Tag Archive | jacee pilkington

Defining Outstanding

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

11091153_672392769550768_4917311399535791731_n

MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2014 MORGAN HOLEN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

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

11262421_652302041538464_97481922763747403_o 10989163_615950385173630_4679334663978890349_n 

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

10600459_554670584656321_1923140605329021296_n 10013951_576920489076620_1906258155576603388_n  11101118_637747612993907_1355927244_n

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

10341645_554196884703691_993928423765093737_n

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

10446707_503817126386957_3144312199019551103_n

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

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

10641034_550067555095247_4873491274742460356_n 10712761_550067511761918_1804145257910282653_n

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

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

10440822_581603501963029_2352181719418877754_n

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

11169135_637747606327241_1494757362_n

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

10641189_550578521710817_463205399684104331_n

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

11156755_637747609660574_793368647_n

KETV: Omaha Teen Crowned Among Best In Country

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

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

10678806_574179102705469_7118499079385830305_n 11101164_637747602993908_1208116836_n

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

 11178677_637747639660571_279005199_n 10609450_555016137955099_6548719312555128995_n

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

10917321_598162303619105_4633410586734892640_n 10985816_438977702932324_1575145114105689555_n

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

1504124_624153831041329_1950496494726237689_n 10882164_589199951182007_1024807370408877115_n 10406971_624153787708000_6608245044756568087_n

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

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

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

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

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

10603577_548782935223709_1642520659467979959_n

(Photo courtesy of The Mullers)

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

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

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

And I think Morgan’s own words confirm that:

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

11156922_637747616327240_528470498_n

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

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

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

***

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

***

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

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson

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

All Hail The Queen

THERE SHE IS…

For the last month and a half, I’ve introduced you to all 19 young women competing for the title of Miss Nebraska in LESS THAN THREE WEEKS.

HUNDREDS of hours of service.  THOUSANDS of dollars raised for charity.

Most, if not all of these women, told me how much they’ve grown as people by participating in the Miss America Organization.  You can see it in their pictures; the smiles on their faces as little girls proudly wear their crowns.  Side by side with children and adults alike, who for a moment, felt extra special.  Performing on stage in front of hundreds, cheered on by the people who love them most.  THOSE are the moments that make all of this incomparable.

But behind the scenes, THIS IS WORK.  These women, especially in these final weeks leading up to Miss Nebraska, ARE WORKING THEIR TAILS OFF to be the absolute BEST they can be for this competition.  In the studio.  In the gym.  They are making sure they are as aware as possible of the world around them and fine tuning their public speaking skills.  IT’S GO TIME.

At the end of the day, is it all worth it?  The countless hours serving without a paycheck.  The scratchy throats, sore muscles and tired fingers with the risk of no crown at the end.  The stress of juggling school.. and jobs.. and duties as a local titleholder. Is it all worth it?

This young woman says ABSOLUTELY.

head shot

Miss Nebraska 2013 JaCee Pilkington

One year ago, I compiled a slideshow for KETV.com showcasing the Miss Nebraska contestants.  I asked each woman to send me her favorite photos and things about herself she wanted our viewers and readers to know.  JaCee was among the first to respond to me.  Her answers were articulate, her goals clear.  She was DETERMINED to become Miss Nebraska.

Crowning

“Being Miss Nebraska is by far the most challenging yet rewarding experience I’ve ever had in my life,” JaCee told me recently.  “Although many have a skewed view of what being Miss Nebraska is really like, it is first and foremost a job. I managed to put 50,000 miles on my car and traveled everywhere from Valentine to McCook, and Scottsbluff to Omaha.  I’ve made it my goal to touch as many individuals across this state as I possibly can.”

Did she accomplish that? See for yourself.

st patricks in McCook singing national anthem for Jr. Lancers in USA Hockey Championships Veterans Day in North Platte North Platte Rotary May Day basket for Madeline at Childrens in Omaha anti bullying 10153193_10151950426346680_104334276_n 1964873_10151905700661680_46741347_n Veteran Lancaster Nursing Home Courtneys Living History Day

JaCee invited me to check out her Facebook page and choose whichever photos I liked best.  WHAT YOU SEE DOES NOT EVEN SCRATCH THE SURFACE.  There are literally hundreds of pictures, snapshots of countless moments in schools, at events, with one child or 500, smiling, offering hugs, the list goes on and on and on.

“Whether it was through my platform [Operation Remember Me], the Children’s Miracle Network, or the Miss Nebraska Organization as a whole, I wanted to make this year about seeing Miss Nebraska as a real, tangible, down-to-Earth girl,” said JaCee.

JaCee says travel has been the best part of her job, learning what makes the state so special.  (“Wilber is Czech, Stromsburg is Swede, and O’Neill is Irish.  Just a little Nebraska trivia for you,” said JaCee.)  One of her most exciting trips came in September, when JaCee traveled to Atlantic City to represent Nebraska at the Miss America pageant.

Click here to watch JaCee’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ Miss America video!

74581_10151675412016680_1028930295_n 1176180_10151990484962573_764216397_n 1185779_10151988335522573_1086793157_n 1238166_10151986107777573_614012195_n 1620672_10151864681461680_161984553_n

“Miss America was such a surreal experience,” said JaCee.  “I gained 51 other sisters away from the experience and friendships that will last. My favorite moment in particular was singing my talent on the Miss America stage.  You hit that last note and look out and think, ‘Dang, this is so freaking cool.’  It was almost two weeks filled with excitement, anxiety, stress, and happiness all at the same time.  I’m also elated to know the Miss America Organization is evolving as we’ve now crowned our first Indian American Miss America.”

SO LET’S SUM UP… months preparing for Miss Nebraska, then winning Miss Nebraska.  Three short months preparing for Miss America, then competing at Miss America.  What next?!?!

EVERYTHING.

“Miss Nebraska is by far the hardest yet most rewarding job I’ve ever held,” said JaCee.  “You are driving a majority of the time, by yourself, to an appearance that you just learned the name of last night.  You are constantly adapting to the environment around you.  Heck, one week I had to [revise] one speech, six different ways, in one week to fit each appearance.  Although the job can be difficult at times, it is what you make it.  You can be doing an appearance literally every day of the week if you want to be.  However, it is your responsibility to put yourself out there, network your butt off, and make it happen.  Nobody will do that for you.”

security at Kimball schools with Warren Kearney's Park Elementary

It will truly be the end of an era on June 7, when JaCee crowns the next Miss Nebraska.  She’s not only served our state for the last year, she also served as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2009.

“I’m feeling very content at this point,” said JaCee.  “It is sad, don’t get me wrong.  Who wouldn’t want to say they’re Miss Nebraska?  I am excited to be moving on to the next chapter in my life, though.  Right after I give up my crown I will be heading to Mexico to serve on a mission trip.  Later I will continue to finish my degree at Doane College with hopes to continue in public policy and the business consulting world.”

Could we see Senator Pilkington down the road?  (Prior to becoming Miss Nebraska, JaCee worked for Senator Mike Johanns and continues to stay active in local politics.)

“I view Nebraska in a completely different light now,” said JaCee.  “To be honest, when I graduated the first place I was headed was DC.  Now, I realize the opportunity Nebraska has to offer.  You can make an incredible impact within this state and I cannot see myself anywhere else at this point.”

little sister JaLee puppy

JaCee’s got good reason to stay close to home; her little sister, JaLee, just graduated high school, she’s got a sweet puppy at home to look after, and yes, gentlemen, she’s got a boyfriend.

She’s got one more big trip on her schedule; to hand off her crown to the next Miss Nebraska.

“I mainly want people to know how relevant and impactful the job of Miss Nebraska really is,” said JaCee.  “I understand that many already have preconceived notions about ‘beauty pageants’ but I can assure you that she’s more than a pretty face.  The women who compete in this organization are extremely driven, hard-working, intelligent, and compassionate individuals who are looking to make a difference in this world.  I pray that whoever is blessed with this opportunity this coming month will take full advantage of all it has to offer: the connections, opportunities, and lives that can be changed.”

jacee

Connect with Miss Nebraska 2013, JaCee Pilkington

on Twitter, and on Instagram

JaCee hopes you’ll also check out the Miss Nebraska pageant on Facebook and online

The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH A SPECIAL KETV CHRONICLE FEATURING 10 OF THE 19 YOUNG WOMEN COMPETING FOR MISS NEBRASKA.

***

PREVIOUS POST.. Miss Scotts Bluff County, Brittli Sell