For the first time in 16 years, Westside High School won a gold medal at the NSAA State Wrestling Championships this year. In fact, TWO Warriors made it to the top of the podium.
Josh Jansa and Darlondo Hill worked tirelessly all season and for years prior to earn this achievement. So did a handful of men working nonstop behind the scenes.. their coaches. These student athletes are Head Coach Mike Jernigan’s FIRST state champions.
“Getting your first state champion makes a coach feel that ‘I finally did it. I do know what I am doing!’” Jernigan told me. “Getting two in the same tournament is even better! I finally felt like I belonged to the coaching fraternity. To finally have a state champion to call our own is a great feeling. I know my assistant coaches haven’t stopped talking about it yet.”
Behind every star is a support network. Oscar winners thank their agents, Olympic athletes thank their coaches, EVERYONE thanks the family members who cheered them on every step of the way. The Miss Nebraska Organization is no different; behind every charismatic, stunning, role model.. there is a village. Executive Director Rachel Daly spends countless hours preparing our titleholders to be the best they can be for Miss America and for their entire year of service. President Janet Heinzle has volunteered for DECADES to constantly strengthen the program’s support network in North Platte, Nebraska and beyond. Scholarship Director Megan Doughty spends time every day securing new financial opportunities with countless business partners and universities. And Board Member Carol Halley has dedicated the last 25+ years to a group known as the Miss Nebraska Little Sisters.
The Little Sister’s program was started as a good will gesture between girls in the community and Miss Nebraska contestants. They meet at orientation and spend much of Miss Nebraska week together, including time on stage during the pageant itself. These friendships often last for many years and create a lasting bond between the big sister and little sister; it’s a direct connection between outstanding role models and little girls who absolutely adore their ‘big sisters’. Carol organizes ALL of this, and the impact is during that week of competition and for years after is simply immeasurable.
Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Kiera Rhodes
“When I was 10, I was a Little Sister in the Miss Nebraska Pageant,” Kiera told me recently. “It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My Big Sister was Mindy Schreiber; she was awesome. Her talent was singing and I just looked up to her the whole time. She got first runner up that year and I was so proud of her. What I pulled away from that experience was the effect the girls had on my life. I decided that I wanted to change people’s lives the way those girls did when I was younger.”
Mindy Schreiber, like so many of our contestants, is the textbook definition of ROLE MODEL. She completed college in 3 years while working in her intended career field. She held five local titles; a tireless advocate for her community, volunteering for the Teammates program. She is kind, beautiful, healthy and hardworking. And ‘little’ Kiera has emulated each and everyone of the traits she witnessed in her ‘big sister’.
“I am self motivated because I haven’t always needed someone to be telling me why and how I should do something, I just do it and I push myself to work hard for what I want,” said Kiera. “I would like to say that I’m outgoing, I love talking and getting to know people. I am very dedicated to the activities I am involved in; when I join something I always want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to help out.”
And boy, is this girl doing that as Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen.
Kiera is literally EVERYWHERE. She’s signed autographs at carnivals, walked in charity fashion shows and volunteered at numerous local events. Check out this article including Kiera in the North Platte Telegraph! This busy sophomore, a student at North Platte High School, was selected for UNK Honor Choir this year, she’s performed the national anthem several times and she’s involved in musical productions in her hometown. Singing is one of her favorite parts of being a titleholder and competing.
“I’ve always loved singing ever since I was little,” said Kiera. “When I’m on stage singing, it’s like no one is watching and I’m just expressing my feelings. It truly is an indescribable feeling.”
Kiera’s personal platform of service is ‘Bust A Smile – Break Down a Barrier’, encouraging others to break out of comfort zones to try something new or make a new friend.
“I really think a big problem we face today is not only the generational gaps but even the gaps within our own generations,” said Kiera. “More people need to realize that we all have a lot more in common than we think. Not only that but we can all teach each other valuable things if we would all just talk to one another more often.”
Fewer cliques, more connections.
A mission that’s only been fueled by Kiera’s participation in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program.
“Obviously we all want to win, but only one of us can win,” said Kiera. “The girls I’ve met and competed against are girls that are very true and they are super nice and I know I’m going to have long lasting friendships with [them].”
Kiera with Miss Twin Rivers 2017 Emma Wilkinson; both were Miss Nebraska Little Sisters
Tremendous maturity and perspective from a teenager, likely credited to her parents, her sisters both by blood and by title, and the volunteers who worked behind the scenes to pave her way to success. Thanks to the village, women like Carol Halley, little girls across Nebraska grow up with a little extra sparkle.. then as young women share that with countless generations who follow their paths. Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen Kiera Rhodes hopes to continue that legacy.
‘Little Girls with Dreams become Women with vision!’ – Carol Halley
“My biggest goal is just that I’ve impacted at least one person’s life in a good way,” said Kiera. “Those girls taught me to be more confident in my opinions and that it’s ok to express your opinion. Never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.”
For more information about the Miss Harvest Moon Festival/Miss Alliance/Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen Pageant and to become a contestant, email Director Melinda Cullan 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!