A few posts ago.. I mentioned my letter jacket. I know that you, my wonderful, loyal readers.. have been dying for another look ever since.
BAM!! And this time, you get the added bonus of seeing KETV’s Rob McCartney in HIS letter jacket, too! (Here’s a secret.. the embroidered name on his is ‘Robby’. It’s pretty fabulous.)
WE ARE PROUD MONARCHS, FOLKS! Rob and I both went to Papillion-La Vista High School, along with KETV alums Adrian Whitsett, John Campbell and Brittany Jones-Cooper. For awhile, our News Director Rose Ann Shannon joked that if you weren’t from Papillion, you weren’t going to get hired at KETV!
My family moved to Papio when I was five years old. I was a proud Carriage Hill Cougar all seven years of elementary school, went to Papillion Junior High during construction of the second story, and graduated from PLHS before there was a second high school.
I love this town. I love working in an area that includes the place I grew up. I love that Rob and I can still take part in events, like the Papillion-La Vista Schools Foundation Gala above, and reconnect with the same friends, teachers, and colleagues we’ve known for years. (Want a big laugh? CLICK HERE to watch our tribute to Rob on his 20th Anniversary at KETV, with the help from the people of Papillion!)
There’s no Miss Papillion or Miss Sarpy County (yet!), so one of our most impressive butterflies, Jenni Wahonick, recently flew west to represent our city and a powerful message at the 2016 Miss Nebraska pageant.
Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography
“Someone told me to surround myself with people who I aspire to be,” Jenni told me recently. “The women I have gotten to know because of Miss Nebraska are so kind-hearted, intelligent, and passionate, and I am a better person for knowing each of them.”
Jenni says she inititally got involved with the pageant as a teenager because it sounded like fun. The relationships she made, and scholarship money she brought home, kept her coming back for more.
Jenni, presenting at the University of Central Missouri’s undergraduate scholars symposium
“It’s helped me pay for my college education,” said Jenni, a senior at the University of Central Missouri. She’s majoring in Special Education for Severe Developmental Disabilities to help and empower people she’s been helping for nearly a decade.
“I have worked closely with the special needs population for the past nine years,” said Jenni. ‘During my time at UCM I have worked at a group home for three years and spent a winter at a camp for people with disabilities. I have also developed and taught dance class geared towards the special needs community at the community center. I’ve been a regional recruit team member for Missouri Miss Amazing, and help organize and spread the word for End The Word campaigns on campus.”
Crowned Miss Twin Rivers 2016 in February, Jenni took her advocacy one step further, calling her personal platform of service ‘Celebrating Abilities in the Differently Abled.’
“Whether it was in a group home, as a classroom aide, or at a camp, I have found that there is an emphasis on what a person with a disability cannot do,” said Jenni. “However, I’ve found it to be more productive to instead focus on their strengths. Everyone has abilities and everyone has disabilities, but isn’t it just easier to appreciate a person for who they are?”
For Jenni, these efforts are all part of a natural desire to serve others. Over the last four years, she’s volunteered for more than 40 different organizations. Jenni is also the Philanthropy Chair in her sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, and was recently nominated for the Greek Leader of the Year award.
“I love to volunteer because of the poeple and opportunities it exposes me to,” said Jenni. “Every time I volunteer for an organization, I learn something new and grow as a person. I love going to visit my friend at the veteran’s home and delivering meals on wheels.”
Jenni does all of this in addition to her other activities; she holds numerous leadership positions in the Greek system at UCM, she’s a member of Rho Lambda and Order of Omega (Greek Honor’s fraternities), she’s in the Honor’s College, she’s modelled for Kansas City Fashion Week, and she works as a princess character at the Omaha Children’s Museum.
“I especially love my princess job because I am able to make connections so quickly with the children who visit me at the museum,” said Jenni. “It’s a great teaching tool because children generally want to listen to what you have to say when you’re wearing a poofy dress.”
Ironically, the same often holds true with a crown and sash.
Jenni has networked across the UCM campus to draw support and raise money for her mission, for Children’s Miracle Network, and for the Miss Nebraska pageant. She’s also drawing upon her own strengths, using her training as a Dance minor to choreograph UCM’s main stage dance concert and to earn her certification as an Autism Movement Therapy Instructor in Los Angeles.
“I truly value the relationships I make and the opportunities I am given,” said Jenni. “I’m so blessed to have so many experiences, and I like to step out of my comfort zone so I can really grow as a person. After two of my sorority sisters passed away in a car accident my sophomore year, I haven’t taken for granted the people in my life. I think people are put in your life for a reason and everyone has something valuable they can teach you.”
In one month, Jenni Wahonick hopes to do just that, even using the talent competition not to showcase dance (which she’s trained in), but to educate the audience about teachers, the profession she plans to pursue.
“My talent is reading slam poetry,” said Jenni. “The poem I read is ‘What Teachers Make’ by Taylor Mali. I feel powerful performing it, and I love to see how the audience will react to it. Most people are close to someone who is a teacher, so it is easy to relate to.”
Before you jump to any conclusions about Jenni’s talent, or the Miss American Organization in general, this young woman notes how her confidence for interviews and speaking in front of a crowd has grown because of her involvement in this system.
“Competing in a pageant like Miss Nebraska is not easy to do. There is a lot of preparation that goes into each phase of competition,” said Jenni. “Because of my interview preparation, not only am I more comfortable speaking under pressure, but I am also more educated and concerned about what is going on in the world. Because of the swimsuit competition, I have learned to love my body and treat it like a temple. I am constantly striving to be the best version of myself. Each phase of competition makes me a better person, and my experience holding a title has made me view myself as a leader and role model in my community.”
OUR community, says this blog author and Jenni’s fellow Papio native. I hope to see our hometown raise up and support ANY young person working hard and finding success, and especially so in this case. The symbol of our city is the Monarch, and we may soon have real royalty in Papillion.. Miss Nebraska 2016.
“Miss Nebraska is my dream job becasue making connections with people is my very favorite thing to do,” said Jenni. “Whether I win Miss Nebraska or not, I will continue to make philanthropy and service a huge part of my life and view myself as a role model in the community. My platform is more than just a platform to me, it is what I have shaped my entire life around. However, with the title of Miss Nebraska I will be given more credibility to really take these things to a new level. As Miss Nebraska, I would continue to work every single day to share my message with anyone who would hear it.”
For more information about the Miss Twin Rivers/Miss Sandhills Pageant, contact Directors Barb Smith or Becky Smith-Wagner by phone at 308-532-4720 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!