Tag Archive | chrissy townsend

It’s A Small World After All

There are 7.4 billion people in the world.  319 million of those live in the United States, and about 1.8 million live in Nebraska.  Any given day, you could come across any number of strangers… or you could bump into familiar faces in the strangest of places.  Last year as my husband and I were traveling to Cancun, we randomly bumped into his cousin at the airport.. a cousin who lives in California.  Then while we were at the resort, 2700 miles away, we literally ran into our good friend, Megan.  Of all the hotels in all the vacation destinations around the world, we chose the exact same spot at the exact same time.  There is some truth to the saying ‘it’s a small world after all.’  So perhaps I shouldn’t have been as surprised to hear, the first time I met the new Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen, “I think you know one of my teachers..”

Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig

Alex Nervig is a proud Millard North Mustang, the high school where my husband has been an assistant baseball coach for 11 years.  Turns out, head coach Dave Cork is one of her teachers this year. Of all the schools and all the teachers in the Omaha metro…

but Millard is getting accustomed to having ‘pageant girls’ walk their halls.  Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson and Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters are both Millard Public Schools grads.  Miss Gering 2016 LaRissa McKean and Miss Western Nebraska 2015 Chrissy Townsend are Millard South alums, and Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashly Helfrich studied at Millard West as she prepared for state competition.

“I decided to compete for my local title because I know a lot of people who have competed in this system and have absolutely loved it!” Alex told me.  “This is also my last eligible year to compete in the teen pageant so I decided even if I don’t win, it will still be a really fun experience.”

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But she did win, and hit the ground running through every door that opened up for her.  Alex has since been spotted volunteering for the Salvation Army, taking part in fundraisers for Children’s Miracle Network and spreading some Irish goodwill in Omaha’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“My goal is to enjoy the journey and make the most of it,” said Alex.  “I have met so many new friends and I have gained multiple opportunities that I never thought I would have.  I am so excited to see what the rest of the year holds for me!”

A year that was already jam-packed with performances and competitions; Alex is a member of the World Champion Stepperettes Baton Team, and she’s part of the state-finalist Mustang Varsity Cheer Squad.

Through cheer, Alex became part of the Sparkles program, partnering cheerleaders at several Omaha area high schools with students who have special needs.  The Sparkles held their first annual showcase this winter, and they volunteered at the Annual Rock and Roll for Disabilities in Omaha.  Friendships have always been integral to Alex, and she’s dedicated her year of service to the special relationships she’s formed through Sparkles.

Click here to read more about the Sparkles 1st Annual Showcase in the Omaha World Herald!

“My platform is called ‘We Are One’ and it promotes the equal treatment of people with special needs,” said Alex. “I chose this as my platform because throughout my years of school I have seen students with special needs get bullied and I want to see it come to an end.”

Flashback to October.. and telling Coach Cork that once again, a Millard girl was our newest titleholder in the Miss Nebraska system.  I heard then how kind Alex Nervig was to everyone around her, and how involved she was in the community. She didn’t transform into an outstanding teenager when she put on a crown; those qualities were already there.  That crown, and the 17 others worn by teens across Nebraska, simply highlight the extraordinary things they would be doing with or without their titles.

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“So far, my favorite part has been meeting the other local titleholders and becoming friends with them,” said Alex.  “I would really like people to know that pageants are not all about wearing pretty dresses and wearing a crown.  The crown gives us an opportunity to spread the message of our platform and make a positive change in society.”

Our connections to each other around the world are simply incredible.  It’s the Kevin Bacon effect.. someone knows someone who knows someone.  When those stories are exchanged, when we connect the dots as to how we all relate to each other, how will everyone describe you?  Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Alex Nervig hopes to stand out as a funny, talking, outgoing young lady who made a difference in this world.

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“I want people to know that your success is determined by your definition of success, not someone else’s,” said Alex.  ” As long as you accomplish your goals, you can call yourself a winner.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig or to get more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant! You can also email Director Kelsey Ellis at omahadouglascountyot@gmail.com.

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

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Jamie Chen

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

That’s What Friends Are For

Over the last few months, I’ve tried to take a different approach with what I share on Facebook.  I still try to tell our viewers what they should tune in for that night at 10.. and share links to the developing story online that could impact them.. but more and more, I’m trying to share things that just MAKE ME SMILE.  Memes that make me laugh, links that have me giggling at my desk, and photos that warm my heart.  Hopefully they make someone else’s day a little brighter, too.

A few weeks ago, I shared this beauty.

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Photo courtesy Sherri Harnisch – Picture Taker

This is Macy.  I used to work with her momma, who is also the incredible photographer who styled and shot this photo.  Macy is sassy, smart, talented and SWEET.. she is also one of the national representatives for down syndrome awareness and support, featured on billboards in Times Square, and a frequent visitor to Washington DC for new legislation.

PLEASE CLICK HERE to watch Alex Hoffman’s story on KETV with Sherri Harnisch, about her family’s work to pass the ABLE Act.

Macy is showing the world that people with special needs bring love, joy, laughter and so many other things into the world and into our lives.  They deserve our respect, our time and OUR love.

It’s a message Ashly Helfrich has known and advocated for since she was younger than Macy.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Ashly, a junior at Millard West High School in Omaha, is also Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen 2016.  She’ll compete to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this June.  The program is a preliminary competition to the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, described by many as the ‘little sister’ pageant to the Miss America Organization.  Just like their ‘miss’ sisters, these teenagers spend a year promoting a cause they are passionate about; Ashly calls hers ‘The Positive Power of Inclusion.’

“Two of my cousins have down syndrome, so I have witnessed how inclusion has affected them while growing up,” Ashly told me recently.  “[My platform] is focusing on creating inclusive environments in both schools and the community for people of all ability levels.”

Ashly is a student leader for Millard West’s West Friends club, an organization that twice a month brings together students with and without disabilities.

“I love spending my time with these kids, as they are some of the most genuinely kind people I know,” said Ashly.  “They almost always have a smile on their face, and they always greet me like they are so happy to see me.  For me, inclusion goes so far beyond just putting students of all ability levels in the same room.  The objective of West Friends is to create long-lasting friendships between these students by making a safe, fun environment for all.”

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Ashly and West Friends organizers are also creating a model for other programs across the state, as one of the first schools to participate in NSAA-sanctioned unified sports.  CLICK HERE TO WATCH Andrew Ozaki’s story on KETV, featuring Ashly, about this new opportunity for special needs students to compete in sports.

Ashly also knows a little something about competition; she trained in tumbling and competitive gymnastics for 11 years and is currently a Millard West varsity cheerleader.

She’s also copy editor for her school’s yearbook, a member of the National Honor Society, a member of the National Society of High School Scholars and Student Ambassador for Millard West.  Ashly has lettered in Academics, Cheerleading and Pole Vault.

WHAT?!? How could this girl squeeze one more activity into her schedule.. and why?!?!

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Ashly answers by noting her role model is former Miss Nebraska local titleholder Chrissy Townsend. (Click here to learn more about Chrissy!)

“My grandparents were Chrissy’s host family during her pageant week in North Platte and for several summers I stayed there with her during that week,” said Ashly.  “She really showed me how cool it was to be on stage, I always enjoyed getting to watch her do her favorite thing.  She truly paved the way for my own pageants because she gave me a great example of how to be happy with whatever the outcome may be.  I always admired the girls in that spotlight; I admired their grace, pose and confidence in front of all of those people, and I knew that someday I wanted to do that myself.”

Despite multiple surgeries on her Achilles tendon, Ashly decided this, her last eligible year to compete, she would try to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  She revisited the piano, an instrument she played for years as a little girl, and won a local title last fall.

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“I would tell someone who criticizes pageants that the girls who compete in them are not just focused on their appearance,” said Ashly.  “Pageant girls are driven and compassionate, and they are more than ready to help anyone else out before themselves.  They all have goals set for themselves and they are ready to do all the work that goes into reaching that goal.”

And THEN some, like in Ashly’s case.  Since earning that crown in late October, Ashly has volunteered to ring bells for the Salvation Army, helped blind and visually impaired shoppers over the holidays, and just this weekend, took a VERY chilly plunge into Cunningham Lake for the Special Olympics.

At work (Omaha’s Vintage Financial Group), Ashly has earned the nickname ‘Miss America’ from firm President and Millard School Board member Pat Ricketts.  Easy to see why with the sheer amount of self-lessness, talent and ambition this young lady has.

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What’s even cooler to me is WHY Ashly wants all of this.. for her cousins, her West friends, and kids she’s never met, like Macy.

“I want to be the next Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because I want to spread my message of my platform all around the state.  I am so excited to be part of a team with some of my favorite people,” said Ashly.  “I want to be someone that is a good role model for all teens, and someone who can be trusted with anything.  I am very dedicated to the things that I commit to, and competing in this pageant is another step for me to get closer to reaching my goal of being confident in any situation.”

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CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashly Helfrich

on FACEBOOK, on TWITTER, on INSTAGRAM

For more information about the Miss Kearney/Miss Tri-Citites Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR WEBSITE,FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Megan Goeke at hello@beautifulbridal.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.

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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.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Omaha 2016 Aleah Peters!

NEXT.. Special Feature, Miss Nebraska USA 2016 Sarah Hollins!

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!

ROAR

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.

IT HAS BEEN FABULOUS!

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.

MISS NEBRASKA 2015.

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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.

THIS MOMENT WAS ALL ALYSSA.  SHE WILL NOW FOREVER BE MISS NEBRASKA.

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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’?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!!!!

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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!

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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)

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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)

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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..

MY WINNERS FOR TALENT: THIS YEAR’S MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN CONTESTANTS.

BLOWN AWAY.

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

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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!)..

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..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!!)

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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!

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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..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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#MNOT2015.  Trending.

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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..)

MORE THAN $42,800 IN CASH AWARDS

AND MORE THAN $400,455 IN OFFERED COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS.

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..

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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.

Miracle Worker

You advocate for something because you believe in it.  You put your face and name behind a cause to share a compelling argument for why you are so passionate about that effort.  It takes courage to speak out (especially from a personal place); it takes time and dedication; it takes a leader who can command attention and compel others to make a difference.

This is one of the reasons I advocate for the Miss America Organization.. because no matter what you think of beauty pageants, or women competing for crowns, when that ONE DAY of competition is over, they are out in their communities and states 364 OTHER days of the year trying to do all of the things I just mentioned, in most cases, serving others.

This young woman will continue to promote her platform after her pageant days are over; she wants her cause to become her career.

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MISS DOUGLAS COUNTY 2015 ALYSSA HOWELL

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I will be a junior at Creighton University, studying Elementary Education, with the career ambition of becoming a child life specialist in a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital,” Alyssa told me recently.  “Truly, Children’s Miracle Network is my passion, and my platform, ‘Making Miracles Happen’, stands to improve the lives of children in hospitals all over Nebraska.”

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Several of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants, including Alyssa and Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson, delivered gift bags to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Rainbow House pediatric patients and their families for Miss America Serves day.

Children’s Miracle Network is also Miss America’s community partner, the organization which titleholders all over the country must raise money for in order to compete at the local and state level.  Money raised benefits hospitals like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.  Many of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants have spent time volunteering at Children’s; Alyssa visits on a consistent basis, inspired by her cousin and former CMN patient, Shayna.

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“Eight years ago my family (after a streak of 12 boy cousins) was finally blessed with a girl!  However, Shayna was sick with a frightening virus that left her sick and in the hospital for days after her birth,” said Alyssa.  “18 months later, she tested positive for profound hearing loss.  My family was devastated, however, with the help of St. Louis Children’s Hospital (a CMN facility), Shayna was able to receive cochlear implants that allow her to hear as a normal child.”

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Alyssa witnessed part of that journey in person, staying with Shayna and her family for two months while Shayna attended the Central Institute for the Deaf.  Alyssa had already been involved with CMN fundraisers as a young girl, at her sister Devin Howell’s side during her time as Miss River City 2008, Miss Douglas County 2009 and Miss Omaha 2010.

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When Alyssa was crowned Miss Eastern Nebraska 2014, (click here to see read my interview with her last Spring!) she wanted to take her passion for CMN hospitals and the children they serve to another level.  Alyssa designed and implemented something she calls the Miracle Bags Program.

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“I go to sororities [including her own, Pi Beta Phi], business groups, girl scouts and schools and collect donation items.  Each bag [I create] contains a blanket, coloring book, crayons, Play-Doh, and a handwritten card,” said Alyssa.  “I then deliver these bags to the patients at Omaha Children’s, and let me tell you, nothing makes a sick child light up like a princess with a bag of goodies!”

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To Alyssa, the Miss America Organization presented opportunities for both volunteering and for her own personal growth.  It’s a stage for this pianist (and piano teacher) to play for a crowd; it’s a path to scholarships for this college student; it’s a platform for her to share Shayna’s story and encourage others to help pediatric hospital patients.

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“I truly believe that EVERY woman can gain so many incredible things from this organization, and Miss Nebraska stands to represent every woman in the state regardless of career, beliefs, appearance or education,” said Alyssa.  “As the All-American daughter of a former Marine and the 1981 Miss Iowa Dairy Princess, my upbringing led me to big dreams, big accomplishments and making big differences in the lives of everyone I meet.”

Alyssa Howell isn’t just an advocate for Miss America or for Children’s Miracle Network, she shows what strong, smart, talented women can accomplish when inspired by something as powerful as a little girl’s smile.  Just a guess, but I’m betting the feeling is mutual, and that Shayna’s grin will light up the entire North Platte High Auditorium in just three weeks.. as her princess, Miss Douglas County, competes to become the next Miss Nebraska.

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(Photo courtesy Studio FBJ)

To find out more about Miss Douglas County 2015 Alyssa Howell’s Miracle Bags Program, and to contact her for appearances and events, email alyssahowellva@gmail.com or click here to visit her Facebook page.

For more information on the Miss Omaha/Douglas County Pageant, click here to visit their website, here to visit them on Facebook, and here to follow on Twitter.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Executive Director Marianne Grubaugh at 402-330-8033 or by email at missomahapageant@yahoo.com.

***

The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Heartland 2015 Steffani Jiroux

NEXT.. Miss State Fair 2015 Marie Allison

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

Unanswered Prayers

The thing about being a reporter is you never know what’s going to happen that day at work, what you’re going to cover.  On some of the biggest days in my career, I bounced from one story to another, from humorous to devastating, from trivial to unforgettable.  We also get to witness things firsthand that others only see through their TV’s or read about.

Last Thursday, I got to do this..

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Thanks to Mary Nelson from The Morning Blend for snapping the photo!

One on one, KETV photojournalist Ashley Nodgaard and I interviewed the most successful musician in history, Garth Brooks.  He has sold more albums than any other artist, more than 69-MILLION.  Songs alone, he’s sold more than 150-MILLION.  You’d think all of that success would go to a guy’s head.. not this guy.  He was gracious, genuine, down-to-earth and FUNNY.  He shook not only my hand, but went out of his way to shake every photographer’s hand as well, making sure to thank them for their work.  He truly seems to be completely fulfilled by his life in music, traveling the world with his wife Trisha Yearwood at his side.

Click here to watch my One-On-One interview with Garth Brooks!

Click here to see Garth Brooks’ news conference with Omaha media!

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When I asked Brooks about his advice to aspiring artists, he said PAY YOUR DUES.  The gigs you play for little (or no) pay, the criticism you take that’s just flat out MEAN, the grueling hours you spend devoted to your craft without an end in sight… he said it’s all for good reason, it helps you become BETTER.  Ironically, a few minutes later Brooks teared up a bit when he told me about hearing tens of thousands of fans singing his song, Unanswered Prayers.

It’s a song I’m guessing this young lady has played a time or two at home..

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MISS SCOTTS BLUFF COUNTY 2015 BRITTANY ECKERBERG

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I competed 12 times before I won anything.  The 13th time is when I won Miss Scotts Bluff County,” Brittany told me recently.  “There are so many times when I would get discouraged and want to quit because I didn’t understand why I was never winning, but thankfully I kept going.”

Lucky #13 for a woman who has certainly proven herself worth of her crown.  Brittany, a freshman at York College majoring in Business Management and minoring in Accounting, thought she would only participate in choir when she started college.

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“Once I got on campus I became involved in speech, cheerleading, Theta Psi social club and Songfest.  Next year, I’m going to be a Resident Assistant, Treasurer-in-training and Fashionista of Theta Psi, and I am the Vice President of York’s new chapter of Phi Beta Lambda.”

Advocating for things she believes in is nothing new to Brittany; when York College announced plans last month to cut the school speech team, Brittany joined a vocal group of students pushing for a chance to appeal the decision.   Click here to learn more about #YCFreeSpeech.

Now as Miss Scotts Bluff County, Brittany is also volunteering throughout her community.

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From Brittany:  “Spent my #MissAmericaServes day by helping with clean up at the East Hill Clothing Drive! I helped sort through all of the clothes that are going to be donated to different charities in Nebraska! And I also helped load clothes into multiple trailers! Today was a great day to serve! @missneorg #MissScottsBluffCounty2015 #MissNebraska #MissAmerica #clothingdrive “

Brittany says some days, she can barely find time to eat. (Please note I took another bite of my Jimmy Johns as I read this.. Momma ALWAYS finds time to eat!)  And there’s more!  When she does get a break from classes, Brittany spends that time each summer, a full month, at church camp.

“My faith is very important to me,” said Brittany.  “I chose to attend a private Christian school because I wanted to have a Christ-centered education while still being equipped for my future career.  I wouldn’t be who I am today without my faith.”

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Brittany wants you, and the Miss Nebraska judges to know all of this, and it’s why Interview is a favorite moment for this pageant veteran.

“It’s nerve-racking yet fulfilling at the same time,” said Brittany.  “It really makes you be who you really are.  I love the fact that I have no idea what they are going to ask me, whether it be what my favorite move is or what my platform means to me.”

That platform is ‘No One Is Invincible: Underage Drinking Prevention’ a mission inspired by her father’s work as a Scottsbluff police officer.

“Growing up I was taught to never do drugs and alcohol,” said Brittany.  “I knew every, single police officer that my dad worked with and I knew that if I ever got caught, I would immediately have consequences.  I was scared to drink.  I have personally seen how your life can change in an instant because of drinking alcohol as a minor.”

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From Brittany:  “Enjoyed spending a little time today at the YMCA preschool. I got the chance to explain what the Miss America program is and I talked a little bit about citizenship and my platform! Preschoolers are such a joy to be around, and I’m so blessed that I got the opportunity to hang out with all of these kids today. Brings back good memories from when I went to this preschool! #MissNebraska #MissScottsBluffCounty2015 #myjobrocks”

Family continues to inspire and support Brittany as she pursues this new goal of competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.

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“I have an older sister, two younger sisters and a younger brother. I know for a fact that I would never trade my siblings for anything,” said Brittany.  “We are all different from each other which is the best thing to me.  We cover the pageant scene, the sports scene, the computer guru area, and the country music loving scene.”

And speaking of country music, Garth Brooks once wrote:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

Perhaps, each of those 12 times Brittany prayed for a crown, to be recognized for her gifts, leadership and service, it wasn’t that no one listened, but that there was a different plan in place.  Maybe #13 was always meant to be her lucky number.  Maybe THIS gift is also a guide, keeping Brittany Eckerberg on the very path she’s now taking in 2015.. the road to Miss Nebraska.

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Follow Miss Scotts Bluff County 2015 Brittany Eckerberg

on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

To contact Brittany for appearances and events email bneckerberg@york.edu.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt at 308-783-2940 or by email at cengelhaupt@fnbnp.com.

***

The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Western Nebraska 2015 Chrissy Townsend

NEXT.. Miss Heartland 2015 Steffani Jiroux

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

Little Girls & Big Dreams

Every young woman competing to become Miss Nebraska takes on a personal platform a service; a cause she feels strongly about and spends her year as a local titleholder, and potentially as Miss Nebraska (or Miss America!), advocating for.  Quite often, these platforms come from a very personal place and are something these young women would passionately support with or without a crown.

For today’s featured contestant, her cause is quite simply a message of survival.

OFFICIAL

MISS PANHANDLE 2015 JESSICA LITTLEJOHN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

As Miss Panhandle, Jessica shares a story of an abduction attempt when she was a little girl, and how she got away thanks to lessons her mother taught her at that young age.

“This is why I have partnered with ‘Kidpower’,” Jessica told me recently.  “‘Kidpower’ works to create a culture of caring, respect and safety for all by teaching people, especially children, to use their power to stay safe, act wisely and believe in themselves.”

It’s a message Jessica has been spreading for several years now, last year as Miss Kool-Aids Days 2014, (click here to read last year’s feature!), and one she hopes to continue on a much larger scale.

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“I have presented ‘Kidpower’ skills to many school children in the school and daycare settings,” said Jessica.  “As Miss America, I would also be able to continue my work with parents, law enforcement and other community organizations concerned with children’s safety.  ‘Kidpower’ teaches the skills that can help prevent exploitation, harassment, molestation and abduction.”

Did you catch that? Jessica talks about being Miss America. She’s aiming big this year, graduating from Eastern Wyoming College this May with a degree in business administration and a license in cosmetology. The Scottsbluff native is also competing in the Miss America Organization for one final time.

“Once I set my mind to something, I do everything I can to make it reality,” said Jessica.  “I was always told if your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough, and let me tell you.. I have massive dreams and I plan on achieving each and every one.  My first big dream is being Miss Nebraska 2015.”

SLEEPING AFTER WIN

Jessica is excited to display that determination during Interview, which she says is her favorite part of the competition.

“The judges only have ten minutes to get to know you as a well-rounded young woman,” said Jessica.  “Being quick on your feet, intelligent and creative are all important while trying to show them your personality.  You’re interviewing for the job of Miss Nebraska and you want to show them you’re fully capable and versatile enough to communicate to a crowd of business people or a small group of children.”

An example: Jessica says her past interview questions have included spoon versus fork.. and her position on American foreign policy regarding ISIS.

Fork?

All those interviews and past pageants have given Jessica more than just food for thought.

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Miss Panhandle 2015 Jessica Littlejohn with Miss Omaha 2015 Megan Gould and Miss Western Nebraska 2015 Chrissy Townsend.

“As I prepare for Miss Nebraska for my final year I can’t help but think how much this program has changed my life,” said Jessica.  “Oddly enough, I turned to the Miss Nebraska program to help me through what seemed to be a defining time in my life.  I would either dwell on misfortune or empower myself to strive for better.  Now I am graduating and entering into an industry I love with several career paths available.”

EMILY STADLER AFTER WIN  KACEY, JESSICA, ASPEN AT LITTLE SISTER NEON DANCE PARTY

Jessica hopes young girls across the state who have looked up to her will consider following the same path.

“The Miss America program is one of the largest scholarship providers for young women in the world.  With scholarships I have received from this program I will be graduating debt free!” said Jessica.  “The Miss America Foundation strives to change lives and influence young women across the country, joining education leaders in advocating for more young women to choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of education.

And she wants to remind EVERYONE.. she hopes the path she’s on helps her keep those little girls safe.

“‘Kidpower’ would move the Miss America Organization forward as it already focuses on children and the importance of believe in ‘self’,” said Jessica.  “Nebraska is known for its hard working, humble ‘Get ‘R Done!’ state of mind and I believe I encompass all this and more, and would represent this wonderful state not only at a state level but nationally as well.  As they say, there’s no sky like a Nebraska sky; well, there’s no girl like a Nebraska girl!”

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Follow Miss Panhandle 2015 Jessica Littlejohn

on her Facebok page, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

To contact Jessica for appearances and events, and for information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Shardel Nelson at 308-760-7266 or by email at shardel@bbc.net.

***

The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Grace Heggem

NEXT.. Miss Omaha 2015 Megan Gould

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

Blown Away

Yeah.  Blown away.  ME.

I attended the preliminary rounds of competition of the Miss Nebraska pageant last weekend.  After talking to all of the contestants over the last few months to write features for this blog, I felt like I knew some of them!  And those that I do know personally are incredible, OUTSTANDING young women.  I wanted to see all of their hard work in person!

HOLY. CRAP.

These women are just phenomenal.  Talented. Gorgeous. Intelligent. Hard working. DRIVEN.  To see all of that wrapped together in one production was kind of mind-boggling.  AND ABSOLUTELY INSPIRING.

For those of you who have been following my series on this year’s contestants, THANK YOU, and here is a recap of what happened at Miss Nebraska 2014.. both the real awards, and the Brandi Petersen Unofficial Superfan Awards.

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Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson

Megan Swanson, representing Miss Douglas County, won the crown of Miss Nebraska 2014.  (Thanks to Corbey R. Dorsey/Pixel Creation Workshop for the photo!)  I LOVE this moment, because it shows jubilation, celebration and unity, and also gives a glimpse into Megan’s personality.  Megan worked so hard over the last few months, on her talent, her physical and mental self, and on her platform, Total Body Wellness.  One of my favorite things about her is that in the videos she has posted from visits to schools and kids, Megan gets on their level–they are goofy, they have fun, they LAUGH.  She’s not an untouchable figure talking to children, she’s AMONG them, talking WITH them.  Other photos and videos show abandon, a free spirit, LIFE.  You see all of that in this image.. and her connection to family, celebrating this amazing moment if only through their eyes. I can only imagine how very proud her mom, sister and rest of her family must be right now–they were her biggest supporters in the crowd and no doubt in real life.

Megan won a Preliminary Talent Award for her incredible rendition of ‘You Raise Me Up,’ and she tied for 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, given in honor of an awesome guy, Bobby Foehlinger.  Add it all up–Megan Swanson takes home approximately $11,000 in scholarship moneyLearn more about Megan by checking out my post about her a few weeks before the pageant took place.  You can also read the KETV article about Megan and my interview with her in her first days as Miss Nebraska.

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The 2014 Miss Nebraska Top 5

I look at each of these women, and remember thinking while watching prelims ANY of them could win (and a few others!!!)  THAT is how strong the competition was this year. (Thanks to Field Director Darrell Drullinger and the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Organization for the picture!)

Starting from the left, Alyssa Howell finished 4th Runner Up.  Alyssa’s piano performance was one of my favorite talents–INCREDIBLY strong and commanded attention from start to finish.  I don’t think this young woman stopped smiling the entire time she was in North Platte; a lesson to all of us, no matter if you are on stage, in an interview, or talking to someone on the street, a smile and positive attitude will make you memorable.  Alyssa certainly is!

Rachel Foehlinger finished 2nd Runner Up.  WHAT A WEEKEND for this incredibly talented young woman.  Rachel’s talent, twirling a baton(s) at ridiculous speeds to Proud Mary, made me forget to breathe, and apparently everyone else, too; she won both Preliminary and Overall Talent awards.  Acrobatics, dance, three batons at once, all while smiling and energizing the crowd–IT WAS AMAZING.  Rachel also won the Overall Interview Award, and was a finalist for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award.

Megan Swanson, Miss Nebraska 2014.  I like to sing.  I’m not the best.. or even great.. but I think I have a good ear for what IS good (and I’m pretty nit-picky about it!).  MEGAN IS GOOD.  Scratch that–SHE’S GREAT.  From her first notes, Megan captured the audience.  Her talent isn’t just well practiced (which as a Christian recording artist and music major, I’m SURE she’s practiced quite a bit!), it’s a gift that’s been fine tuned into an art.  Megan told me after Miss Nebraska she wants to win awards for talent at Miss America; I truly think she can do it.

Aleah Peters finished 1st Runner Up.  My overall thoughts about Aleah: DAAAAAANG. I don’t know if Aleah left the studio or gym in the months leading up to Miss Nebraska.  She is a model of health and fitness and her stage presence was literally, jaw dropping, winning her the Overall Swimsuit Award.  Another young woman who never stopped smiling, or shining brightly, on that stage.  Just AMAZING.

Allison Tietjen finished 3rd Runner Up.  She’s only 18.  SHE IS 18 YEARS OLD.  And she knocked the socks off of everyone in the crowd at Miss Nebraska.  Allison also had an exceptional talent, playing what seemed to be a very difficult piano piece, along with musical accompaniment, which I can only imagine adds substantial difficulty–you lose your place or tempo once, you’re in trouble for the remaining performance.  I literally said, ‘WOW’, out loud when she finished during the preliminary competition.

Other Miss Nebraska Award Winners..

3 service awards

(Thanks again to Darrell Drullinger & the Miss Nebraska Organization for the photo!)

Again, starting on the left, Megan Dimmitt received several awards in North Platte, including 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, the Miss America Community Service Award, the non-finalist Interview Award and the Miracle Maker Award.  Over the course of her year as Miss High Plains, Megan has raised more than $10,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals.  10-GRAND that will go straight to hospitals and the kids they care for, like Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha. Absolutely AMAZING.

Next to Megan is Mindy Schreiber, who also received several awards at Miss Nebraska.  Mindy won the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award for her work with mentoring and the Teammates Organization over the last several years, as well as the Miss America Scholar Award and Miss Congeniality.  Smart, caring and dedicated to service.  INCREDIBLE.

Lianna

(Thanks to Joe Bohac & Colour Artistry for the photo!)

Lianna Prill received the non-finalist Talent Award, and it was truly special.  Lianna played piano to music.. then SANG to music.. all in the same performance.  Again–I can’t imagine how difficult it is to play piano along with background accompaniment.. adding singing to the mix makes my head spin thinking, let alone performing!  And Lianna NAILED it, wowing the crowd with her rendition of ‘All By Myself’.  Great job from a terrific young lady!

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NOW, the awards that don’t come with scholarship money or plaques… but the history making honor of being noted on my blog!!!

<<no applause… not even crickets.. tumbleweed rolls past me as I type this…>>

Whatevs.  Thanks for reading 🙂

THE KERRI STRUG AWARD FOR BEING BOSS

Remember Kerri Strug, and this historic Olympic moment?

kerri strug

Strug needs a 9.5 on vault to secure gold for the United States Women’s Gymnastics Team at the 1996 Atlanta Games.  She falls on her first vault, badly injuring her ankle.  She performs her second vault as literally, millions of Americans hold their breath watching, and lands it on ONE FOOT, scoring a 9.7 before crumbling to the ground in pain.  GOLD.  THAT, folks, is BOSS. (No, seriously, real word… Merriam Webster defines it as ‘great or excellent’.)

Kim

Cue Kimberly Brennan, Miss Metro.  After a wonderful night of preliminary competition Thursday, Kimberly had arguably one of the worst days of her life Friday.  During rehearsal, a baton hit her in the eye.  As if that wasn’t bruising enough (literally), Kimberly was overcome by symptoms of gallstones; she spent much of the day in the hospital, sick and in pain.  Still, Friday night at 7pm sharp, Kimberly was on the Miss Nebraska stage, smiling and competing, as if she felt PERFECT.  If you didn’t have ‘insider information’ as to what happened, you wouldn’t have had any idea.  And with that, she became a Top 10 finalist. AMAZING.  I gave her a hug after Friday’s night of competition.  She had to be exhausted, but she was still smiling.

KIMBERLY BRENNAN IS TOTALLY BOSS.  Kim, I BOW DOWN TO YOU.  You are MAGNIFICENT!

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THE CHARLIZE THERON DROP DEAD GORGEOUS AWARD(s)

One of my favorite parts about Miss Nebraska (and pageants in general…) the gowns.  OH, THE GOWNS!  So this award is named for the earth’s most gorgeous human being, Charlize Theron.  Yup.  This year, I have three favorites (photos copyright of Brown Harano Photography). 

 Megan

Megan Dimmit, Miss High Plains.. STUNNING.  Her gown was just so different than what anyone else had and reflected incredible poise and maturity.  Knowing Megan and the work she’s done, this is WAS SO fitting for her and absolutely perfect 🙂

chrissy

Chrissy Townsend, Miss Lake McConaughy.. at Miss Nebraska, as is usually the case at Miss America and Miss USA, there are so many gorgeous white and black gowns.  Chrissy, with her amazing green gown, totally stood out in a great way.  LOVED IT–loved it even more up close.  Chrissy was also named a Top 10 finalist–loved her!

Rachel

Rachel Foehlinger, Miss River City.  I DIE.  Rachel just FLOATED in this dress.. it just sparkled, and so did she.  LOVED!!

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THE JILLIAN MICHAELS AWARD FOR BEING ABLE TO CRUSH THINGS

Jillian Michaels is arguably the most in-shape woman on the planet.

JILLIAN

At least, that’s what I thought.. until I saw Aleah Peters, Miss State Fair, at this year’s Miss Nebraska pageant.

aleah

(Thanks to Joe Bohac and Colour Artistry for the photo!)

I don’t have words.  Just stop what you are doing and stare at this photo for a few minutes.

…..

I am still IN COMPLETE AWE.  Aleah literally made people in the audience gasp (in a good way!!) She showed everyone there and everyone watching from afar that this part of the competition isn’t about being the skinniest or starving yourself.  It’s about dedication to becoming the best physical form of yourself you can possibly be through nutrition and fitness.

HOLY. CRAP.

Aleah, there is a special prize for winning this award on my blog.  You have to follow me around for the next few months and motivate ME to get into this kind of condition.  Or come to the Newsplex with me, and every time I head for the Reeses in the vending machine, just say ‘Brandi…’ and pose like this.

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THE AWARD FOR WHO I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP

Pay no attention to the fact I am 15 years older than this young woman.  Whatevs.

Miss Omaha Payton Merritt, also a Top 10 finalist, made me smile every time she walked out on stage.  She’s STUNNING, she sings with soul, she’s the whole package.  Arguably, her shining moment (and a shining moment for the entire program) came during the onstage question portion of competition during Friday night’s preliminaries.  You’ve probably heard the horror stories, the ‘world peace’ and ‘the Iraq’ moments, that make all of us who volunteer in these programs CRINGE because it is such a poor representation of a group of truly brilliant, young women.  So this moment, answering questions from Miss Nebraska 2013 JaCee Pilkington, was FRIGGIN AWESOME.

payton 2

(Thanks to the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County/Miss River City pageant for the photo!)

Payton didn’t get any ‘softball’ questions; she was asked how she promotes awareness of eating disorders when part of the Miss Nebraska competition is to walk around in a bikini.  She answered, very articulately and without pause, that we all need to find a balance between healthy living and self image.  Her second question was whether the NBA was right to fire Donald Sterling over racist comments made in private.  Again, without hesitation, Payton competently and confidently answered that Sterling had a history of similar statements and that his behavior was not the representation the NBA wanted or needed, so yes, they were within their rights to dismiss him.

Whether you agree with Payton or not in her responses, she answered each question with confidence, poise, reasoning behind her responses and a display that she was not only aware of current issues, but goes beyond to learn more before forming a basis for her opinions.  IT WAS AWESOME.  I wish video of THIS would go viral because THIS WOMAN is a true representation of the intelligence and confidence within these young women.  WAY TO GO, PAYTON!!!

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This is officially the longest blog post ever.. I leave you with one final award.

THE CAT DEELEY SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE FUTURE CONTESTANT AWARD

I. LOVE. So You Think You Can Dance.  I even blogged about my favorite moments.

Judge me.  Whatevs.

Another young woman was also crowned in North Platte last weekend..

morgan

Morgan Holen is the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen! (Thanks to the organization for the photo!)

I didn’t get to see the teen pageant this year, but I am BEYOND THRILLED for this incredible young lady.  From the first time I saw her dance and every time since, she is absolutely CAPTIVATING while she performs.  She lets the music flow through her, and the emotions and stories she shares and tells through her dancing are truly phenomenal.  Morgan is also a hard working, beautiful, kind young woman (and has an INCREDIBLE family behind her every step of the way!!)

Morgan, I am so very proud of you and excited to follow your big year!  And yes, I am counting down the days until you try out for So You Think You Can Dance.

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To all of you who have been following this series on Miss Nebraska, THANK YOU.  I have thoroughly enjoyed learning and writing about each of these young women, and I flatter myself to hope more people learned about this program and the incredible young ladies who participate.  These are all exceptional people who are making our world a better place.  TO YOU, LADIES, THANK YOU. You make me want to be a better woman, the best version of myself I can possibly be.

Best of luck to you no matter what path you take.  Crown or no crown, you are ALL making our state more beautiful.