Tag Archive | allison tietjen

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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

Me, Myself and I

Disclaimer – I am fully aware of how NERDY the following sentences will sound.

Guys, last night I did something I haven’t done in YEARS – AND IT WAS AWESOME.

After spending the last few seasons stepping up to the plate, awkwardly chucking the bat forward, and dinging a ball back to the pitcher, last night I gracefully swung, connected and propelled that beautiful neon softball over the heads of the outfielders, running to catch up.

It was glorious.

I used to be good. I used to connect. I used to be FAST. 30 pounds and 20 years later, I am slow. I second-guess myself. I don’t know what happened to my coordination. My self-esteem has plummeted along with my batting average.

WHY?!?! It’s slow-pitch, co-ed softball for crying out loud.

Because I DON’T FAIL. If I do something, I want to KICK ASS at it. I want to dominate. Last night, after two at bats and two line drive hits, I felt like I had re-discovered a long lost figment of my formerself.. and I felt like I could fly.

It was a high I really needed. I feel like I’m riding a never-ending roller coaster, battling with my weight, my age, what I want to be as a wife and mother, and all of my other self-imposed goals that seem so far out of reach. For one brief hour, I felt like: ‘I’M AWESOME’.

I think we, as women, constantly compete with ourselves and the inner voices that say ‘you SHOULD be THIS.’ It’s a battle that, at just 20-years old, a Doane University student is aware off, and tries to use to her advantage rather than detriment.

Allison Baird - Miss Star City

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Maya Angelou said that, ‘success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it’,” said Allison Baird. “I am in competition with no one but myself, and if at the end of the day I like who I am and what I do in all areas, whether it be scholarship, service or style, than I have been successful.”

A mature outlook from a woman just starting to discover her adult-self and what she’s capable of. She credits a passion for telling stories, embracing each person’s background and motivation. Often, she channels that through theatre, as a Doane University student on scholarship for the arts.

“I get to play characters all the time,” said Allison. “Some who are similar to me and some who are nothing like me, but still none of them are me. This experience allows me to fully and completely be Allison. In theatre, we call it character work when we research a character that we’re going to play. This allows us to play that character with the utmost amount of truth and integrity. Now, the Miss Nebraska program is helping me to do my ‘character work’ on myself.”

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Allison was crowned Miss Star City 2018 in January, a return to a program she’d competed in for several years as a teenager from Gering, finishing 1st Runner Up twice at the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant.

“I competed as a Miss, won my first local, and made Top 5 at state,” said Allison. “I was thrilled. I took a year off and decided to come back this year because I finally know my why. I became passionate about something, and knew and felt called to compete again.”

Allison found power and inspiration through children. I’ve seen it firsthand in her interactions with my own two boys; this girl instantly relates to kids through their innate creativity, curiosity and positivity.

“My platform is ‘Little But Fierce’, which not only advocates for fine arts education in schools, but also helps kiddos of all ages find their voices through fine arts curriculum,” said Allison. “I have had the opportunity to speak to our state’s representatives about funding and goals, but I have also had the pleasure of visiting surrounding schools and doing workshops with after school programs and classrooms. My goal is to encourage children to be the star of their show. To stand up for what they believe in and discover the voice within that might be little, but it is fierce. Confidence. Character. Compassion. The arts can teach kids those skills, and can translate to all areas of their education and beyond.”

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Allison is sharing that message not only through her words, but through her actions, as both a performer and a public servant, volunteering throughout her college community, her hometown, and abroad.

“You want to see change? I’ve seen girls with a crown do more for their communities in one year than many politicians do in their entire term,” said Allison. “We are dedicated, service-oriented, and committed to making the world around us a better place.”

 

 

And Allison considers many of her fellow titleholders, past and present, her closest allies and sources of inspiration.

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“My favorite moment was actually after crowning! I had decided pretty late int he game that I was going to compete for Miss Star City, so my family and friends weren’t able to come watch,” said Allison. “Seeing that I was a ‘loner’, former Miss Nebraska Alyssa Howell, her roommate Megan, and current Miss Nebraska Allison Tietjen crowded over me for a picture. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and it was a reminder of the sisterhood this organization instills. Some of the most inspiring, supportive, encouraging ladies are there to step in as your ‘family’ and share in your victories.”

Which reminds me of softball. When I ran into the dugout after my first and then second hit, I was greeted by high five after high five from my teammates who are also among my closest friends. They were genuinely thrilled, I felt, not for the fact that we got a run or two out of the deal, but that I had FINALLY remembered how to bat. How to succeed. How to smile and enjoy WHY we still play all these years later.

It’s just softball. But for a few shining moments, I felt like the BEST version of myself. When so often these days I question what I look like, what I say, how I act, what I do… it was nice to feel GREAT.

That is what this program does for so many young women – it helps them focus on the best parts of themselves, to empower others, to showcase what they love.. and to be rewarded for that with smiles, encouragement, and some really nice prizes and scholarships to boot. It’s not just a pageant.. it’s a way to provide these incredible people with countless opportunities for greatness.

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Allison Baird will tell you she wants to win this competition next month. But she’ll also tell you she sees and understands the bigger, more important contest… with herself. Winning the game isn’t about how far you hit the ball, it’s figuring out WHY it felt so damn good, and how to channel that every day off the field.

“I’m working to better myself everyday,” said Allison. “I’m always working toward growth, and if I like who I am, what I wear, and what I say on the Miss Nebraska stage, that’s a victory for me. I’m staying true to Allison this year. No need to be anyone but her.”

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To follow Miss Star City Allison Baird, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALLISON?

CLICK HERE * 2016 * Standing Tall

CLICK HERE * 2015 * Just Add Glitter

CLICK HERE * 2014 * Special Feature, Nebraska’s Outstanding Teens

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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 Twin Rivers Hayden Richardson

NEXT.. Miss Sandhills Regan Kolbo

Priceless

I just shared a jaw-dropping stat across social media:

This year, we will award a record-breaking $70,000 in cash, gifts and services to Miss Nebraska contestants, PLUS we will offer more than $1.4 MILLION in college scholarships!!!

That’s not a typo. $70,000. $1.4 million.

There are so many great things about participating in this program, that huge scholarship and prize haul being one of them! But more often than not, when new young women try a Miss Nebraska local pageant, we learn it’s the intangibles that drew them to compete.

Hayden Richardson was inspired by a friend and sorority sister, leading by example.

Hayden Richardson - Miss Twin Rivers

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I had seen how Allie Tietjen had thrived in the system,” Hayden told me. “She is my role model because she is the most positive and compassionate woman I have ever met. As a sister in Alpha Phi as well as a dear friend of mine, I have seen all sides of her and her bubbly personality is so authentic, whether she in in pajamas or in crown and sash, she is true to herself.”

At 19 years old, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student decided to give this pageant thing a go, too.. and won the title of Miss Twin Rivers on her first try. Her friend, Allison, aka Miss Nebraska 2017, was at her side to crown her.

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“I could not think of a better way to improve as an individual than to partake in something that has made Allie the strong woman she is.”

Allison won the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award in 2017. Hayden immediately followed suit, setting a goal to hit the ground running with a platform targeting a crisis spreading throughout Nebraska and beyond.”My platform is based on child trafficking in the state of Nebraska,” said Hayden. “I am focused on raising awareness of the issue, educating school faculty, and creating positive self image with our students. I have partnered with the Nebraska Coalition Against Human Trafficking, in which I have been able to speak to differing groups, from schools to girl scout troupes, advocating for each different aspect.”

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“Service is absolutely the most important part of the Miss America crown to me,” said Hayden. “My goal as Miss Nebraska is to have 10,000 children and community members hear my message. In spreading awareness of human trafficking and helping to reduce the risk factors, my goal is to change the lives of children that may have fallen victim.”

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Hayden’s goals are not exclusive to winning that Miss Nebraska crown. The self described ‘political science geek’ plans to someday become a lawyer.

“I want to pursue a life rooted in the advancement of human rights laws on the nonprofit side,” said Hayden, who is currently working for Nebraska State Senator Kate Bolz. “Later down the road, I wish to run for the House of Representatives to advance my message and serve my state and country. The Miss Nebraska Organization is allowing me the opportunity to begin my work now as a freshman in college to advance the knowledge of human trafficking here in Nebraska, as well as giving me the life skills necessary to work in an adverse field.”

And like so many other contestants this year and for years prior, this outlet is also an opportunity for Hayden to showcase her other talents and improve every aspect of herself creatively, mentally and physically. As a national-level competitive cheerleader and dancer, Hayden has found new stages to perform. As a 2012 Nebraska Gymnastics Championships competitor, she’s found new reasons to continue a focus on physical health and wellness.

“Miss Nebraska is essential to the state because it provides the role models for young girls across Nebraska,” said Hayden. “As a public servant, Miss Nebraska educates and inspires our youth to be the best they can be. It is so important to continue that.”

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Just as Miss Nebraska Allison Tietjen inspired Hayden, she now hopes to inspire others. Little girls in her hometown of Bennington are now watching not only Hayden, but newly crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Kelsie Therkildsen. And early next month, just one day before she leaves for her own state competition, Hayden will invite many those children to join her and directly make a difference in the lives of other Omaha kids.

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In the end, that’s what so many women like Hayden, and Allison, and myself, recall most about being part of the Miss Nebraska Organization. The money is AWESOME to help pay for school. The opportunities to perform and shine are empowering. But the impact you can have on your community and world around you thanks to a little extra notoriety in a ‘Miss So and So’ title…. those memories are priceless.

“The best part of this has been interacting with my community,” said Hayden. “I have made so many more connections than I would have ever been able to without the Miss Nebraska system. This  It gives us a way to voice who we are as women, and further develops our sense of self.”

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To follow Miss Twin Rivers Hayden Richardson, click here.

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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 Panhandle 2018 Emily Curtis

NEXT.. Miss Star City 2018 Allison Baird

 

Breaking Out Of The Box

I wrote a few months ago about the STEM explosion here at Westside Community Schools, particularly with our female students. Led by a cadre of phenomenal female educators, girls at Westside Middle School and Westside High School continue to crush anything coding/engineering/robotics related. AND I LOVE IT.

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I love seeing people crush stereotypes. If you’re good at one thing, that must be it, you must fit into this box.

Um, no.

One of the young women starring in this story of students slaying science is Ramya Iyer, a freshman at Westside High School. She’s been to UNO Code Crush. She’s the 2018 regional NCWIT Award winner for Aspirations in Computing. She just won her FIRST state championship as a freshman in photo illustration. AND… just this week, we announced she also won first place out of 5,000 international submissions in a student video contest.

Ramya

Scientist. Student. Techie. Producer.

There ain’t a box big enough for what this girl is capable of.

Same goes for 23-year old Emily Curtis, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the University of Nebraska, who also happens to be competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.

Emily Curtis - Miss Panhandle

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Mechanical Engineer.. AND a pageant queen? Could it be?

Hell yes.

Emily’s kind of a genius when it comes to ‘figuring things out’; solving puzzles using a scientific approach is her career and her passion.

 

“I was part of the Husker Racing Baja SAE Team, a student organization at UNL that got to design, build and race an off-road vehicle,” said Emily. “At the Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium in August of 2017, I was able to present my research in Austin, Texas to other students and researchers in the 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing fields. Ultimately, I want to work as a research engineer, focusing on sustainable manufacturing with 3D printing.”

<Editor’s note… here’s me just reading that.>

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So why pageants? Why Miss Nebraska?

“I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain,” said Emily. “I have about five more years left of school and two more degrees to earn, so the scholarship money provided by the organization is a huge help, allowing me to remain debt free throughout my higher education. Along with that, the performance aspect, and preparing to present myself on stage has made me more comfortable with presenting my research and approaching others in the field, two things that are necessary for researchers.”

 

 

Any scientist knows there is trial and error before success. The same holds true for Emily in this latest experiment. She competed several times, over several years, before winning a local title.

Emily Curtis

“Finally earning that title with overall interview and overall talent awards, after so many years, and numerous local pageants, really validated the hard work I had put into my platform and this program,” said Emily. “I was just so happy, ecstatic, delighted and ready for this to happen.”

She seized the opportunity to take her platform to the next level; a message for all little girls and women called ‘Empowering Women in STEM.’

 

“I advocate for a network of support and opportunity for women and girls interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Emily. “It starts with highlighting strong feminine role models within STEM, and then continues by providing women opportunities to connect with each other and the means to achieve their goals.”

Emily’s own networking circle has expanded to include the same women she’ll compete with next month.

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 “[My favorite part of this] is the sisterhood,” said Emily. “Before this, I have never felt a more instant connection than I did with each of the titleholders in this year’s Miss Nebraska class. We all want to see each other succeed, and I can honestly say that I feel that I have made 14 new lifelong friends.”

“The foundation of this organization is a sisterhood, and the concept that women support women,” said Emily. “This organization celebrates the strength of women, not only a individuals, but as a collective group as well. I personally have never met a more dedicated, selfless, and passionate group of people (people, not just women) than the contestants, directors, volunteers and parents I have met while competing in the Miss Nebraska Organization.”

How’s this for a hypothesis: perhaps, engineering, and computer science, and video production, and being a beautiful human being, aren’t as dissimilar as some would assume them to be. Perhaps you CAN be a ‘pageant girl’ and brilliant all at once. Maybe, just maybe, YOU and only you, can define yourself and determine what you want to become.

Both KMTV and KETV are sharing Ramya’s success across Omaha TV this week. (Oh yeah, she’s also EXTREMELY well spoken, nailing every interview I threw at her.) Simultaneously, Emily posted this on social media.

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‘I am so thankful for the opportunity to receive an education, and still thankful for the Miss America Organization for providing scholarship dollars to women like me to further their education. Next stop, Grad School!’

The message at Westside High School, within the Miss Nebraska Organization, and from incredible young women like Ramya and Emily is simple and clear: BREAK OUT OF THE BOX. Find what you love – all of what you love – and DO IT.

“I look up to women like Katherine Jackson, Jane Goodall, and Sally Ride, who broke barriers and showed us all how strong, tough and determined women can be,” said Emily. “With my local title, I have become a role model and strong female voice, and I know have a bigger platform to reach out to my community and show women of all ages what possibilities and potential they have.”

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To follow Miss Panhandle Emily Curtis, click here.

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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 Heartland 2018 Brooke Lodl

NEXT.. Miss Twin Rivers 2018 Hayden Richardson

Yellow

Yellow is the perceived color of sunshine. It is associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy.

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

Have you guys ever seen the Lego Batman movie? That part when Alfred tells him he has to go to Commissioner Gordon’s retirement party, and Batman just doesn’t want to?

Yeah. Click that. Because that’s how I feel about saying goodbye to our Yellow, our sunshine, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long.

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When you are around a person like this, do you just KNOW they are destined to be something amazing? Carsyn Long is a young woman who isn’t just good at everything she does, SHE IS OUTSTANDING.

Carsyn has won state championships and other honors in DECA, competitive speech, and theater. She is a gifted singer, performing for the Harlem Globetrotters and winning the Overall Talent Award at last year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen competition. She is confident and well-spoken, nailing live TV interviews repeatedly in the last two years. She is a woman of faith, a strong advocate for her church youth group in her hometown of Gering. She is SMART, winning a full-ride scholarship to the University of Alabama, in part because of her Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen resume. And she is kind, voted Homecoming Queen by her peers, a woman with a proven servant’s heart at just 18 years old.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program was created for women like Carsyn Long. She’ll pass on that title tonight, crowning a new state titleholder in Omaha.

“As I’m preparing to give up my MNEOTeen title, it’s pretty bittersweet,” Carsyn told me. “This has been such an emotional, humbling, and gratifying year that I am dreading to see come to an end. Honestly, I wish I could be MNEOTeen forever! Of course, I am so read for the college experience (Roll Tide) and to start my adult life, but it’s still so hard to say goodbye to something that has consumed my life (in all the best ways) for an entire year.”

When Carsyn was crowned one year ago, she was closing out her junior year of high school. Immediately, still focusing on finals and state championships, she also turned her attention to preparing to represent our state at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition in Orlando, Florida.

I’m gonna be completely blunt here for a second. I was CONVINCED Carsyn was going to be Nebraska’s first Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. I remember texting her director, Heather Edwards, absolutely sure Carsyn was going to win.

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Photo courtesy PG Photography

“One thing I remember so vividly (and I pray I never forget this moment), was the very first night of prelims,” said Carsyn. “We marched through the auditorium aisles with our state flags. The music was blaring and the screams of the audience were just deafening. I got to my spot on stage and I saw the big Husker N’s in the audience and could hear my family cheering for me. It took everything I had to not start bawling. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is real life. This is happening. I’m the girl from Nebraska who gets to experience this.’ It was very surreal and so emotional. I was so in awe and so grateful that I was the girl that got to stand on this stage. I felt so humbled, because I knew how many people would have loved to be in my shoes that at moment.”

Carsyn did not take the national crown, but she did take away several incredible friendships.

“I literally talk to Autumn Arsenault from Tennessee everyday, she’s one of my best friends,” said Carsyn. “Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen, Holly Brand, is my college roomie. I love her to death; we really hit it off in Orlando and we’re now forever best friends.”

Carsyn also came home with a resolve to make the absolute most out of the title she had already earned, our Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. She threw out the ceremonial first picture for the Omaha Storm Chasers. She was a featured performer for WOWT-Omaha’s live fundraising telethon, and at the annual Crowns & Gowns weekend in North Platte. She’s emceed local pageants across the state throughout the year, and volunteered her time at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. Carsyn will also be part of the Annual Cattleman’s Ball in June. She has also distributed her Blessing Bags to children across the state, reminding them they are loved and valued.

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“I have done a TON of traveling this year,” said Carsyn. “A lot of my events were somewhere like North Platte or Omaha, which can be quite a drive since I am from western Nebraska, basically Wyoming! Most of my appearances, I drove by myself. It hasn’t been easy juggling everything this year, especially my senior year. I have had to sacrifice a lot in order to make it work, but it has all paid off. It was really imperative that I knew which things were most important.”

“I had been feeling really stuck when thinking about life after handing down my title,” said Carsyn. “Obviously, I’d go to college and what not, but I had been wondering, ‘how am I going to continue making my mark?’ But I’ve realized because of this program, being Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen and my drive to succeed, I am so capable and equipped with everything I need to continue moving mountains.”

And by being Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, Carsyn was eligible for a full-ride scholarship to the University of Alabama. She found out over Christmas break that the she was accepted, and that every dollar of her higher education, an estimated $115,000, would be paid for.

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“In August, I’ll be heading to Alabama to pursue a degree in news media,” said Carsyn. “I’m planning on rushing a sorority to be really involved on campus and meet so many new girls. I’d like to get involved in theatre and performance down south a well. But there’s a lot of things I’m just kind of going with the flow with and knowing that God will provide. I couldn’t be more excited to start this new adventure.”

Will that adventure bring her back to Nebraska someday, to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska?

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I guess people will just have to wait and see… :),” said Carsyn. “Haha, yes, I plan on competing for Miss Nebraska… or Alabama? Most likely Nebraska because I’ll always be a Husker, even if I do come back with a Southern accent.”

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To the 19 young women competing to follow in Carsyn’s footsteps, and to everyone learning more about the program that has been such an important part of her life, Carsyn has a message.

“I wish you could meet 14-year old Carsyn, compared to Carsyn now,” she said. “I not NOT exaggerating when I say that this program has completely transformed me into a different young woman – in the best ways possible. I can no excel in interview for a job or scholarship without hesitation. I take the health and wellness of my body very seriously and have more knowledge of how to have a healthy mind, body and spirit. I know that God has provided me with a voice that I have no problem in utilizing and performing with. I can be proof of the idea that even though you are young, you can accomplish amazing things.”

“My year has been all about small moments,” said Carsyn. “You make the biggest impact in the smallest moments. People aren’t going to remember what songs I sang at Crowns and Gowns or what I wore at Miss Nebraska week, but they remember how I presented myself and how I made them feel included in my journey. That is something that has been really important to me this year and I plan on continuing that legacy no matter where I go.”

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“I knew this was something that God made me for and boy, did He use me this year,” said Carsyn. “This may feel like the end, but it really is the beginning of the rest of my life. I will never take for granted the year I had as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017. I have been so inspired and motivated by Nebraska communities and I couldn’t be more appreciative. I can’t believe this is it. I can’t believe I was the girl that got to experience this amazing year. I am forever thankful to be Nebraska’s girl.”

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

Carsyn, you are our Yellow. You are joy, happiness, intellect, and energy personified.

You will forever be our Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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

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

To learn more about all of the 2018 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants, click here.

Edge Of Glory

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

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

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SHELBY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Just The Way You Are

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

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

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