Tag Archive | Miss America

Persistence

I’m biased, but my son is BRILLIANT. OK, I’m exaggerating, but actually, not by much.. at just 7 years old, he’s already reading at a grade level several higher than his own, he LOVES math and science, and I’m convinced he has a photographic memory. Many aspects of learning come easy to him… so he gets frustrated when something presents a challenge he can’t master on his first attempt. It’s a lesson my husband is always helping him learn, that sometimes, we have to try a little harder and it makes success that much sweeter.

We saw proof of that the other night.. playing a video game at home. Easton FINALLY beat a ‘boss’ that he’d been working on for days, persistently working through the same level over and over again. ‘YEEESSSSSSS!’ he shouted, a huge smile on his tiny face, and he quickly turned around to make sure Brian was watching. We were ūüôā

Flashback 16 years to an auditorium in Kearney. Tina Foehlinger stood on that stage, and FINALLY heard her name called as the winner of the Miss Tri-Cities Pageant. In the months leading up to that moment, she had competed in SIX locals, finishing first runner up SIX DIFFERENT TIMES. She never quit.

Neither did Courtney Pelland.

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Courtney has traveled Nebraska since last summer, hoping to win a local title and advance to the Miss Nebraska Pageant this summer. Time after time, she was named a finalist, leading to one last attempt in February.

“I was competing in my hometown, North Platte,” Courtney told me. “When my name was called, the crowd went wild. Being crowned in my hometown was an honor, and to have so many supporters there made my crowning 10 times more special.”

 

 

Courtney has dreamed of becoming Miss Nebraska for nearly a decade now, when she was a Little Sister to then Miss Omaha Brittany Jeffers. With Courtney at her side, Brittany went on to win Miss Nebraska and become our state’s first Top 10 finalist at the Miss America Pageant in 25 years. (Click here for photos!)

“I knew competing in pageants would help build my confidence, develop my interview skills, help pay for college, and build amazing friendships,” said Courtney. “I can proudly say I have friends across Nebraska and it is truly amazing how we inspire one another.”

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This is Courtney’s third year competing for a state title, first as Miss Sugar Valley’s Outstanding Teen, then Miss Fur Trade Days, and now, as Miss Nebraska State Fair. She’s used each title to advocate for a cause very personal for her: blood donation. Courtney has Celiac Disease, the latest in a series of diagnoses her sophomore year of high school that sent her to the hospital and in dire need of blood.

“My favorite part of being a titleholder has been touching the lives of kids, teens and adults with my personal story, and by simply listening what they have to say,” said Courtney. “I love telling them about the importance of blood donation and how someone save my life because of their donations.”

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Courtney has also helped organize blood drives, spoken to media and spread awareness in both North Platte and Fremont, where she attends college. Her goal is to collect 200 pledges by June 1st, no small goal considering she is also a full-time Midland University student, education funded in part due to the $60,000 in scholarships she received from Midland at last year’s Miss Nebraska Pageant.

“My career goal is to become a Labor and Delivery Nurse. I love children and babies!” said Courtney. “I may want to work in Children’s Hospital & Medical Center one day. Being a part of the Miss Nebraska Organization has inspired me; I’ve been raising money for them for four years, so why not continue giving back to them when I’m a nurse!”

That smile and passion for life are present everywhere this young woman goes, whether it to be a classroom, a donation site, or to a performance with the award-winning Midland Warriors Dance Team (yeah, Courtney dances, too.)

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“My role model is my dance coach, Katie Speicher,” said Courtney. “She came into a team that had just won the NAIA National Championships for 2017, moving from California to Nebraska just to coach a team like us. She has had her battles throughout the year but has overcome them. I am so proud of her for everything she has accomplished and she is someone I truly look up to.”

Now, Courtney is cementing that legacy for herself. She’s building a reputation as a strong woman who never gives up, just like Tina Foehlinger did 17 years ago.

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Photo courtesy Ben Fogletto for Press of Atlantic City

Just months after Tina FINALLY won a local title, she was crowned Miss Nebraska 2001 and then a Top 20 semi-finalist at the Miss America Pageant on national TV.

Colin Powell once said, ‘success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence.’ Courtney Pelland is hoping to find the meaning of that message early this summer.

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

“Success to me is when you achieve your personal dreams and goals,” said Courtney. “Of course, I would love to win, but in all I want to walk away with a whole new group of best friends through an amazing organization. I would love to make Top 8; I’ve been working really hard and I hope I can achieve that.”

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To follow Miss Nebraska State Fair Courtney Pelland on Facebook, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT COURTNEY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * College Ready

CLICK HERE * 2016 * Everyday America

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen Jade Vak

NEXT.. Miss Twin River’s Outstanding Teen Rachel Young

See Jane Soar

I knew it the second I woke up… before I even opened my eyes, I could feel the swollen goo clogging up the back of my throat. My body was achy and although I’m ALWAYS cranky on Friday mornings, this time I couldn’t consider anything except saying ‘nope! Not today!’ and going back to sleep.

I was sick. The annual allergies/sinus infection/where the heck are you, Zyrtec!?! bug had taken over. I pulled my weak booty out of bed long enough to take my littlest buddy to and from Kindergarten Round Up (no way I was missing that!) then crawled back into my sick sheets and wasted away three days. You can only sleep so long, and by Saturday evening I was exploring documentaries on On Demand. I found Jane.

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Photo courtesy the Jane Goodall Institute

All her life, Jane Goodall wanted to learn about and be with animals. At 26-years old, her boss Louis Leakey sent his then secretary to Tanzania to study chimpanzees. She had no formal training or college degree; Leakey wanted a sheer observer with no scientific bias. A woman.. sent to the jungles of Africa.. UNHEARD of. Goodall was even required to¬† take her mother with her as a chaperone. Within a few short years, Goodall’s work revolutionized what we understood to date about chimpanzees and human connections to them.

Earlier this week, I visited Westbrook Elementary’s Early Childhood Center (note: I’m all healed now and no longer wasting space with my sickness..). After I read to the Pre-K class, one little girl asked, ‘can I be a police officer when I grow up?’

‘You can be anything you want to be,’ I told her.

It’s the same message a young woman from York hopes to take across the state of Nebraska.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Her name is Alexandria Warneke. She is young. She is smart. She is talented. She is beautiful. And she is determined.

“Growing up, my parents have always instilled into me a sense of independence and self-reliance that forced me to decide for myself where I want to be in life and my goals and aspirations,” Alexandria told me recently. “Although they are always there for me to fall back on for support, I appreciate that they let me decide for myself what I want to do.”

 

 

Alexandria decided early on she wanted to learn about science, but like trailblazer Jane Goodall, she says she encountered a few critics who didn’t think STEM was the right path for her.

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“When I was in elementary and middle school, there were a lot of people who said things like ‘science and math are for boys’,” said Alexandria. “I have been fortunate enough to have female science teachers as strong role models, and I went to many different competitions and camps. I saw that there were mostly boys around me, but that pushed me to do better and I took home a lot of first place medals against them! It’s about time for girls to not only be told they are beautiful, but they are brilliant as well, and they have the power to change the world.”

Alexandria intends to do just that. The York native was crowned Miss York County’s Outstanding Teen 2018 and Miss Harvest Moon Festival 2018; she’s used both titles to spread her platform ‘Where a Beautiful Brain Can STEM From.’

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“I have volunteered with the Science Expo and got the chance to speak with girls one-on-one about their science fair projects, as well as give a speech to the K-5 students and their parents,” said Alexandria. “I have also volunteered with Girls on the Run and promoted STEM with my signature hydrophobic sand experiment! I also took part in building a scale model of the solar system all across North Platte, to help educate the community and myself, through a STEM class. One of my future goals is to speak to the Nebraska Department of Education and get more involved with the Nebraska Legislature.”

There are those who will say Alexandria did herself a disservice by becoming a ‘pageant girl’. Alexandria, whose grandmother was the 1st Runner Up to Miss Nebraska in 1968, believes otherwise.

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“Miss Nebraska/Miss America is truly full of the best women you can find,” said Alexandria. “We are truly a sisterhood and I love the fact that I am surrounded by young women that inspire each other with grace and maturity. I always emphasize to people it’s a scholarship pageant first, the leading scholarship provider to young women in America, putting a lot more worth into the academic success of America’s women. This also gives me a lot of practice into public speaking and interviewing, which is important to me going through scholarship applications as a senior in high school!”

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Photo courtesy Sherlyn Edwards Photography & Boutique

Alexandria Warneke is a young woman with endless of self-made opportunities. She’s a gifted dancer who loves to perform and compete. She’s an aspiring student with plans to go to law school to be an environmental attorney. She’s a proud daughter, who says her mom is her role model and inspires her every day.

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And she’s a girl who hopes to show little girls everywhere the sky is the limit.. whether you are known simply as Jane, Alexandria, or maybe, Miss Nebraska.

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“We know that we can make a change because we are truly a powerful and insightful generation,” said Alexandria. “I’m beyond blessed with this opportunity because I can make a difference.”

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To follow Miss Harvest Moon Festival Alexandria Warneke on Facebook, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALEXANDRIA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Finding Fate

For more information about the Miss Harvest Moon Festival/Miss Alliance/Miss Panhandle Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also email miss.alliance.pageant@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Kool-Aid Days Outstanding Teen Emily Lenser

NEXT.. Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Shelby Blundell

Spirit of Service

It’s easy to pass judgment, especially when you encounter someone who seems so unlike yourself. The problem is, you really can’t judge a book by its cover… one glance never provides a person’s whole story, or the big picture in general.

For example.. being homeless.. what do you think of?

‘They’ve done that to themself’

‘They should just get a job’

What do you think of this?

The average age of a homeless person is 9 years old.

1 in 4 homeless children do not know where their next meal is coming from.

In Omaha, there are an average of 200 children eating and sleeping at the Open Door Mission every, single day.

Those are the facts Hillside Elementary teachers and students learned about last November just before Thanksgiving. Kindergarten teachers invited Open Door Mission President Candace Gregory to the school to help children best understand the very real problem of homelessness in our community. She told Hillside, “it only takes one person to make a difference.”

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Even at 5 and 6 years old, these kids got the message. They and their families, along with Hillside teachers, held a diaper drive and delivered a huge load of supplies to the Open Door Mission, just in time for Christmas.

That is exactly what an Elkhorn teenager hopes to see more of, something she’s been promoting for five years and counting.

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“I have made hundreds of blankets for the homeless population,” said Emily Lenser, just 16-years old. “One of my favorite things to do is have blanket drives at schools. This year at one school we collected 106 blankets. I have also donated stuffed animals and books to shelters. It was very exciting taking them a local homeless shelter. I know it makes the residents so happy when they have a comfy blanket and stuffed animal and book for their children.”

 

 

This is one busy girl, folks – in addition to her volunteer work, Emily is also a successful student at Elkhorn South, inspired by a family of educators including her grandparents and her mom.

“My goal has always been to be a doctor,” said Emily. “I really enjoy working with children, and I would like to go into pediatrics.”

She’s also an accomplished dancer, competing with the Nebraska Dance Company and the competitive dance team at Elkhorn South, which just won a state title. A few years ago, Emily found a way to combine all of her passions into one outlet; she was crowned Miss Elkhorn’s Outstanding Teen in 2017, she’s currently Miss Kool-Aid Days Outstanding Teen 2018, and she will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April.

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“I love that Miss America stands for Scholarship, Service, Style and Success,” said Emily. “Most people do not realize that people win scholarship money in this wonderful system. It comforts me knowing that as a junior in high school, I already have nearly $1000 towards college. This has also been a great opportunity to further my skills with public speaking and interviewing.”

It’s also been a vessel allowing Emily more opportunities to give to others. She’s delivered Valentines to nursing home residents, promoted community events, and taken part in fundraiser for important causes across the state.

“I believe service is the most important,” said Emily. “I really enjoy helping others. In my opinion, serving the community is something that every middle school and high school should require. I think it makes a person more compassionate and understanding.”

UNDERSTANDING. At a time when it’s so easy to judge, to criticize, to sit back and condemn rather than dive in and help, it is wonderful to see young people who are actively breaking those patterns. Their actions are not only helping improve the lives of others, but I would argue, enriching their young lives as well.

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Jesse Jackson once said, ‘Never look down at someone unless you are helping them up.’ Today I challenge you (and myself): don’t judge. Follow the lead of our youngest learners at Hillside, or Miss Kool-Aid Days Emily Lenser… and simply be nice.

“I wouldn’t want to represent anything but Nebraska,” said Emily. “My goal is just to enjoy this wonderful experience.”

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To follow Miss Kool-Aid Days Outstanding Teen Emily Lenser on Facebook, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EMILY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Stethoscopes & Tiaras

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant,¬†CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook,¬†or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at¬†heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at¬†KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

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PREVIOUS..¬†Miss¬†Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen Hope McCoy

NEXT.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival Alexandria Warneke

When I Grow Up

January 15, 2011.

Like every year, I cozied up on my living room coach ready to watch that year’s Miss America Pageant on TV.¬† The previous year had been huge – Miss Nebraska Brittany Jeffers had made the Top 10, something no Miss Nebraska had done in decades.

The 2011 telecast started… and I fell asleep. I was 8 months pregnant. Large and in charge and exhausted. I woke up a few hours later to about 30 text messages: “Miss Nebraska made the Top 15!” “Holy cow, Nebraska’s doing awesome!” “She won – MISS NEBRASKA IS MISS AMERICA!”

All photos courtesy Getty Images

Teresa Scanlan made history that night, becoming the first and only Nebraska representative to date to be crowned Miss America, and the youngest Miss America in more than 80 years. As she began a whirlwind year that would change her life and take her around the world, an 8-year old from Scanlan’s hometown of Gering decided she, too, wanted to be Miss America.

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

Fast forward 7 years.. and Hope McCoy is now Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen, crowned last summer at the same pageant Teresa Scanlan competed in. She’ll now compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April.

 

 

“My favorite part has been when I do appearances and I get to enjoy all the little kids saying ‘wow! There’s a real princess here!'” Hope told me recently. “It warms my heart every time.”

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Sparked in part by Teresa’s success, western Nebraska titleholders hit the ground running with service the moment they are crowned. They volunteer at festivals, parades, fundraisers, fashion shows, and more, all promoting goodwill in their communities and their personal platforms of service. Hope wants to encourage children to read, and she has big plans for book drives and fundraisers throughout Mitchell and Gering.

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She’s also spreading a message to those children, to her peers, and to others she visits.. to nurture friendships and relationships.

“The biggest issue facing our generation right now is communication, ” said Hope. “We can say one thing over text and the person on the other side of it could really misunderstand. We hardly talk or communicate like we should. What we can to prevent it is to put down our devices and talk face to face.”

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Those connections are often what fuel and inspire us. The same day this photo was taken, when Hope won a crown at the same pageant where Teresa Scanlan started her journey.. she got to meet Teresa herself.

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

“[She is] my female role model,” said Hope. “She has always presented herself super nicely and has always been super kind to me. She was the youngest woman to win the title of Miss America and she still accomplished so many great things that really made me want to do more.”

Hope McCoy wants to be a translator in the Navy. She wants to go to college and learn more languages. She wants to travel the world. She also wants to have fun, make new friends and make memories as she follows in her inspiration’s footsteps.

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

“Success can be defined in many ways, but success to most people cannot be defined by someone else,” said Hope. “It is defined by your own personal goals, and nobody can change that.”

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To follow Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen Hope McCoy on Facebook, click here!

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOPE?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Nebraska Nice

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant,¬†CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook,¬†or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at¬†heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at¬†KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County Krista Hinrichs

COMING SOON.. Miss Kool-Aid Days Outstanding Teen Emily Lenser

 

Going The Extra Mile

I follow many law enforcement officers on the Twitterverse. It’s the same reason I follow celebrities I will never meet; because their random posts give me a little peek into a part of the world we’re not part of. Police officers see things we don’t, and don’t have to. Twitter provides all of us a way to connect with each other through one common thread; we’re all just people who make jokes, feel emotion, and sometimes, are compelled to share our thoughts or opinions in the hopes of impacting maybe one other person.

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75 mph with your head buried in your phone, completely oblivious to me following behind you and then beside you. A crash at that speed is catastrophic and kills people. A $200 dollar ticket is cheap compared to what could have happened.  Р@opdofcbossman

Officer Mike Bossman is a 14-year veteran with the Omaha Police Department. He is a traffic reconstructionist – he is often the first to arrive on the scene after an accident. The warning he posted on Twitter that you see above isn’t just a vague threat, it’s a real-life result he’s witnessed far too many times.

GUYS, THIS HAPPENS. KIDS DIE. I covered it way too many times at KETV, and that’s nothing compared to what Mike has seen on the streets of Omaha.

Krista Hinrichs wanted to do something. She wanted to make a difference in an issue affecting all ages.. something like being a car, put at risk by a distracted driver.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Krista was crowned Miss Kool-Aid Days 2017, and Miss Douglas County 2018. For the second year in a row, she’ll compete at the Miss Nebraska Competition, hoping to represent our state at the Miss America Pageant. At the max, that’s a handful of days on stage competing.. the rest of every year as a titleholder is spent SERVING. Making sure people are safe behind the wheel has become a key part in Krista’s mission.

“Whether they are in the back seat, the passenger or the driver everyone has a voice and can speak up!” Krista told me. “I partnered with the End Distracted Driving (EndDD) organization which is a group that works everyday to help teach others and prevent distracted driving across the country.¬†One of the most important things to remember when you are driving and there are other passengers in your car…YOU are responsible for everyone‚Äôs life and making sure everyone arrives to their destination safely.”

EndDD has provided Krista with resources she’s used in presentations at schools across the state. She’s met with the National Safety Council and State Senator Bob Krist about legislation and current laws regarding distracted driving.

 

 

Nebraska is one of few states in the country in which distracted driving in not a primary violation,” said Krista. “This puts us behind all other states who have recognized and established legal consequences for distracted driving. By acknowledging distracted driving as a law violation, it recognizes the risks of that behavior and allows for consequences that may actually result in changed behaviors in the future.”

Krista uses her Facebook page to share statistics and powerful stories from people she’s met.

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“I love talking to people of all ages, but I also love listening and being present whenever someone has a question for me or wants to tell me more about themselves,” said Krista. “I absolutely love meeting new people, talking to people, and making a connection as well as using this title to create a positive impact for people in the community.”

And community has been central to Krista over the last two years.

She volunteers with Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. She recently won Omaha’s Dancing With The Stars, benefiting Youth Emergency Services. Fundraisers, parades, galas.. Krista is there, hoping to send others, especially children, home with a brighter outlook.

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“I enjoyed getting to settle down during lunchtime [at Miss Omaha] to start to build a relationship with my Little Sister,” said Krista. “My heart was filled when I saw her for the first time and she had made a special good luck card for me! I believe that people may remember a gorgeous gown you wore or your crown at an appearance, but they will also take with them how you made them feel and I want everyone to always feel valued after each conversation or interaction.”

Krista will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska this summer, and while she would love to win, her bigger goal is to connect with people and make an impact.

A will to do more.. it’s something deep within people like Krista Hinrichs and Officer Mike Bossman. Krista is¬†a gifted dancer, a college student, a future child psychologist; she could just focus on those things, or even herself and her goal of winning that sparkly crown. Bossman could just clock in and clock out, hand out tickets and head home knowing he did his job. These two go beyond – they want to make the world better, one visit, one day, and one tweet at a time.

Krista’s latest post… ‘Use your smile to change the world, never let the world change your smile!’¬†

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To follow Miss Douglas County Krista Hinrichs on Facebook, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KRISTA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * The Meaning of Life

For more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also email Director Devin Howell or Director Marianne Grubaugh at missomahapageant@yahoo.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Whitney Miller

NEXT.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen Hope McCoy

Hoops For Hope

Be Great.

That was the Westside Warriors motto from day one of winter sports practice. Their coach asked them, what is your goal this season? The girls varsity team answered collectively: they wanted to be great. ‘What does that mean?’ Coach Clark responded.

I reached out to Coach Clark in November to see if some of his girls would be willing to visit Westside elementary schools for assemblies or guest opportunities; they had already been doing it for several weeks. They even volunteered at the District Kindness Retreat, mentoring students one on one. Their message: don’t make excuses, and don’t place blame. Love each other.

It was around this time these student athletes were also forced to practice what they preached; they’d suffered a tough loss to a top team in Class A, and lost their #2 and #3 players to season-ending injuries. They¬†told each other and classroom after classroom, we won’t be defined by our challenges. We don’t make excuses. We don’t place blame. We love each other.

Every game day, the Warriors gathered together as a team for breakfast to reconnect and focus. After select home games, they ate pizza with a younger team, invited as their special guests. Their message when things got hard and when things started going right: no matter what happens, we won’t make excuses. We won’t place blame. We love each other.

District Champs

January – Westside won the Metro Holiday Tournament for the first time in 15 years.

February – Westside won the District Championship and a ticket to State.

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March – Westside won the NSAA Class A State Championship for just the 3rd time since Girls Basketball became a sanctioned sport in Nebraska. Their 28 wins in the 2017-2018 season set a new school record.

Monday night, less than 48 hours after their victory.. these players attended the 8th grade league championship, to support the younger girls they had invited to one of their games weeks earlier.

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Michael Jordan once said, “Obstacles don‚Äôt have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don‚Äôt turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.‚ÄĚ

The Westside Warriors seemed to understand early on that to Be Great was so much more than taking the top prize at the end of the season; it was about meeting every challenge, and sharing what they learned with others along the way.

Jessica Shultis gets it, too… both the game, and the message.

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She was a multi-sport high school athlete who went on to play collegiate basketball for Doane University. She had barely begun.. when everything in her world changed.

“During my sophomore year of college, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer,” Jessica told me. “I [now] speak to students about what it takes to overcome obstacles, whether it is bullying, academic struggles or terminal illness.”

 

 

At 23 years old, Jessica found a way to open more doors to share her story ,when she was crowned Miss Kearney and qualified to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska 2017. She finished as 2nd runner-up. Just months ago, Jessica was crowned Miss Lincoln.

“People are far more receptive to having Miss Lincoln come speak as opposed to simply Jessica Shultis. The title gives me an excellent platform to talk about issues that are important to me as well as make a difference in my community,” said Jessica. “Thanks to my connections in the basketball community, I am able to host fundamental camps free of any expense to myself, called Hoops for Hope. Due to the generous donations of others, all proceeds raised directly benefit Children’s Hospital in Omaha.”

But once again, Jessica faced challenges in her journey. At the ‘ripe old age’ of 24, Jessica was past the ‘age cutoff’ for women who hope to compete for Miss America and their state title, and didn’t think she’d be able to get a second chance to represent the state where she’s been her entire life.

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“I fell in love with the job of Miss Kearney and was devastated that I only had one opportunity to compete at Miss Nebraska,” said Jessica. “Even though I didn’t walk away with the crown last year, I walked away with thousands of dollars in scholarships that I was able to apply to my educational endeavors. As someone who has completed her Bachelor’s degree and is about to complete a Master’s degree, I cannot emphasize the importance of scholarships enough.”

Then in January, the Miss America Organization announced a historic decision allowing women up to 25 years old to compete. It was the chance Jessica had been watching and waiting for.

“The week before the Miss Lincoln Pageant was a roller coaster waiting for confirmation,” said Jessica. “Friday night before the Saturday pageant, at 11pm, I received a text from Miss Nebraska Executive Director Rachel Daly that I was cleared to compete. I could hardly sleep that night, so I competed on pure adrenaline that stemmed from my excitement to step onstage again.”

Jessica Shultis is a woman who has set goals for herself her entire life. This summer, she will transition into the role of Human Resources Manager with that new Master’s Degree. She plans to earn her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She wants to continue advocating for equality across all social classes, races, and sexes, inspired by women like Oprah Winfrey and the other titleholders she’s gotten to know through the Miss Nebraska program.

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Just like her basketball sisters 50 miles east, Jessica wants to be great. Her state championship trophy is the Miss Nebraska crown.

“I want to walk away knowing that I did everything I could to prepare,” said Jessica. “These ladies know the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed in all aspects of life.”

Don’t make excuses. Don’t place blame. Love each other.

Be Great.

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Photo courtesy Olivia Washburn for Westside Journalism

“Love always wins. Love conquers fear. Love is what makes a team. I can whole-hearted say I love my team like sisters. We are truly better together.” – Elizabeth Robinson, Westside Warriors Basketball Player

“I’ve had the opportunity to share my message about the importance of never losing hope. While I hope I’ve had an impact on the kids in attendance, I leave a better person because of each of them.” – Miss Lincoln, Jessica Shultis.

Jessica final

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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To follow Miss Lincoln Jessica Shultis on Facebook, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JESSICA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * The Chameleon Queen

For more information about the Miss Lincoln/Miss Star City Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also email Director Christy Merritt at Christy.Merritt@TheWaterFord.net.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Gabriella Wagner

NEXT.. Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen Chloe Blumanthal

Just Like Fire

Aleah Peters woke up this morning as Miss Nebraska for the last time.

This is the 36th blog post I’ve written this spring about the Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants. Out loud, that’s been my excuse for why it’s taken me so long to write an article about Aleah, her final send-off in blog form. Subconsciously, I think I’ve been avoiding writing this.. because I want her to stay Miss Nebraska forever.

Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters

As volunteers, we work so hard to make Miss Nebraska relevant, memorable, a woman with substance in our state. From Day 1, Aleah GOT IT. She used every single moment of her year to make a difference, to market herself, to positively represent the Miss Nebraska brand and to take our organization to the next level. She is kind, she is passionate, she is hardworking, she is dedicated, she is down-to-earth, she is smart, she is talented, she is powerful. And with tears in my eyes as I write this, I’m not ready to see her go.

She hugged every child who approached her, and signed every autograph. She accepted every media interview I threw at her, and nailed it with charisma, articulation and humor. She thanked, acknowledged and was truly grateful for every supporter and loved one who stood by her throughout her journey to Miss Nebraska three times and to Miss America. She crisscrossed the state, visiting 2-3 schools every week in addition to fundraisers, galas, and volunteer events. She awed students with her innate talent to twirl, but many remember her long after for the powerful, personal message about bullying she brought to thousands. We want a Miss Nebraska who makes a difference. Aleah Peters changed our part of the world, one visit at a time.

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“I can’t believe that my year is already over and pretty soon it will be someone else’s turn,” Aleah told me recently. “This year has been a huge blessing and an amazing opportunity. Truly a transformational year. Although I feel like I blinked and it was over, there were some weekends and days that felt like a long year of work. A few drives that seemed to take forever or weeks jam-packed with events and appearances I thought would never end. But I wouldn’t trade the long weeks or long drives for anything. Being Miss Nebraska is work. It is a full-time job, but luckily, it’s a fun job.”

When Aleah was crowned Miss Nebraska 2016, she had just graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She was a mature young woman who truly understood that this moment of sheer excitement was just the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one that she embraced and ran with from day one.

“I had a very clear idea of the job that I was applying for and what I was getting myself into,” said Aleah. “I knew what I wanted to accomplish as Miss Nebraska and I knew I wanted to share my message in schools. However, I didn’t realize what a voice I had or what an impact I could make until I did. I never knew how many kids needed to hear my message. I never knew how many eyes would light up when I walked into a room. I never knew I had the power to make every child in the room silent by telling my story. That is how this job became so much more than a job.”

Throughout her years just competing for the title of Miss Nebraska, Aleah spoke to thousands of students about Cyberbullying Awareness. As she told me throughout that journey (click here to read more!) her passion was based on her own experiences being bullied as a teenager by a group of girls from school. Her mission to #MakeKindnessViral is increasingly important in today’s climate of technology and anonymous assault; even Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson has made Cyber Safety a key platform based on ongoing problems affecting children, adults and businesses across our state and beyond. Schools across Nebraska asked Aleah to come in and talk to their students, and in October, DeMoine Adams and Teammates brought Aleah on board to visit even more.

Several principals within Westside Community Schools invited Aleah in after she was crowned Miss Nebraska, asking her to share her platform. Over and over, she told hundreds of students about those dark days when she was afraid to answer the phone, when she was afraid to leave her house, when ‘mean girls’ simply made her life hell. In every presentation, she found ways to connect with the students she spoke with, helping them understand her story and hopefully, sending them back out into the world more equipped to deal with bullies, and less likely to become one themselves. One of Westside’s Teacher Leaders told me months later, “our students still talk about her and what she said.” This same scenario played out at schools over and over again throughout this past year.

Ruth

“One little girl in a wheelchair asked her teacher if I would meet with her after the school assembly to help her with her project,” said Aleah. “She explained to me that she experienced bullying because she is different from the other students. Another powerful moment was when I spoke in a town that recently experienced a suicide. Many of the students raised their hands to ask what I thought of suicide. It was very clear that there were still some open wounds and a lot of healing for the town but the students were trying to learn more and understand why this happened. Any time a student approaches me and lets me know that they appreciated hearing my story, it makes it all worth it.”

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“One of the highlights of my year was meeting Dr. Mark Adler,” said Aleah. “[Dr. Adler is] the Superintendent of Ralston Public Schools who lost his son to suicide because of cyberbullying. Dr. Adler thanked me for the work I was doing, and that meant a lot to me.”

Aleah’s stories from each visit are varied and often, hilarious. To countless children, especially our youngest Nebraskans, Aleah was a princess personified.

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“I will never get over walking into an elementary school assembly and seeing their eyes light up,” said Aleah. “At one school, the principal was trying to get the students to quiet down and she said ‘obviously we have a very special guest with us here today’ and they all started applauding. Elementary school kids are so much fun and they asked the silliest questions. ‘Did you take a limo to get here?’ ‘Do you live in a castle?’ It was always fun to explain what Miss Nebraska is to them. In one 3rd grade class we lined up to take a picture and the teacher told a student to stop being goofy. With a grin from ear to ear he said ‘I’m so happy right now.’

Among Aleah’s favorite moments as Miss Nebraska was representing our state at the 2017 Miss America Pageant.

“Miss America was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Aleah. “I am so happy for Savvy Shields, our Miss America 2016. She is an incredible Miss America and is doing a GREAT job. Regardless of how the competition went, I still won. I won 51 new friends. I won with the relationships I made. I walked away from the competition so fulfilled. I put my very best on the floor and that is exactly what I wanted to do regardless of what place I earned. Some of my favorite Miss America moments include: catching my somersault trick on stage and going crazy! I ran off stage with pure joy and excitement and jumped into Chris the security guard’s arms. I love twirling for an audience and that was one of the most adrenaline rushing performances I have ever done. Another Miss America moment that I look back on and appreciate now is filming our introductions in a hurricane warning. The wind was insane! We went from an amusement park to go out on a boat. I remember curling up in a ball because I was freezing, more than ready to get off, when the camera crew said ‘let’s do that again!'”

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“After we all got done with our swimsuit prelim competitions we crushed about 10 pizzas between 8 girls at our meeting that night,” said Aleah. “I also loved seeing my cheering section in the audience. I was able to spot them right away the second I walked out because there were huge N’s and pictures of my face.”

“Through all the dinners, rehearsals, and late night meetings, I just remember laughing for two weeks straight,” said Aleah. “I won so much more out of the Miss America competition than a crown and scholarship money. I made memories and friendships to last me a lifetime.”

In one of Aleah’s last school visits, she talked to a group of Kindergartners about success. She shared how she competed for Miss Nebraska three times.. winning 3rd place, and then 2nd place before winning our state title. She explained to these children that to her, success was more than just winning Miss Nebraska… it was about working hard, having a great attitude, and being the best version of herself she could be.

To Aleah Peters, this year has been so much more than a pretty crown. She has maintained an INCREDIBLE physique because she learned how to be healthier as part of this journey, and stuck with it. She continued to visit schools and schedule appearances even after her time at Miss America was done, because she wanted to make a difference with the time she had. She opened her heart to this year’s 16 Miss Nebraska contestants, constantly offering guidance and support. She talked about the $26,585 in cash scholarships she has won, and encouraged other young women to sign up for the same journey she’s had.

“I wanted people to know Miss Nebraska,” said Aleah. “I wanted people to relate to her, to be able to talk to her, to try on her crown, learn how to twirl baton, and to be inspired by her.”

As this journey ends, Aleah, true to form, is ready to begin another. She is getting married in September and moving to Florida, where she plans to work in communications.

“The Miss America Organization has given me so much,” said Aleah. “Not only scholarship money and best friends but it has helped me become the best version of myself. It has helped me find a passion in service. This organization has transformed me into the type of woman I want to be. It has given me confidence, shown me what commitment and dedication look like, and pushed me to accomplish more than I thought was possible. I am excited for the big changes ahead! Only God knows what is in store for me and I am so excited for him to show me.”

GIRLS WITH ME

I’m having a hard time perfectly explaining why this woman is such an incredible role model not just to countless children, but to ALL (myself included!) I am in complete awe of how she takes care of herself, eating healthy and getting to the gym everyday despite her crazy schedule. I am so impressed with her strategic business skills marketing herself to make the most out of every moment of this year. I am humbled and inspired by her sheer kindness and goodness, even towards the ‘mean girls’ who inspired the life changing messages she’s taken to so many.

“I think everyone should be proud of all they have accomplished, including those mean girls,” said Aleah. “So instead I say thank you for giving me a story to share. Thank you for allowing me to relate to so many children who have been bullied. To freshman year Aleah, [I would say] you will get through it and you still be stronger because of it. Appreciate the obstacles you’ve had to overcome because they shape who you are.”

We all wake up every morning with a choice.. to get through the day, or to use every day to our full advantage. The Miss Nebraska Class of 2017 has already accomplished so much in their communities, on their campuses and for so many others around them. They each have a spark; so did Aleah at this time last year. And look what she did with it… a young woman who became Miss Nebraska and simply put, was just like fire.

Just like fire, burning out the way
If I can light the world up for just one day
Watch this madness, colorful charade
No one can be just like me any way
Just like magic, I’ll be flying free
I’mma disappear when they come for me
I kick that ceiling, what you gonna say?
No one can be just like me any way..

No one will EVER be like Aleah Peters. Thank you for your smile. Thank you for your spirit. Thank you for your heart. Thank you for being YOU, our forever Miss Nebraska.

“Appreciate the little things, word hard and dream BIG! Build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Realize that you can always find a commonality with someone and you can always learn from someone. Be a friend and make kindness viral. Appreciate the journey every step of the way.”

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WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALEAH?

CLICK HERE * 2016 * The Year of the Phoenix

CLICK HERE * 2016 * Fighting For Hope

CLICK HERE * 2014 * How Do You Like Me Now?

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival 2017 Lianna Prill

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!