “Besides my mom, my female role model is Emma Watson. Her advocacy for feminism is what I love to see. She believes that all women have a voice and should be sharing their opinions and beliefs. I strive to be like her.”

Morgan TJP

Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

Girls rule the world.  We can dance and be still, speak and listen, be beautiful and be bold.


Women are pioneers and mentors. Teachers and computer scientists. Nurturers and bad-ass experts in coding and technology. We can do ANYTHING we want to do, and we inspire others when our passion shines through our own actions.

 I would argue that neither of the kids in the above photo went to Nebraska GenCyber Camp because they felt like they HAD to – they wanted to because they enjoy it, and especially for the girls who took part, Mrs. Shabram has showed them THEY CAN. Morgan Baird is competing for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because she WANTS to, and has seen through the women around her that we can choose any path that brings us joy.

Meryl Streep once said, “I think the best role models for women are people who are fruitfully and confidently themselves, who bring light into the world.”

Thank you, Mrs. Shabram, for being a lighthouse for girls everywhere. Morgan Baird hopes someday, she can say the same.

Morgan official

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

 “My favorite part about being a titleholder is getting to meet all the little girls who tell me they want to be just like me when they grow up,” said Morgan. “I know it’s because of the sparkly crown on my head, and who doesn’t want to be a princess when they get older?, but it makes my heart feel so full when I hear those words come out of their sweet, little mouths. I am there to help in whatever way I can.”


To follow Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Morgan Baird 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.


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


PREVIOUS.. Miss Kool-Aid Days Nikki Catrina Anderson

NEXT.. Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Gabriella Wagner


Little Big Shots

Confession:  I ADORE KIDS.  Especially my own, but really, all babies and toddlers.  They are so innocent, sweet, cuddly, all of the above!  When I see a child doing something uber-impressive, like singing or dancing, I simply MELT from cuteness overload!

Case in point.. my friends Amanda and Bill’s little girl, JoJo.  At just 3 years old, this sweet thing is an AMAZING singer!!  She’s got an innate gift for remember lyrics and melodies, and was simply BORN to be a star!  When she sings her first national anthem at an Omaha Storm Chasers game, I will be the FIRST in line to buy my ticket!


CLICK HERE to hear JoJo’s rendition of the national anthem (the hand gestures?!?!? I MELT!!)

Some kids just HAVE it, they have a special gift in their heart to perform.  At just 11 years old, Carsyn Long was selected to sing for Nebraska’s Miss America, Teresa Scanlan.


Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Funny story: I went to use the restroom and of course, in walks Miss America herself!” Carsyn told me recently.  “As soon as she walked in, I was completely starstruck!  She ended up talking to me and touching me on the shoulder, and I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I ran out of the bathroom crying!”

A fitting encounter.. Teresa, the youngest Miss Nebraska ever crowned and the youngest Miss America since 1937, inspiring a girl who would become ‘the youngest’ in many of her future endeavours.

“At that time and still to this day, Teresa represented everything I wanted to be as a woman,” said Carsyn.  “Not only did Teresa exemplify the four points of the crown wonderfully (as I hope to do), but she sparked a fire in an 11-year old girl that has gotten me involved with this organization and has made me the young woman I am today.”

THIS organization.. is the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant.


Carsyn was crowned Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 last summer, right before she started her sophomore year at Gering High School.

“I love anything and everything that has to do with performing,” said Carsyn.  “Put me on a stage, and I’m at home.”


Photo courtesy Shayla’s Photography

At Gering High, Carsyn is involved with her school’s theater department, harmony show choir and speech team.  This year, she became the youngest person on the speech team to medal at state, winning Nebraska’s Class B title for Oral Interpretation of Drama.


Carsyn’s fellow state champion and dear friend is also the woman who encouraged her to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, Allison Baird, who became Miss Scotts Bluff County the same night Carsyn was crowned.

“My role model without a doubt is my older sister queen (and your future Miss Nebraska!) Allison Baird,” said Carsyn.  “This girl is absolutely incredible.  She is such a Godly girl and offers her whole heart to anything she does.  I truly admire her wisdom, drive and her belief in others.  Allie is part of the reason I ever competed in my first pageant in August!”

As Allison set out to spread awareness of her platform, (Click here to learn more!), Carsyn also prepared a personal message and campaign to share with others.

“My platform is called the ‘Heart of Art: Keeping Fine Arts In Schools’,” said Carsyn.  “Performing is something I’m really passionate about and so I wanted to incorporate that into my platform.  Through my platform I’m creating awareness, working towards improving funding, and offering more opportunities for kids like myself who have found their niche in performing.  Even in my school, our fine arts program could use some improving, so that really motivated me as well to make a change.”

Carsyn has attended community events, spoken at schools, and volunteered through her area (in the picture above right, delivering flowers to brand new moms in the hospital on Mother’s Day!)

“The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Organization has really been a strong outlet for me to reach several different audiences while promoting my platform and volunteering,” said Carsyn.  “I hae been able to offer my talents and time as well.  I’ve really been opened up to so many new opportunities and have made some amazing friends along the way.  Through this organization, I’ve been able to improve my poise and social skills.  I’ve truly been able to carry out the concept that it isn’t the crown that makes you a queen, but it’s what you possess in your heart.”


Carsyn Long has a heart for art.. a passion for singing and speaking, and a drive to pursue her goals and dreams until they are reality.  Those are big goals for a young lady who just turned 16.. but remember, some kids just HAVE IT.

“I want to have the kind of impact that Teresa had on me to young girls,” said Carsyn.  “As Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, I would be able to promote my platform, the Heart Of Art, but I would also be able to leave the legacy and impact I have always strived for in this program and to people everywhere.”


Photo courtesy SunnyFreckles Photography


CLICK HERE to follow Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Carsyn Long on Facebook

For more information about the Miss Scotts Bluff County Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page and HERE on their website. For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by phone at 308-783-2940 or at 308-635-8615.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.


The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.


PREVIOUS.. Miss Fur Trade Days 2016 Alex O’Connor!

NEXT.. Miss Platte River’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Emma Young!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Chasing Destiny

When recently asked what his mommy does for her job, my son Easton said ‘my mommy tells the news at the train station.’

YES. Yes I do.

We are now marking our 8th month in our new home at 7 Burlington Station.  This place just RESONATES history.  The floor tiles are the original pieces that travelers walked on when the station opened in 1898.  We have our afternoon story meetings just yards from the same tracks where trains carried countless passengers arriving in Omaha.  Everything from the walls, to the ceiling, to the clock upstairs.. all original and restored.

CLICK HERE to watch Rob McCartney’s Murrow Award winning documentary: The Rebirth of Burlington Station

Certainly not the original architects, perhaps not even those who followed decades later, envisioned that this beautiful building would someday be home to one of the country’s state of the art television facilities.  However, the Burlington is still a hub.  This is still a place our city turns to to connect to the outside world.  Let’s call it FATE.  Some things were just meant to be.

Case in point.. Chadron’s Aubree Noble, perhaps fulfilling a destiny always meant for her.


Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photograpy

“I’ve pretty much been a part of [the Miss America system] my entire life,” Aubree told me recently.  “My mom was the Miss Chadron/Miss Northwest Director along with Marleta Hastings.  Every year, I helped with the pageant, even if it was just small parts of it.  I loved watching the girls advance on to the state and national pageants.”

And Aubree, like so many other titleholders, watched in awe as Miss Nebraska became Miss America in 2010.

“My biggest role model was Teresa Scanlan,” said Aubree.  “It amazed me when she became Miss America.  Her impact she made on the world during her year of service inspired me to get involved in pageants.”

When Aubree was old enough, her mother stepped down from her position as a local pageant director to allow her daughter to compete to become one of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teens.  Still, Aubree need one more person’s approval to seal the deal.


Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Brooklyn Stack and I have been best friends since pre-school,” said Aubree, now Miss Dawes County’s Outstanding Teen.  “We also said that we would do pageants together and be what people call ‘sister queens’.  Well, we may not have won the same pageant, but we have been doing events alongside each other all year!”

And with every event, from Chadron to North Platte and beyond, Aubree has made even more connections she describes as life-long friendships.


“Some of my fellow titleholders and I talk daily.  We’ve bonded,” said Aubree.  “I love this system because even though we are competitors we are still friends and supportive of each other in every aspect of each other’s lives.”


Aubree is using her year as Miss Dawes County to spread awareness of her personal platform, ‘Read to Succeed!’, based on her own development with reading and the impact it’s had on her life.

“Studies show that kids who read more often tend to do better on tests,” said Aubree.  “Also, they tend to score higher on their ACT.  I never scored as high as my classmates on the state reading tests, but when I made it my goal to improve my reading, things changed.  My scores improved and reading then became one of my best subjects in state testing.  Last summer alone, I read 19 books!  My favorite thing in the world is escaping to another world through a book.  My goal through my platform was to make kids excited about wanting to read.”


Aubree is also a passionate dancer with 13 years of training.  She’s completing her second year on the Chadron High Dance Team, a squad that placed 7th at state in 2016.  The sophomore is also involved with math club, speech, student council, she’s a class officer, and she golfs, shooting a hole-in-one at a meet this year.  Outside of school, Aubree plays piano and volunteers at the Chadron chamber of Commerce.  She credits her family for their constant support in all of her activities, bonds strengthened in tragedy when Aubree’s father died a few years ago.


“My family is most important to me in my life,” said Aubree.  “They are my biggest supporters and my favorite ‘fans’ in everything I do from school functions to pageants.  I wouldn’t be able to do anything without them.”

They’ll have a busy summer; Aubree, on the Leadership Team for Future Business Leaders of America, recently finished first at state in Website Design, beating out 43 other submissions.  She’ll compete at nationals this June.. AFTER she competes for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

‘I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.’ — Forrest Gump

Maybe this title is Aubree Noble’s fate, a breeze that’s swirled around her for most of her life.  But this young woman has worked hard to achieve her successes.  She has persevered despite hardship.  She’s using her ‘destiny’ to her full advantage, and appreciating every step of the journey.

“I have benefitted from this program because of the confidence it has given me,” said Aubree.  “It’s a great way to build self esteem!  Even after competing in one pageant, you’re a new person.  You learn something new about yourself each time you compete.”


Maybe.. that the road you’re walking is the exact place you’re meant to be.


CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Dawes County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Aubree Noble

on Facebook and on Instagram.  You can also email Aubree for appearances and events at noble.aubree@gmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.


The 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.


PREVIOUS.. Miss Scotts Bluff County 2016 Allison Baird!

NEXT.. Miss Kearney 2016 Stacy Pospisil!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Standing Tall

There are things about each of us we KNOW we are good at.  I’ve got really nice teeth (never had braces!), God gave me the gift of public speaking and thinking on my feet, and I’m not gonna lie.. my children are BEAUTIFUL and PERFECT 🙂

There are also things we each know are not our strengths.  Plants literally die in my presence.  I am a junk food junkie (currently fighting the urge to eat Gardettos instead of apples).  I CANNOT dance.  At all.  Not even a little bit.

There’s also this..


.. my posture.  I HOPE that’s not the first thing you notice when you look at this wedding photo on my bestie Melissa’s special day–because SHE IS GLOWING! (And my other besties Jenni and Pammie are pretty dynamite, too!)  But to me.. I just focus on my crooked-as-all-get-out-shoulder… just a glimpse into the poor posture and resulting slouch I’d developed after 20+ years.

Last summer, fearful I was going to be a hunchback before I turned 40, I finally sought out advice and found Dr. Vanessa Green at Elite Chiropractic.

Photos courtesy Elite Family Chiropractic

This woman has changed my life.  At my first appointment,  x-rays showed that I had a pretty severe curvature of the spine.  What’s more, I discovered my chronic headaches, which I just chalked up to allergies, stress and LIFE, were NOT normal.  I’ve been seeing Dr. G once a week ever since, and I truly FEEL a difference in how I view health, how I function, and how I carry myself on a daily basis.

NOTE: This is not a paid promotion, endorsement or advertisement for Elite Chiropractic.  I’m simply a very happy client.. and this is all transitioning to a bigger story, I promise!

When I first read Allison Baird’s story, Dr. G was one of the first people I had to tell.  I had NO IDEA what this beautiful young girl was hiding underneath gorgeous gowns and a dazzling smile.


Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I was having severe back pain, went in for an xray, and they discovered that my curve had become 46-degrees and was congenital,” Allie told me recently.  “Meaning, it was a birth defect so I wasn’t really a candidate for surgery or treatment, since they had found it too late.  The doctors basically told me that I would have to live with the pain, and would probably not be able to do everything I wanted to.”

The Allie on the left is the girl I’ve known for about two years now.. the photo on the right shows what her spine looked and felt like within her body.  Allie had been diagnosed with scoliosis at 13 and underwent physical therapy, but she had no idea how dramatic her problem had become.  Still, that dire diagnosis from a doctor didn’t derail this incredible young woman from everything she intended to pursue.

“I smiled politely and said ‘watch me’,” said Allie. “Most people do not know I have it, strangers I meet on the street have no idea, and many close friends didn’t know for years.  We all know someone who is struggling.  We don’t always know their story, but to attempt to understand what that person is going through can mean the world.  Now, I am so much more aware of those things, and I try my very best to have empathy towards others, but also not beat myself up too badly when it feels like I am nowhere near as good at something.”

THAT IS the Allie I know.


For several years now, Allison Baird has devoted herself to her community and others as a local titleholder in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program.  Twice, she finished 1st Runner Up in the state pageant.  To give you an idea of the caliber of talent and character in those years.. both of those winners finished in the Top 10 at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.  Each year when the other girl’s name was called, Allie conducted herself with grace and humility, being the FIRST to genuinely and warmly congratulate the winner (read more here!)

Without skipping a beat, Allie entered the first Miss pageant she was eligible for.. and in her first try, won the title of Miss Scotts Bluff County 2016.


“My mom is my best friend and definitely my role model,” said Allie, hugging her mom in the photo above, moments after winning the Miss Scotts Bluff County title.  “She has been a serious source of my strength these past few months.  I think I would have pulled all of my hair out and not had any fingernails if it weren’t for her!  I truly wish everyone could have someone like her as their manager, friend, confidant and coach.”

And with that support system firmly in place, Allie began a nonstop year of appearances, college preparation, and activities as a senior at Gering High School.

Allie is a 4-time state speech medalist, she’s held lead roles in all of her school’s theater productions since her freshman year, she’s a nationally-qualifying DECA member, she’s captain of the Varsity show choir, and was a cheerleader at Gering for 3 years.  An aspiring actor, singer, journalist (or all of the above!), Allie is also a news anchor for her broadcasting team, the Editor In Chief for her high school paper, she’s had articles published by her hometown paper, and she’s shadowed yours truly here at KETV.

Somehow, Allie finds time to volunteer in her community as Miss Scotts Bluff County, whether it be making quilts, donating blood, or simply making a child smile.  She speaks to groups large and small about her personal platform, ‘Learning CURVE’, teaching courage, understanding, respect, value and empathy.  Her favorite part of the pageant experience is Interview, the chance to tell a panel of judges about everything she’s doing.

 “I truly believe this is where the magic happens at the competition,” said Allie.  “When the judges get to see that spark of passion, that light in your eyes when you talk about what is so near and dear to your heart, there is absolutely no better feeling.  Public speaking is a passion of mine, and I wish that Interview could be 20 minutes instead of 10!”

Public speaking is the ONE THING I promote to EVERY SINGLE CLASS, STUDENT AND INTERN who I come in contact with, and Allie Baird is a shining example of WHY that tool is so powerful.  It’s a trait she credits to her participation with the Miss Nebraska Organization.


“The amount of self confidence I have gained from being involved in this organization, I will be forever grateful for,” said Allie.  “I am not scared to talk to a group of CEO’s or a classroom of kindergartners because of the communication skills I have received.  I have heard girls on the Miss America stage, and even the Miss Nebraska stage, articulate their opinions on hard hitting subjects with better grace and dignity than most of the [presidential] candidates.  These ladies are the future.  We want to make a difference.  All of us have the potential, drive and work ethic to do just that.  We breed leaders in the Miss America Organization, and I think that is pretty amazing.”


A final confession.. I am pretty ASTOUNDED by this young woman, and consistently shocked that this kind of maturity, intelligence, and independance are already so strong in a girl who JUST turned 18 years old.  Complete disclosure, she may also be my little boys’ favorite, after staying with us during a trip to Omaha this fall and playing ‘Olympics’.  Allison Baird connects with people, and inspires them.  She works hard and stays humble.  She stands tall, despite the things we don’t see that might break others down.  That is the message she hopes to take across the state if crowned Miss Nebraska 2016.


Photo courtesy Morgan Wallace

“I want to spread awareness that if you are going through a personal battle, have courage and keep going,” said Allie.  “Know that you are valuable and worthy and that a setback does NOT mean you can’t achieve something you want to achieve.  It just means you might have to take a different road to get there.”


Click each link to follow Miss Scotts Bluff County 2016 Allison Baird

on Facebook and on Instagram


2015 * Just Add Glitter

2014 * Special Feature, Nebraska’s Outstanding Teens

For more information about the Miss Scotts Bluff County Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page and HERE on their website. For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by phone at 308-783-2940 or at 308-635-8615.


The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.


PREVIOUS.. Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Emma Wilkinson!

NEXT.. Miss Dawes County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Aubree Noble!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!


Well, HELLO!!!!! Long time no post! As always, THANK YOU for reading the blog!

I have been ‘off the grid’ for most of the month of June.  Vacation, time with family, heaven at home.


Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, step back, close your eyes and BE.  I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and reminded of who I am.  GO OFF THE GRID! IT’S GREAT!  Even if just for a few days.

Before my amazing time at home with the three men in my life (four, if you count our dog, Mack), my hiatus began with a long awaited trip to North Platte, Nebraska.



Photo courtesy of Corbey Dorsey for the North Platte Telegraph; click here to read the NPT’s wonderful article on Alyssa by reporter Kamie Stephen!

After seven days of rehearsals and events, four days of nerve-wracking competition, a lot of laughs and some tears, too.. Miss Douglas County Alyssa Howell was crowned Miss Nebraska 2015.  What an INCREDIBLE moment to cap off a wonderful week for this caring, young woman.  Alyssa has dedicated so much of her time to others.  She is sweet, kind, hard working and focused.  For five years, she also watched her big sister compete at both the Miss Iowa and Miss Nebraska pageant, finishing as a finalist multiple times.


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So many cool moments; the kids who just LOVED Alyssa, including her Little Sisters who took part in all of the Miss Nebraska events at her side, and the little boy who not only wanted one kiss, he circled around for a second.  Alyssa’s real boyfriend, Grady, and his excitement and sheer pride every moment leading up to his girl’s crowning moment.  Shrieks of joy between Alyssa and the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien; the two have been Miss Douglas County sisters for months, now they are going to Miss America together.  And the heartwarming friendship and bond between Alyssa and her sister queen Miss Omaha Megan Gould, supporting each other from Omaha to North Platte and still to this day.

But.. I’m going to throw this out there.. was Alyssa ‘the best’?


How do you choose which flower is ‘the best’ in the garden?  Which city is ‘the best’ in our state?  Which art, whether it be singing or dancing or playing piano, is ‘the best’?  Alyssa will be a FANTASTIC Miss Nebraska and I cannot WAIT to see how far she’ll go at Miss America.  This is Alyssa’s time; this is the result of her hard work; this recognizes an exceptional young woman, helping her to inspire so many more; and five smart, talented, and critical judges determined Alyssa Howell was the best candidate for this job as Miss Nebraska 2015.

The best of the best, you might say.. because HOLY CRAP, did this event showcase some absolutely incredible women in our state.

4th Runner Up, Miss Northwest LaRissa McKean

JOYFUL.  LaRissa McKean radiated happiness, and made everyone in the Miss Nebraska audience feel it.  She also shared that positivity with her fellow contestants, voted Miss Congeniality by the majority of the other titleholders.  LaRissa CAPTIVATED the audience Thursday night, winning the Preliminary Talent Award with an energetic and dazzling dance (another Kitty Lee Dance graduate!)  As I told one of my friends during finals night, she JUST MAKES ME SMILE.  What a better role model than that?


3rd Runner Up, Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux

BREATHTAKING.  I love watching dance, but don’t know much about it (and hurt myself trying.) I know even less about ballet, but I LOVE the costumes, the makeup, the SHOW.  And boy, oh boy, did Steffani Jiroux deliver.


Just stop and look at this picture for a second.. (and thanks to Kamie Stephen and the North Platte Telegraph for sharing it!)

It was like watching a scene from a movie. Steffani also seemed to enjoy herself every moment; smiling nonstop, walking across that stage like she OWNED it, twirling around her Little Sisters like they were just dancing in the living room and not competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.  What’s next for Steffani? Continuing LAW SCHOOL at Creighton University.

2nd Runner Up, Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann

SENSATIONAL.  Miss Nebraska and Miss America challenge a woman to become the best version of herself in all areas, and Brooke Ludemann pushed herself to the max in every. single. test.  Her gown made me gasp (in a good way!); her answers showed evidence of a woman with a business plan as Miss Nebraska; her physical self was a demonstration of what our bodies can become with hard work and discipline, and her talent.. I have no words.  On the final night of competition, with everything on the line, Brooke’s performance singing ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables game me CHILLS.  Brooke won 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, and she will be Nebraska’s representative at the National Sweetheart Pageant this summer.


1st Runner Up, Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen

JAW DROPPING.  Every time Allison Tietjen walked on stage, my eyes were just DRAWN to her.  (In a completely uncreepy way, regardless of how that sounds…) She is the model of poise, grace, and beauty.  Allison could’ve walked right off the Miss Nebraska stage onto Hollywood’s red carpet and fit right in. BUT, what I love is that Allison knows, and SHOWS, this program’s power and purpose extends long beyond Miss Nebraska week.  Allison’s work promoting awareness of our veterans earned her the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award and the Miss America Community Service Award; she also earned the Miracle Maker Award for raising more than $1300 for the Children’s Miracle Network, helping hospitals like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.  Oh yea, and Allison JUST TURNED 19 in April.  Truly exceptional.

I would argue not one of these women is ‘better’ than the other; each is SENSATIONAL.  They each prepared, volunteered, practiced.. hoping THIS was their year, and their time.  It was only destiny for one–and Alyssa is FABULOUS.  But this is why you see so many girls try again for the crown.. and thank the Lord for that, because they are all deserving, INCREDIBLE women, and bringing them together to recognize them and their accomplishments is uplifting and inspiring to everyone who can be part of it.  WE ARE WOMEN, HEAR US ROAR!!!!


Now to the moment I know you all have been waiting for…

The 2nd Annual Brandi Petersen Unofficial Superfan Awards!

( ahem… I’ll wait for your laughter to die down before I proceed..)

The ‘My Life Goal Is To Look Like Carrie Underwood’ Awards…

Again.. the work and service that take place the other 364 days of the year are arguably the most important part of the Miss America Organization.. but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the gowns!!  C’mon.. from dreaming of your wedding gown, to picking out prom dresses, to playing dress up as a little girl, who DOESN’T love beautiful dresses?!? 2015 was simply a RAINBOW of color on the Miss Nebraska stage, and THAT alone made it awesome.  So much diversity; different colors, styles, fits.. and so much elegance!


Remember how I said Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann’s gown made me gasp?  GASP!!!  OHHH.. this dress.. this moment.. absolutely INCREDIBLE. (Details: Tarik Ediz gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln)


Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen.. ANOTHER gown that stole my breath.  Just STUNNING.  (Details: custom Sherri Hill gown from the Winning Crown Boutique in Omaha)


And boy, those Kearney Crane Festival Directors KNOW THEIR STYLE.. because Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen was possibly MY FAVORITE gown of the weekend!  There was just something so very special about Merrilee Prill when she walked on stage in this dress.  The color, the style, HOW she wore it.  I LOVED IT. ( Details: Jovani Fashions gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln–thanks to owner Joe Bohac for the photo!)


Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen Cherokee Purviance.. what a GORGEOUS choice for her gown!  On stage, this color and the sparkle were just RADIANT.  (Details: a Mac Duggal gown from Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe in North Platte–thanks to them for the photo!)

The ‘Holy Crap, Petersen, Put Down That Blizzard’ Awards..

I’d like to show you my reaction to this year’s Miss contestants competing in swimsuit.


My thanks to Taylor Swift for the assist.

ABSOLUTELY SENSATIONAL.  This year EXEMPLIFIED that Lifestyle and Fitness is just that–this competition is intended to encourage women to treat their bodies like temples and reach their full physical potential.  AND THESE WOMEN DID.  Abs, biceps, quads for days. This wasn’t about starving, or being the skinniest.  You could SEE their work; the time they spent in the gym and the time they DIDN’T spend at their local fast food spot.


Miss Omaha Megan Gould was my winner for swimsuit.  I know this girl puts in countless hours of dance and practice as a Nebraska Cornhusker cheerleader, and WOW-did that hard work show!!  Plus Megan was just SOO confident, not conceited in the least, just wonderfully comfortable in her own skin.  You go, Megan!


Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux.  This is her profile picture now on Facebook (taken by Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph), and to me, that’s using restraint.  If I looked like this, I’d make a cardboard cutout of myself to greet people at my front door.  THIS is what happens with 20 years of ballet training and several more as a member of the Creighton University dance team!


Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen was the Overall Swimsuit Winner at Miss Nebraska this year, and here’s why!  Another absolutely radiant moment in red for the UNL sophomore, and in case you’re wondering, she’s a piano player.. so what you see is the result of sheer hours in the gym and dedication to nutrition!


And Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann.  Just.. WOW.  MUSCLE ON MUSCLE WITH MUSCLE.  When I messaged Brooke about using this photo, she responded ‘I’m darn proud of those photos!’  AS SHE SHOULD BE!! AH-MAZ-ING!!

STRENGTH, POWER, HEALTH. Are you listening, America? I just read this morning there are more clinically obese people in our country than simply overweight Americans.  Heart disease remains a leading killer.  These women exercised and ate healthy with consistency and self discipline for months, and likely formed a foundation to continue to do so to some extent.  Long after that 10 second walk across stage in a swimsuit, their health is improved, their confidence is boosted, and they’ve empowered and inspired many others. (I’M AT THE TOP OF THAT LIST!) Ladies, you should be so very proud of yourselves.

The Nebraska’s Got Talent Awards..



First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to the other young woman who wrapped up this weekend in North Platte with a state title..


Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien is now Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015!  (A 3-peat for Omaha titleholders!)  While Steffany shined all night at the competition, SHE OWNED talent.  America, watch out; when this girl competes for the national title in Orlando this July, she will STUN YOU!

CLICK HERE to see a preview, showing Steffany competing at the World Championships in Italy in April, winning her SIXTH world title.

Steffany does things with a baton that challenge the Laws of Gravity and Physics.  Not only have I never seen her drop a baton in competition, I’ve never seen the girl even ‘almost’ drop one in rehearsal.  She is SENSATIONAL!

Nebraska’s 10th Outstanding Teen was one of several incredibly talented young teenagers who competed in North Platte this year.  Piano players, singers, dancers.. these girls are so young they can’t vote, but they knocked the socks off everyone in the audience Friday night.

Among my favorites (along with Steffany, of course!)..


..singer Emma Kate Brown, Miss Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen.  There’s a reason why little girls love her.. because someday she will be the voice of a princess in a Disney movie.  That’s how I described her voice to my husband.  Emma Kate sang ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story and her innate vocal talent is just BEAUTIFUL.  I’m calling it now.. the next animated blockbuster you take your kids to, you will likely hear Emma Kate in the soundtrack! (And a huge CONGRATULATIONS to this beauty as well!  Less than two weeks after being named 2nd Runner Up at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, the Elkhorn South student was also named Nebraska’s Best High School Actress, winning an all-expenses paid trip to New York to compete for the National Award!!)


Grace Heggem, Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen, was dazzling from start to finish.  She played Tarantella on the piano, her fingers dancing across the keys at the speed of light, and she NAILED it.  Much like ballet, I know nothing about piano, but I can hear a bad note… and I didn’t hear one off-key when Grace performed.  Incredible!


Emma Keifer, Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen, was just a joy to watch.  I felt like I was watching an act from So You Think You Can Dance (and you all know what a freak I am about that show!!) Emma tapped.. up and down STAIRS.  Her energy was just OFF THE CHARTS.  Emma, you would’ve made Nigel proud!

And finally, though she wasn’t competing for a title, this performance was MY FAVORITE TALENT PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK..


THE WATER CUPS DANCE.  Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen, performing the same dance her mother Jodi did as Miss Nebraska 1988 at the Miss America pageant that year.  Balancing three cups of water on her hands and forehead, Morgan bent backward, forward, down into splits, up from splits… all without spilling a drop.  You could’ve heard a PIN drop in the auditorium, as hundreds of us collectively held our breath through this performance.  ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE..  just like Morgan.  Many of us shed tears as she took her final walk as our state titleholder.. mine started to fall as her proud daddy, Brad, handed her a bouquet of flowers at the bottom of the Miss Nebraska stage.  The sky is the limit for this young woman–you WILL see her again.

The Brittany Jeffers Awards for Super Awesomeness

We all have someone we just ADMIRE.. their style, their confidence, just because THEY ARE AWESOME.  Some of mine: one of my best friends Jenni Rohacik who always looks so good she could host E!, my neighbor Brittni Madden who can take a picture off Pinterest and make a project look like it cost thousands of dollars.. and my fellow anchor/reporter/forever Miss Omaha Brittany Jeffers-Hannema, who I swear is fabulous, in every way possible, 24/7.  (And now that I’ve declared my obsession with these ladies.. they may all be working on protection orders..) THESE GIRLS ARE JUST AWESOME!  Brittany gets the award named after her because she had to work rather than attend the Miss Nebraska pageant this year.. she may have been on air in Oklahoma, but her heart was in North Platte!

Two young ladies made a huge impression on me this year.. two teens who I didn’t know prior to this year’s pageant.


Shelby Blundell, Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen, was the youngest and tiniest of ALL of this year’s contestants, Miss and Teen.  She was also Contestant #1 in the competition, a tough draw; you set the bar for the judges, you are the first contestant both that panel and the audience will see.  Shelby rose to the challenge, nailing her song in talent, and impressing the hell out of me during her on stage question.  Shelby was asked a very tough question, whether LGBTQ issues should be discussed at school in the classroom or in group/activity settings, or if those topics are best left for family and group discussion outside of school.  Without hesitation, tiny Shelby answered confidently and quickly, sharing her opinions without pause.  That’s a tough issue for politicians and public leaders to address, and often we see adults avoiding giving a clear answer.  This young woman tackled the issue head on, and agree with her or not, it was refreshing to see such a young person stand tall and share her opinion.


I was also SO very impressed with Allison Baird, Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  For the second year in a row, Allison was named 1st Runner Up in the teen competition.  I’ve touched on this before.. as exhilarating as it is to hear your name called as a new titleholder.. it is incredibly disappointing when all of that work does not result in that win.  Allison’s now been through that twice.. coming ever so close both times.  BUT.. the moment that curtain closed after Steffany was crowned, when the spotlights were off and no one was watching her (except me, the nosy emcee/reporter backstage), Allison was the first one to smile and hug Steffany.  She was also the first to hug Morgan last year–and not just the cordial ‘arm around her, pat pat pat’ hug.. but a genuine embrace, wishing a friend well.  It’s the moments you think no one is looking when your true character is revealed.  Allison Baird is an exceptional young lady.  A gorgeous voice.  Mature and smart.  Beautiful.  And in those moments, when I can only imagine how her heart was breaking, she showed class and selflessness, to celebrate Steffany’s moment.  That’s something you don’t often see in adults, let alone a young woman just entering her senior year of high school.  Again, these competitions are not about choosing ‘who is the best’, but who is right for the position at that exact moment in time.  YOU ARE A WINNER, ALLISON.. your future is so very bright.


So did you pick up on that ’emcee/reporter’ note?  I had the GREAT honor of co-emceeing this year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant with this beauty, my final Awesomeness Award Winner, Jessica States!  A) She can sing REALLY well  B) She’s a born leader, holding a respected position with Junior Achievement of Lincoln  C) She was THE FIRST Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2005!

AND, she was SUCH A GREAT co-host!!!  We had such a terrific time, and I hope the audience did, too!  (And thank you to Joe Bohac and the Black Swan Dress Boutique for providing our gorgeous gowns for the evening!)


#MNOT2015.  Trending.


What a terrific, empowering week of incredible women and the people who support them.

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I enjoyed every single moment, and CAN’T WAIT until next year to do it all over again!  AND, I NEED to mention what these girls took away from Miss Nebraska (in addition to their own memories..)



But hey, it’s just a silly scholarship pageant, right?


One final message to wrap up this post, and this year’s 2015 Miss Nebraska series..


I was SO very honored and humbled to receive this year’s Miss Nebraska Volunteer of the Year Award.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all of you who have read these blogs and offered your congratulations.  I’m still mystified and elated that so many people check in to read my work, and to receive such an incredible honor for it is just a thrill.  THANK YOU.

To all 24 of the young ladies who competed in North Platte, YOU EMPOWER ME. You are the future of our state, and our country, and that makes me so very proud.  CONGRATULATIONS Alyssa, Steffany, and every young woman taking a chance to set an example, be a role model, and to just SPARKLE.

No matter what you do next, crown or not, go out into the world and continue to ROAR.


 Click here to learn more about the Miss Nebraska Organization, and the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.  You can also visit Miss Nebraska on Facebook, follow the pageant on Twitter, and follow the pageant on Instagram.

To read more about the Miss Nebraska, and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

Defining Outstanding

Once in awhile, you meet someone who you just KNOW is going to be a star.  There’s just something dazzling that radiates from them.  They are THAT stunning, THAT talented, THAT well spoken, THAT inspiring.  They are simply OUTSTANDING.



(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

This is my 4th blog post I’ve written about Morgan.  I’m not a creeper (at least in this case), she’s just that incredible.  Beauty inspiring nationally renowned photographer Jenn Cady to invite Morgan to South Carolina for a premiere fashion show and photo shoot.  Talent and a gift for dance that earned Morgan a state championship this year with Elkhorn South High, the dance award at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, and acceptance and scholarship into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and Dance Program.

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Sheer kindness and love for life.. rooted deeply within her family and now woven across our entire state.

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What an outstanding young lady.  Like so many in the Miss Nebraska Organization, I first met Morgan through her mom, Jodi, who was Miss Nebraska 1988.


Jodi, also a former Miss Omaha, was hands down one of the most welcoming, kindest people I met the night I was crowned Miss Douglas County and unknowingly entered this new and overwhelming world.  At her side, and then at MY side asking for pictures, were two sweet, little girls.


Me and the Holen girls, shortly after the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant, Fall 2001

Morgan has been attending the Miss Nebraska pageant with her mom for as long as she can remember.  She decided to compete in this new version of Miss America for teenagers, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, her freshman year of high school.  (Click here to read about Morgan’s time as Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen!) One year later, just weeks (if not days!) after completing her sophomore year at Elkhorn South, Morgan was crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014.

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Morgan’s crowning moment one year ago.  CLICK HERE to read more.

Immediately, Morgan began preparations for Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, knowing Nebraska had never cracked the Top 12 at the national level.  Morgan did.


“I am extremely honored and humbled!” said Morgan.  “Then my competition mode just kicked in and I didn’t realize really what happened until it was over.  I competed in the first area, fitness, and made the cut to the Top 10 where I was able to perform my talent one more time.”


As Morgan told me last summer, (click here to read more!), her talent was a self-choreographed tribute to her longtime dance instructor ‘Miss Kitty’ Dahlberg.  Dahlberg passed away the summer before Morgan won Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen.  Among those in the crowd was Dahlberg’s daughter and another of Morgan’s instructors, Diane Hansen.  This dance, dedicated to Morgan’s friend and mentor, was nothing short of breathtaking.  Watching the webcast from home, I was in tears.  Someone in the audience tweeted ‘Morgan Holen just set a new standard for talent.’


“Then, after the evening gown competition, I was thrilled (and stunned) to be called out in the Top 5,” said Morgan.  “Outside of Teresa Scanlan, who has been a role model, no other Miss Nebraska or Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen had ever placed that high, so to be standing there representing my state was in incredible honor and an indescribable experience.”


KETV: Omaha Teen Crowned Among Best In Country

Morgan finished 4th runner up, surrounded by a huge fan club who traveled to Orlando to support her, and the new friends she made while there.

“The friendships last long after the pageant,” said Morgan.  “My roommate Page Mackenzie (Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen) and I have visited each other in our home states.  We bonded over the fact that by the time we left our hotel room, our feet could stick to the bathroom floor due to hairspray (pageant girl problems.)  We remain very good friends today and talk at least once a week.”

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“I also was very blessed to have the third or fourth largest crowd of supporters,” said Morgan.  “My parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, dance teacher, local and state directors, and Megan were all there to support me and of course, they were easy to spot since they help up big red Husker N’s.  There really is no way to represent Nebraska without the Huskers!  Other contestants even commented about it and were a little jealous.”

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As for the last 10 months.. Morgan has simply been on the go NONSTOP.  She’s on Elkhorn South’s state champion dance team, in addition to dancing competitively for Omaha’s Kitty Lee Dance; she’s also on the award-winning Elkhorn South competitive show choir squad.

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Still, she’s been out across the state as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, not only taking part in EVERY local pageant this year, but volunteering and making appearances for various events.  Morgan cares deeply about her platform Random Acts of Kindness, promoting good deeds and service to others, big and small.  Last January, Morgan even created a ‘kindness calendar’ and shared it across social media, suggesting something different every day of the month you could do to pass on a random act of kindness.

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Morgan volunteering with her big sister and best friend, Brittany Holen

“My one regret is that there aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week!” said Morgan.  “As a teen, you are obviously still in high school and the girls who compete for and win these state titles are involved in many activities inside and outside of school.  I only wish I had been able to do more as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because there are many opportunities the title affords you, however, you still have to go to school and honor your other commitments.”

That’s part of the advice Morgan has for whoever she’ll crown in just five short days, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015.

“To the next MNOT I would say do everything you can, but understand that some days there are just not enough hours in the day and that is okay,” said Morgan.  “I would also tell her to enjoy every minute because the year flies by and you will never have these moments back.  It will be an awesome experience!”

And still, Morgan shows me even now how exceptional she truly is.  As part of that message to her future MNOT sister, a reminder, and a sign of this young woman’s maturity, sense of self, and state of mind.


(Photo courtesy of The Mullers)

“Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen did not make me who I am,” said Morgan.  “Lots of people have invested in me over my 17 years: parents, sister, family, friends, teachers, coaches, over the years shaped me into the person I am and for that I am grateful.”

Morgan asked me to note her gratitude to her local director Kelsey Joseph and her state directors Rachel Daly and Kayla Jacox, not only for what they have done for her, but for the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Program.

Morgan, I thank YOU.  Thank you for being KIND.  For sharing your incredible gift of dance.  For filling me with hope thinking of the young people that will soon be the adults in our world.  For showcasing our state and this program to people everywhere, and making them do double takes.  You are simply outstanding.

And I think Morgan’s own words confirm that:

“I hope that I have represented all of you in a way that made you proud.”


(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

Click here for a special feature on Morgan on the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Facebook page!

Click here for a special interview with Morgan by the nationally popular Pageant Junkies team!


The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.


PREVIOUS.. Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Merrilee Prill

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson

To read more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.