The emerging theme for many of my posts lately has been assumptions. The descriptions and details we assume to be fact because of what we’ve heard, societal influence, whatever the case may be. Often, part of the challenge in spreading awareness about a cause or topic is changing the misconceptions people may have about it.
For example: addiction. What do you think of? Someone dirty, desperate, homeless.. or an upper middle class housewife living a seemingly normal, if not perfect life?
For several years now, my former colleague and award-winning friend Julie Cornell has worked tirelessly to shed light on what many view as a prescription drug epidemic in Nebraska. Her reports have led to public questions and changes in state law. That work has also encouraged people to come forward and get help.. people like Claire Winkelbauer. The mother of four and minister’s wife became addicted to hydrocodone after she was prescribed the drug post-surgery.
“Without God, without my husband, without people that love you, I honestly believe in my heart that I wouldn’t be here today,” she told Julie. CLICK HERE to see Julie’s full story as part of KETV’s year-long State Of Addiction series.
Stories like this are taking place all around us, whether we know it or not. It’s the reason a Bellevue teenager has dedicated her year to what she calls a Message of Hope.
Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Katie Harris
“My platform is called ‘A Message of Hope: Raising Awareness to Drug and Substance Abuse.’ I chose this because I have seen what the effects of drug abuse can do to a person and the people around them,” Katie told me recently. “Since this kind of topic has greatly affected my family, I wanted to teach young adolescents the dangers of drugs and alcohol so that they can make the right decisions on their path to their future.”
Katie is a role model to her peers at Bellevue West High School, and now to countless children across the Omaha metro area.
Crowned Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen in October, Katie immediately used her crown and sash as an ‘in’ to speak to classes and groups.
She’s also spreading her message across social media and more, urging her followers to share posts and pictures advocating for drug abuse awareness.
I’ll be selling these Message of Hope shirts to raise money for my Miss Omahas Outstanding Teen platform called “A Message of Hope: Raising Awareness to Drug and Substance Abuse”. All proceeds with go to the Omaha Valley Hope Association. They are a non-profit organization for people who are in the process of recovering from addiction. They are $15!! Please message me if interested!!
When a young woman is crowned a Miss So&So, they are not required to take part in community service. They aren’t forced to give countless hours of their time, their evenings and weekends, to promote a cause. Katie does all of this in addition to her studies at Bellevue West High School, where she is a member of the Varsity Cheer Squad, and competitive baton twirling as a member of the World Champion Stepper-Ettes Baton and Dance.
Katie, and women like her, give their time to others because they are determined to make a difference. It’s why Katie decided to compete in a pageant in the first place.
“I care about others!” said Katie. “I love helping people and being involved in the lives of others, which explains why I want to pursue a career in the medical field! [I am] hard working because you get out the amount of work you put in. I truly believe that working hard now will pay off later in life. And finally, [I am] kind because kindness is key! A simple compliment or ‘hello’ to someone could make their day. Plus, who doesn’t love to see someone smile because of you?”
These are all of the qualities Katie hopes to show a panel of judges when she competes to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.
“[Pageants] give girls confidence!” said Katie. “Not everyone can go on stage and answer a question in front of lots of people and get judged on it… literally! I think there’s a message behind pageants, also, and it’s that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Never give up!”
To pageant naysayers, Katie notes the three women with her in this photo, and countless others not pictured.
“My favorite part of this competition is meeting new people! I love making friends!” said Katie. “I have met so many people and it has given me opportunities that I never imagined I would’ve had before. It also boosted my self esteem/confidence because I worked so hard for this and I plan on working harder for the next step.”
Which path Katie Harris takes that next step could be determined in April. Her end goal will stay the same, regardless if she’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen or Katie Harris, a truly outstanding teenager.
“Other than wanting to win, my goal is to spread the message of hope to more places in Nebraska,” said Katie. “I want to further my platform and impact the lives of young adolescents and teens. Most of all, I want to be the reason someone said no to drugs.”
CLICK HERE to follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Katie Harris or to get more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant! You can also email Director Kelsey Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.
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!