Tag Archive | grace heggem

Evolution

They say life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.

I, like many (I hope I’m not alone!), have periods of my life that I look back at and just SHUDDER. Times where my immaturity and weaknesses shined brighter than the good I hope I project, times I hope others have forgotten even though I simply cannot.  And maybe that’s a good thing; how can you climb out of valleys if you DON’T have those low points in the first place?  How can you grow if you don’t recognize those mistakes and learn from them?

Life is a journey.  There are lots of bumps along the way.  It’s not how often you trip, it’s how many times you catch yourself, and even learn how to avoid those trouble spots.  Let’s call it personal evolution.

Marie Allison is a Creighton University graduate who has never been afraid to try something, and more importantly, never been afraid to keep going or move on.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

From communication, to patriotism.  From classic to country.  From rodeo pageants.. to Miss Nebraska.  This young lady is no stranger to experiences or to changes, and her life is a colorful piece of artwork reflecting that.

“I am a music and art aficionada, an accomplished equestrienne, adventuries foodie/student of healthful lifestyle, fitness and outdoors enthusiast, passionate academic, and aspiring salsera (I love all latine dance!),” Marie told me recently.  She is also Miss Western Nebraska 2016.

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“I became involved with the Miss America system three years ago after deciding that rodeo pageants involved horses, sure, but they just were not for me,” said Marie, who went on to compete for Miss Colorado in 2014.  “I love how the Miss America Pageant system is a platform for feminine empowerment and service.  I became aware of the idea that holding a title is the ultimate responsibility and a job, not just decorative wording.  I liked that idea and related to it on paper, but was unsure how to be passionate and employ it in my own life.”

So Marie competed again in a new state while attending Creighton, qualifying to compete for Miss Nebraska 2015.  Marie chose a song highlighting her classical training (she now has a Music degree from Creighton), and as she told me last year, she focused on Communciation: Proactive Prevention as her personal message and platform (click here to read more!)  This year.. everything is different.

“If asked before why I want this job, I would have had an answer, but I do not think I believed in my own ability to hold the title of Miss Nebraska before this year,” said Marie.  “I have discovered more about who I am every time I compete because I am put in a unique position to think about how I relate to the world and why I do what I do (not just in pageants); my ideals, my goals, my aspirations, my values, my morals, and so on.”

Here’s a sample of what Marie’s discovered about herself in the last year alone..

She loves to model, featured here in photos by Anthony Gaines Photography, and walking the runway for designer Sabrina Jones at Omaha Fashion Week.

She loves to create art, through something as simple as a selfie, or as complex as a sketch.

She loves to serve, and gets to do it through both volunteering and through her full time jobs.

“I currently work full-time for Omaha Housing Authority as an Executive Assistant and also with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network as a Marketing Specialist,” said Marie.  “I am humbled to have secure employment that keeps me engaged in a constant learning experience, but luckily I find time to fit in working on developing the OHA Foundation’s donor base, fundraising events and childhood literacy programs, as well as fundraising for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and other organizations dedicated to pediatric cancer research.  I strongly advocate both philanthropy and service in daily life an am always looking for new volunteer opportunities.”

And as she started planning to compete for the Miss Nebraska title, Marie did a 180.. changing her talent genre and her personal platform.

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Marie attending President Obama’s speech in Omaha in January.

“My platform is called ‘Justice For All’.  We have the power to love each other and stand together; it is time we use that power, ” said Marie.  “The greatest challenge I see facing my generation is the rifts being formed by racial and socioeconomic disparity.  It is my goal to start an educated dialogue surrounding these issues to invite people to begin making changes in their individual daily lives and their communities, which will translate to our country and our world.  Acknowledging bias and prejudice and how each of us is acculturated is a first step twoards lasting change.  I aspire to this challenge because of the very real challenges my family faced when I was growing up.”

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“After much deliberation, I decided to sing ‘Where Were You’ written by Alan Jackson in honor of 9/11,” said Marie.  “This song wasn’t exactly in my wheel house, to say the least.  It is not traditionally flashy and showy like most pageant pieces, but I knew it was the right song because it was the one that gave me shivers I still have every time I hear it, and a song I am honored to sing.  In Talent, it is my goal to connect with my audience in the short 90 seconds allotted.  The message that there is nothing greater than love that keeps us interconnected is profound and is at the heart of my platform.”

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To those who follow the Miss Nebraska pageant.. Marie Allison is coming back this year as a different contestant, with a changed outlook.  To those who think negatively of pageants in general, Marie wants you to know Miss America has also evolved over the years.

“People who dismiss pageantry as an antiquated tradition where women degrade themselves by focusing only on appearance are often doing just that: focusing on what pageantry appears to be, rather than what it means to the individuals involved and seeing them as upstanding women who are future leaders,” said Marie.  “Miss America has changed since 1921 to promote women’s interests.  The women in the Miss Ameirica program are some of the most intelligent and wonderful people who are ready to take action to make a difference.  The actual pageant, what you see on stage, is the tip of the iceberg of what we do and who we are: we have the beauty, the brains, the talent, and the wherewithal to make great things happen.  There is a reason this has remained a great sisterhood and tradition for almost 100 years.  Miss America showcases the great power of the feminine.  I can say for myself, and for each contestant involved, that we mature as people because of the pageant experience, professionally and personally.”

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Personal evolution.  With the family and friends Marie calls ‘a core component’ of who she is, this young woman is ready to showcase her authentic self on one of our state’s biggest stages.

“This year, I know I have the goals and the wherewithal to make lasting connections that matter and implement a plan of action to promote the Miss Nebraska Organization,” said Marie.  “I have a platform I am excited to promote, a plan, and conviction to see it through regardless of the outcome of the pageant in June.  I know how I want to shape my year of service and what it will take to treat this title both as a humbling, awesome experience as a representative of this wonderful state and as a job to be done.”

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Photo courtesy Anthony Gaines Photography

“I would be honored to have the opportunity of shaping this role with a perspective that comes from hard work, dedication to learning and morals, and a desire to lift others up and include them in the conversations about pageants, scholarship and uniting together to greet the future,” said Marie.  “I endeavor to be congruent in what I think and what I pursue in life and simply allow myself to be me when I compete in spite of the pressure to appear and act in a certain way.  Knowing I can be myself and rely on who I am what I think in any given situation and that I am loved by people who are important to me is one of the most humbling, gratifying experiences.  Winning is always nice, but the most uplifiting experiences for me come from accepting all the good and the bad that come with being who I am.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Western Nebraska 2016 Marie Allison on Facebook.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MARIE?

2015 * Home Of The Brave

For more information about the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Heather Hayes by phone at 307-340-0601, or by email at Heather.Hayes@chartercom.com.

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

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

NEXT.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Brianna Little!

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!

Running To Remember

As journalists, we are part of a strange phenomenon.  The nature of our job is to witness and report; we talk to people, we listen, we watch, we learn and we share everything we take in with our viewers and readers.  We are storytellers.. but sometimes, the stories we feature, the people we share with the world, are souls we never got the chance to meet.

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This photo will be part of my memory for the rest of my career.  One moment, frozen in time, showing the touching relationship between a proud dad and his teenage daughter, his eldest child.  Her name was Kylie Jo Remmereid.

Kylie died in a terrible car crash in November of 2011.  Investigators believe the car was going too fast; it crashed and rolled.  One of Kylie’s best friends was driving; she suffered a traumatic brain injury, and another friend in the car badly injured her arm.  They were three beautiful girls, surrounded by love and the promise of an incredible future.. and everything changed in one moment.

I will never forget Kylie’s father’s sheer strength talking to us in the weeks that followed.  If you have a moment, please CLICK HERE to watch our story with him from January of 2012.   Despite their unimaginable grief, Todd Remmereid and his wife, Kimberly, worked to organize a fundraiser for their daughters’ two friends in that car.. including the girl who was driving that night.  In a way, Cassi Collier’s family also lost their daughter.. she survived, but with massive brain damage.  Cassi spent months at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, then moved to Omaha’s QLI to continue therapy.  To ANYONE driving a car, and to all parents of teens getting behind the wheel, I can’t encourage you enough to CLICK HERE and listen to Cassi’s message in our story.

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CLICK HERE for more information about the 5th Annual Run To Remember event, or CLICK HERE to sign up!

These families will NEVER stop sharing their girls’ story, hoping that everytime YOU get behind the wheel, you remember these three, smiling faces.  Unfortunately, the dangers that accompany driving are more present than ever.. we rush and forget to put on seatbelts, we keep our eyes on the phone instead of on the road.. we take out our frustrations on the strangers going too slow or not driving how we think they should.

Claire Holsinger never met Kylie or Cassi.  In fact, the Scottsbluff High School senior lives on the other side of the state.  Still, she too has joined the fight for safer driving, hoping to make a difference and maybe, save a life.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Over my four years in high school, there have been so many car related deaths in our small community.  Many of those teenagers could have been survivors if they had worn their seatbelt,” Claire told me recently.  “January 10, 2013, my next door neighbor, Alexis Wheeler passed away in a car crash.  Alexis was only 19.  When I heard the awful news of her death, it changed my life forever.  I made it my goal to make every single one of my friends and family members to buckle up.”

Claire was only 14. When that tragedy hit so close to home, Claire had already seen that she could make a difference for any cause she believed in.  Just a few years prior, she was selected to be a Little Sister for the Miss Scotts Bluff County Fair pageant.  Claire watched all of the ‘big girls’ in her hometown volunteer, dazzle on stage, and go on to compete at Miss Nebraska.. including future Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan.

“It was always a dream of mine, to participate in a pageant.  I grew up around pageants most of my life because my dad was the longtime photographer for our local pageant, Miss Scotts Bluff County Fair,” said Claire.  “This summer, I decided just to go for it.  I had developed a talent, I had participated in Speech and DECA, so I took a chance and competed.  I wasn’t expecting any kind of title, I just wanted to see what would happen.”

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Claire won the title of Miss Old West Balloon Fest.. and in THIS moment, secured an avenue to make her voice heard on an issue she cared so deeply about.

“My platform is ‘Seriously, Seatbelts’,” said Claire.  “I knew something needed to change, and making this my platform was a step towards the right direction.  I take seatbelt safety incredibly seriously, and I get very angry and upset when others don’t buckle up.  Not doing so is so selfish, [because] by not buckling up, one is affecting their friends and family.  It takes 3-5 seconds, buckle up.  It could save your life.”

Claire now takes part in events across Western Nebraska to promote her platform, and to connect with children.

“I really want to be a first grade teacher, so I love kids,” said Claire.  “I try my best to be very personable and relatable.  I’ve also learned through pageants to be more sure and confident of my beliefs and thoughts, because they are mine and I need to own them.”

Claire is taking part in all this (and learning from it!) in addition to activities at Scottsbluff High including Drill Team, show choir, musical, varsity cross country, varsity soccer, National Honor Society and Tri-M (Music Honor Society).

Even with state champion trophies and fancy crowns, Miss Old West Balloon Fest stays grounded thanks to her family, especially her mom.

“My role model is my mother, Stephanie,” said Claire.  “She tries so hard to help me succeed in everything I participate in. She is super funny, even though she thinks she’s even funnier.  She always gives me cute, quirky gifts, like a coconut hair mask, because it made her think of me.  She always puts the family’s needs before hers, but she is slowly learning how to make her things a priority, too.”

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Funny how things come full circle.  Here’s another photo capturing a beautiful relationship between a parent and child.  I’m sure Stephanie Holsinger will be one of the proudest in the Miss Nebraska crowd in North Platte, watching her daughter compete for the coveted state title.  Perhaps she’ll have a few tears in her eyes.. maybe she does now reading her daughter’s words (I would!)  There is simply no limit to the depth of a parent’s love.  Hundreds of miles east, the Remmereid family still shares photos of Kylie on Facebook.  More than four years since her death, they are still proud of their beautiful girl.  They’ll honor her yet again April 16th, bringing together hundreds of people to remember Kylie and to spread the word about safer driving.

Claire Holsinger wants to share that message as Miss Nebraska.. for her own family, for future drivers, and for the people she’ll only know about through their families’ stories.

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In loving memory of Kylie Jo Remmereid,  1995-2011

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To follow Miss Old West Balloon Fest 2016 Claire Holsinger, CLICK HERE to follow her on Facebook.  You can also contact Claire about events and appearances at claire.holsinger@gmail.com.

For more information about the Miss Old West Balloon Fest Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.  You can also find more information via the Scotts Bluff County Fair Pageant HERE on Facebook, and HERE on their website. For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by phone at 308-783-2940 or at 308-635-8615.

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen 2016 Brooklyn Stack!

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Adella Smolsky!

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!

Building A Legacy

“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

I LOVE this quote.  I first heard it from the movie The Sandlot (which is a MUST SEE if you haven’t..) and I’ve always held onto it, even naming my fledgling college video production company ‘Legend Productions’.  To me, it always meant to push harder, to do a little more, to build a legacy that will be extend long past your physical life.

This weekend on KETV Chronicle, our Rob McCartney interviewed coach, Congressman, athletic director and mentor Dr. Tom Osborne.  He is a Hall of Fame college football coach, one of the most respected in the history of the game.  He won his congressional district with an astounding 83-percent of the vote.  He stepped in to the Nebraska Athletics’ office at a time of fan unrest and turmoil and ‘righted the ship’ according to many sports experts.

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But when Rob asked  ‘T.O.’ how he would define a successful life, Osborne said he hoped to be defined by the relationships created through the Teammates mentoring program he founded, not just by what was accomplished on the football field.

” That ripple effect on down through history is your legacy,” Osborne told Rob. “Trophies tarnish, rings get thrown in the trash can and records, if you think about it, who was a great coach 90-years ago?  You hear a few names but you don’t remember those guys anymore, and that’ll be the same thing with me and other people.  But that ripple effect, the influence you had on people, that will continue on down through many generations.”

CLICK HERE to watch Rob McCartney’s exclusive interview with Dr. Tom Osborne on KETV Chronicle.

Rob has interviewed Osborne numerous times throughout the years, developing mutual respect and friendship through that relationship, and this answer stood out for Rob and many of us who watched Chronicle.  Of everything Dr. Tom Osborne has accomplished, MENTORING is one of the things he’s proudest of.

She may separated by distance, time and experience from Osborne.. but that desire to make an impact on people is mutual for 16-year old Grace Heggem.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Spending time with a child even just once a week and getting to know them can really inspire them to set and achieve goals of their own,” Grace told me recently.  She’s promoting mentoring across Scottsbluff as Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, after an experience with a classmate two years ago.

“One of the girls in my class had confessed to us that she had been depressed lately and the previous weekend had suicidal thoughts,” said Grace.  “She said that that week I had come up and talked to her and that simple act had made her feel like someone cared and was one of the reasons she was still here.  I immediately broke down and later realized the impact simple acts can have.  Sometimes all people need is to know that someone cares.”

And it was a mentor who led Grace to the path she is currently on to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Her childhood babysitter was Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan, who encouraged her to try a pageant when Grace was 13.

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“I loved it!” said Grace.  “The entire process is a great confidence booster and the interview/people skills can really be beneficial in the future.  These pageants bring about personal development.  I have seen for myself the positive changes they bring about for young women.  I’ts not always about the end result, it’s about who you become in the process.”

 Grace is quick to note she’s not just a ‘pageant queen’.  She is president of the sophomore class at Scottsbluff High School, vice president of Key Club (focusing on community service), a member of National Honor Society, she plays varsity volleyball, she’s involved in her school’s upcoming musical, she’s a dancer and she plays piano.

Grace credits her work ethic, the ‘5am-6pm way of life’ as she calls it, to her parents, a quality she says would make her a great state representative.

“I am diverse and involved in a wide variety of activities which makes me personable and able to reach a greater amount of people in my state,” said Grace.  “My grandpa is a rancher so I understand and can definitely appreciate that major element of what makes Nebraska.  As my dad is the owner of a construction business, I understand the value of hard work.”

That family unit is also Grace’s top priority.

“My mom is my number one supporter no matter what, my best friend, and the person I laugh with the most,” said Grace.  “My dad has always supported me in everything I did and always encourages me.  My brothers are my best buds whether we’re watching football, laughing, or even arguing.  Growing up with three brothers, I never played with barbies or dolls because we were too busy playing with Nerf guns or wrestling. (I totally won by the way.)”

Neither pageants nor any other outside influence is likely to change those core values for Grace, who notes her biggest role model is Duck Dynasty star and devout Christian Sadie Robertson.

“I really respect her because she’s in a business where her values aren’t necessarily prevalent but she still stays true to them,” said Grace.  “She is different but she embraces it and by doing this inspires others to not be afraid to be themselves either.  That is something I definitely admire and try to do myself.”

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And whether Grace Heggem is signing autographs or volunteering for the Children’s Miracle Network, she hopes to inspire her fellow pageant contestants (the girls she now calls her friends), to join her in the mission SHE embraces.

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“If I were to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen I would like to create a mentoring program using our Nebraska titleholders!” said Grace.  “Pageant queens absolutely have the potential to be mentors in their communities.  It’s crazy to me how a little girl’s eyes light up when they see and talk to a ‘princess’ with a crown on her head.’

And while Grace Heggem has a lot to be proud of.. being featured in her local paper, playing piano for crowds of hundreds, being elected a leader by her fellow students and peers.. that impact through mentoring is the legacy she wants to leave behind.

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Tom Osborne’s players have gone on to do amazing things (CLICK HERE to read a few in my Throwback Thursday Husker series!).  Those young men, and the people Osborne mentored have passed on those life lessons to their children, and kids THEY’VE mentored.  If the little girl smiling above with Grace goes on to mentor someone, and SHE goes on to mentor someone, that cycle of positive influence will continue long beyond what two people remember; it becomes a legacy.  That is Grace Heggem’s goal on her way to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.. the sparkly crown is just a bonus.

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CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Grace Heggem

on FACEBOOK, and on INSTAGRAM

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT GRACE?

CLICK HERE * 2015 * Amazing Grace

CLICK HERE * 2014 * Nebraska’s Outstanding Teens

For more information about the Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Kyla Ansley at 308-631-0938 or by email at kyla_ansley@hotmail.com.  You can also email thirtyone.hayes@yahoo.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 Kool-Aid Days 2016 Chelsea Arnold!

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County 2016 Savannah Rave!

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?

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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.

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 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.

Sister, Sister

I am the oldest of three, with two ‘little’ brothers.  ‘Little’, because now they could crush me if they wanted to, but in a way, I’ll still always be their big sister.

I’ve never longed for a sister, in part, because I am blessed to have such dear friends who have always filled that role for me beautifully.

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But to be a woman and have a sister must be a beautiful thing; sharing secrets, dreams, frustrations, CLOTHES.  To have their support when you need them most, and to help you fly even higher when you soar.

The young woman you’re about to meet has shared a bond with her twin sister since the moment they arrived in the world, a journey now inspiring her individually as one of the state’s most outstanding teenagers.

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MISS KEARNEY CRANE FESTIVAL’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 MERRILEE PRILL

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I was born at Children’s Hospital in Omaha as a micro preemie weighing in at 1 pound 7 ounces and I had a 10-percent chance of survival!”  Merrilee told me recently.  “At 2 years old, [my twin sister and I] were featured on the Children’s Miracle Network telethon.  So, I am Children’s Miracle Network!”

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Merrilee and her sister, Mariclaire, spent four months in the hospital as newborns.  Many deemed them miracle babies since they later only underwent surgery for ear tubes and had no other developmental problems.  This personal story inspired Merrilee’s platform of service ‘Believe the Impossible: Miracles Happen.’

“Because I have experienced this miracle in my own life, I want to inspire others to believe that miracles can happen in their own lives no matter what the circumstances,” said Merrilee.  “This piece of the Miss Nebraska system holds a very special place in my heart!”

One piece of many for not just Merrilee, but the entire Prill family.

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Merrilee’s big sister, Lianna, was Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2012, and just last year, competed for the title of Miss Nebraska (click here to read my profile of Lianna during her time as Miss Crane Festival 2014).  Merrilee’s twin, Mariclaire, was Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen 2013.

“I first got involved in the Miss Nebraska program because my sisters were titleholders,” said Merrilee.  “I experienced challenges while competing for [local titles].  Consequently, winning did not come as quickly for me as it did for my sisters.  Now as I come to the close of my reign as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen, I have been able to sharpen my public speaking and stage presence skills.  These parts of the competition used to terrify me.  Now, I comfortably speak to a crowd of insurance professionals as a keynote speaker, address a crowd of community members at an outdoor festival and convey encouragements to patients at Children’s Hospital.”

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And those visits to Children’s are among Merrilee’s favorite moments as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s OT.

“My signature project for this program has been decorating over 400 colorful place mats for patient meal trays,” said Merrilee.  “Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces during craft hours just makes my job as a titleholder so gratifying because that makes me feel like I am making an impact by encouraging them that miracles can happen in their lives as it did in mine.”

Among Merrilee’s other top memories this past year include signing nearly 400 autographs for the annual Daddy-Daughter Banquet in Kearney and spending time with her sister queen Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen (click here to to learn more about Allison!).

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“I know the importance of being a positive local role model for young girls,” said Merrilee.  “It was a bonus during my year to share this event and many others with Allison!”

Merrilee is also looking forward to connecting with a few other ‘sisters’.. her fellow outstanding teens from across the state.  She sent me this picture, taken the last time many of these girls were together, at the Crowns and Gowns weekend in North Platte.

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Merrilee striking a pose with Miss Douglas County’s OT 2015 Steffany Lien and Miss Scotts Bluff County’s OT Grace Heggem.

A year’s worth of moments and memories, all leading up to one amazing night.  So many ‘sisters’, biological or otherwise, that will no doubt be in Merrilee Prill’s mind and heart during those moments she takes the stage alone in North Platte.

“I have to say that walking in my evening gown is the most fulfilling part of the competition for me, because that’s the point when I feel the most confident and I feel like I’m on top of the world,” said Merilee.  “Very few teenagers get to do this on such an awesome stage!”

Only 11, in fact, this year.  And of those outstanding girls, one will be crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Will it be Merrilee Prill?  Just ask the once 1.5 pound miracle who defied all odds at birth; ANYTHING is possible.

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Follow Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Merrilee Prill on Instagram.

 To contact Merrilee for appearances and events, visit the Miss Kearney/Miss Tri-Cities Pageant on Facebook.

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

For more information about how to become a contestant, email Director Megan Goeke at megan@hellobeautifulbridal.com.

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Cherokee Purviance

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen

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

A Beauty Queen’s Bucket List

I have a folder on Pinterest titled ‘Must See Before Death.’  (Sheesh.. that sounds morbid..) I think of this folder as my virtual travel guide wish list for the world.  So far, I haven’t made it far.. to the Bahamas once, Mexico once, Canada once.  Iowa MANY times.  I hope this isn’t just wishful thinking.. that someday I’ll get to see these gorgeous places with my own eyes and not just in pictures.  I’m a daydreaming world traveler wannabe.

You’re about to meet a young woman who at just 17 years old already has a jump start on me.

CHELSEA

MISS OMAHA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 CHELSEA ARNOLD

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

Chelsea is arguably an explorer of the world, both literally and physically.  When I talked to her last year as Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen (click here to read more!) Chelsea was getting ready for a 3-week cruise to Canada and Alaska, after a school year spent taking full-time online classes through the University of Nebraska High School.  This year, Chelsea returned to a more traditional high school setting, attending Lincoln Southwest High School and taking part in several Silver Hawk activities.

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February, Chelsea posted on Instagram: “A little late but I’m so proud of #Ambeyonce for finishing the season as grand champs this past weekend!”

Chelsea was part of the award-winning Ambience performance choir at LSW, competitively performing at the University of Nebraska-Kearney and at the UNL School of Music throughout the school year.  She’s also part of the sold-out production of Lincoln Southwest’s White Christmas, chosen to be part of the International Thespian Society’s Festival this summer.

Regardless of where she’s studying, Chelsea is often in the spotlight, and at times, to a far-reaching audience.

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Last summer, Chelsea was featured on the cover of Oriental Trading Company’s catalog.  She won first place in the Nebraska State Fair’s Galaxy of Stars Talent Competition.  Chelsea also finished in the Top 5 at the 2014 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant, leading her to Omaha in the hopes of again, being a teen titleholder.

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Chelsea winning a title at in Omaha in November, along with Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien, both crowned by Miss Nebraska’s OT 2014 Morgan Holen.  The day after, Chelsea posted on Instagram:  “Incredibly excited to begin my year as Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen.  Thank you so much to everyone who came out to support me last night!”

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Since that moment, Chelsea’s booking calendar has only filled up more.  She volunteered in Lincoln’s Radio-Thon for the Children’s Miracle Network.  She also spent time alongside Miss Omaha Megan Gould and Mrs. Nebraska Erika Shelton to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Action Network.  She was selected as a model for the Omaha World Herald Bridal Show at the Mid-America Center, and took part in all three Miss America service days to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.

Chelsea’s photos on Facebook and Instagram also exemplify what she calls her favorite part of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen experience: friendships.

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Chelsea with Miss Scotts Bluff County’s OT 2015 Grace Heggem in Kansas City, with other teens competing for Miss Omaha’s OT in November, and with 2014 Miss Nebraska’s OT contestant Alexis McGlone at a recent choir competition.  Chelsea told the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program: “I’ve met some of my best friends in this system and I’m so thankful to be a part of it.”

Maybe we are all daydreamers in some respect, it’s just our dreams are all different.  Some dream of bright lights and roaring applause.  Some dream of white sand beaches with the soft lull of waves as they sleep.  Some dream of white picket fences with babies laughing in the yard.

Only a few of us print off our Pinterest lists and make our dreams reality.  At 17 years old, Chelsea Arnold has traveled, performed for hundreds, and been seen by thousands. ‘Wannabe’ isn’t in her vocabulary; her next adventure will likely be wherever and whatever she wants it to be.  In less than two weeks from tonight, we’ll all know if the next stop on her world tour will be as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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Follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Chelsea Arnold

on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook.  To contact Chelsea for appearances and events, please contact omahadouglascountyOT@gmail.com.

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

For more information about how to become a contestant, contact Director Kelsey Ellis at 402-980-1984 or by email at omahadouglascountyOT@gmail.com.

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Emma Keifer

NEXT.. Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Shelby Blundell

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

Amazing Grace

As I talk to each of the young women competing to become Miss Nebraska or Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, I consistently hear about how much they appreciate the friendships and sisterhood that develop from these pageants.  Over the years, I’ve seen past competitors reconnecting long after Miss Nebraska is over, some even bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.  To me, it speaks volumes of this program, and of a young woman’s character when she is someone her fellow contestants want to be around before, during, and after the competition.

Today’s featured contestant seems to be a friend to everyone, on stage and off.

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MISS SCOTTS BLUFF COUNTY’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 GRACE HEGGEM

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“My favorite part of competition is probably the Talent portion, however, I love the ‘behind the scenes’ aspect even more!” Grace told me recently.  “I love competing because it is a fantastic opportunity to meet and get to know some amazing young women I would have otherwise never met!  I always know that no matter what the outcome of the pageant is, many of the friendships will last much longer than a title.”

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L-R: Grace with Miss Western Nebraska’s OT Allison Baird, ‘rocking out’ with Miss Douglas County’s OT Steffany Lien and Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s OT Merrilee Prill, and with Miss Omaha Megan Gould

Grace is also proud of the relationships she’s built in her hometown of Scottsbluff through activities both in and out of school.  The 15-year old at Scottsbluff High participates in Key Club, Choir, musical Orchestra, dance, and piano (which she’ll be play for her talent), in addition to competing in volleyball and track.

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“I love putting on gowns and heels and walking on a stage, however, I feel just as at home in my tennis shoes and sweats on a crowded bus before a volleyball game,” said Grace.  “I love that I can do both and still have a little extra time for some ballet shoes.”

Grace credits the small-town atmosphere of Scottsbluff for allowing her to be so easily involved, an environment that’s also inspired her personal platform, mentoring.

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“I love being a mentor to kids in my community because of the trusting, loving relationships it builds,” said Grace.  “I love picking them up and taking them out for ice cream or to the park where we can run around and play until we can’t run anymore!  Seeing the excitement in their eyes really leaves an impact on me as well.  If you just donate a couple of hours of your time every week to a child you see is in need, it really is an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on their life.”

You certainly don’t need a crown to be a mentor (“Anyone can be a mentor!” said Grace).  So why compete in a pageant? Or, in the case of Grace, who also competed for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen last year, why CONTINUE to compete in pageants?  Grace says she was first intrigued by scholarships; in 2014, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants were awarded $2,900 in scholarships.  That number will increase to $3,600 this year.

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“I continue to compete not only for the scholarships but also because {pageants} build great life skills in general,” said Grace.  “Public speaking, poise and confidence are just a few of the very important traits this wonderful organization brings out in young women.  It is an honor to be a part of it and I hope to be for a long time!”‘

And based on pictures like this..

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    ..I think it’s safe to say her pageant sisters hope Grace Heggem is part of their lives for a long time, too.  These girls are still competitors for one stressful, non-stop week this June.  They NEED a friend like Grace Heggem;  relatable, down-to-earth, ‘fun and classic yet very relaxed’, as Grace described herself.

“Miss America represents the highest ideals. She is a real combination of beauty, grace, and intelligence, artistic and refined.” –Miss America Organization

GRACE.  Nebraska’s Grace is ready for North Platte.

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Follow Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Grace Heggem

on Instagram, and on Facebook.

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

To contact Grace for appearances and events, and for more information about the Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant contact Cheryl Engelhaupt by phone at 308-783-2940 or by email at cengelhaupt@fnbnp.com.

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

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