Tag Archive | miss douglas county

Dreaming Big

I still remember being a little girl with HUGE glasses, taking field trips to The Rose or to Papillion-La Vista High School to watch theater. I was IN AWE. I idolized the actors and singers and wanted, so badly, to be on that stage just like them.

When I got to high school, Drama classes were a must, and I tried out for PLHS’s production of Oklahoma! I was one of the youngest students cast – I couldn’t even drive home from rehearsals everyday! I was ‘adopted’ by one of the stars of the show, Alyssa Passey.

Alyssa was a senior (guys, A SENIOR!!) who, for whatever amazing reason, befriended me during those months I really didn’t know anyone else. She drove me home everyday in her amazing pink Dodge Neon (which was AWESOME), and just made me feel COOL. I wanted to be JUST. LIKE. HER.

A 13-year old Millard North Middle School student has a very similar story.. except her Alyssa’s literally sparkled before her eyes.

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Her name is Marissa Messick. When this photo was taken, she was just 6 years old and IN HEAVEN.

“Everything started when I was a Little Sister for the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Pageant in 2010,” said Marissa. “My Big Sister, Mindy Schreiber, won Miss Douglas County that night and it was so great to be able to go through that experience with her.”

And Marissa met more Queens over the next several years, as a World Champion baton twirler with The Stepperette’s, a team that has included Miss Nebraska 2001 Tina Foehlinger, Miss Nebraska runners up Tami and Rachel Foehlinger, and Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters. Marissa learned more and more about the sash and crown she’d seen so many times as a little girl.

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“Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen and Miss Nebraska are great programs,” said Marissa. “They teach you how to find yourself and they help you become more confident. It helps with paying for school. More importantly, it defies a common fear of public speaking. Being able to speak in public is an amazing life skill and this program helps majorly with being more comfortable doing that.”

 

 

So this year, Marissa decided to try this whole pageant thing for herself, and was crowned Miss Millard’s Outstanding Teen.

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“My favorite part of being a titleholder is being able to meet so many people and have younger kids look up to me,” said Marissa. “It’s amazing to be able to walk into a room and see their faces just light up with a huge smile and say ‘Mom, look, a princess’. Then you can tell them about your platform and they listen with everything they have because they’re talking to a princess. You can light up their day and impact their lives all in one.”

Marissa has used that attention to promote kindness and respect for others, a mission she calls ‘Believe In The Golden Rule.’

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“Treat others how you like to be treated,” said Marissa. “So many people judge and bully others on what they look like, what they do, how smart they are, and how much money their families make. I’ve talked to Alternate Curriculum Program students at my school about this; they shouldn’t be treated any differently then we get treated. Also, I wrote a book on the Golden Rule in English class and read it to 2nd graders at Cather Elementary.”

Those speaking opportunities are also benefitting Marissa. She’ll begin classes at Millard North High School next fall, and hopes to someday become a lawyer.

“This is definitely helping me because I have to be able to form opinions on topics. I will have to be ok and comfortable with public speaking,” said Marissa. “Also, I will have to know how to balance my time, and being an 8th grader while getting ready for high school, spending time with friends, doing appearances, twirling and preparing for State definitely teaches me how to healthily balance my time.”

‘State’ is the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen competition, the next step in Marissa’s journey. The same moments she watched as a little girl with a smile on her face and starts in her eyes are now in her path.

Marissa

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“My goal isn’t to win, which sounds strange, but my goal is to meet friends and have a good experience,” said Marissa. “It doesn’t matter if you win at state or if you had the best dress, but the changes you made. I think, not just with Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen but with everything you do in life, what you leave behind is most important.”

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To follow Miss Millard’s Outstanding Teen Marissa Messick, click here.

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.

PREVIOUS.. Miss Elkhorn’s Outstading Teen Rachel Greufe

NEXT.. Special 3-Part Post! Miss Eastern Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Sofia Drelicharz, Miss Heartland’s Outstanding Teen Aubrie Charter, and Miss North Platte’s Outstanding Teen Aspen Golter

Edge Of Glory

Every time I begin writing an article featuring a Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen titleholder, I scroll through our conversation and their photos. I look not only at their words and pictures, but their faces and body language within those images. Are they engaged? What did they say about their experiences? How often are they serving as their community’s local titleholder?

When it comes to Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, I simply don’t think WordPress has enough space online to share everything she’s doing.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

She is a patriot. She is a community servant. She is a natural performer. She is a proud Nebraskan. She is wise. SHE IS 13. 

When I was crowned Miss Douglas County in October of 2000, former Miss Omaha and Miss Nebraska Jodi Miller-Holen told me, “you do what you want with this title. You can do nothing, and we won’t be happy but that’s your choice, or you can do everything.”

Here’s what Phoenix told me after being crowned Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen: “Most teens are not interested in giving up their time and energy for a greater cause. I want to change that. We are the future of America. We will inherit the social issues affecting our parents now. I’m only 13 years old, a freshman in high school. I want to lead by example because if we can motivate teenagers now to be the change, just imagine the great things they will accomplish as civically engaged adults.”

Guys. When I was 13, I sat in my brother’s room for hours playing Nintendo and read Babysitter’s Club books walking home from school.

 

This young lady isn’t just talk, either. Phoenix Stanford is proving herself through action, a tireless civil servant advocating for Children’s Miracle Network, school safety and security, sexual assault awareness and women’s rights, world health causes, Autism awareness.. and for several years now, support for military families.

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“I have been a military brat my entire life and to me civilians don’t completely understand the sacrifices made by military families,” said Phoenix. “It’s not easy being a military child. Deployments and relocations not only affect their academic success, but their social and mental well-being are affected. These kids are at risk for depression and anxiety. I get involved with Offutt Air Force Base’s events that are designed to boost family morale. I help raise scholarship money for military dependents, I’ve testified for a military bill, I’ve collected food for veterans, visited sick veterans at the VA Hospital, talked to schools about the hardships of being a military child, collected books for a free, little library at base housing, helped with Gold Star family events, etc.”

 

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Many of Phoenix’s efforts coincide with the work of the current Miss Nebraska Allison Tietjen, who has spent her year of service advocating for our nation’s past and present military heroes. Much like Allie, Phoenix says she’s deeply impacted by the stories she hears from the very people she’s helping.

“Volunteer work is important to me,” said Phoenix. “While being a titleholder, not only have I found out so much about the world around me but I have found out so much about myself. My title has given me the opportunities to meet and connect with amazing people and hear their uplifting stories. Coming across these people has helped me expand my platform to places I didn’t know it would go. I have come across many different non-profit organizations that I didn’t even know existed. These organizations inspire me to do more.”

Being a titleholder has also provided Phoenix with a way to explore two of her passions: education and singing.

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“So far, I have won five scholarships as a local titleholder,” said Phoenix. “My career goal is to become a professional singer. I am working on getting to my dream college, Juilliard. I not only want to break into the music industry but I want to know exactly what I’m doing, and I want something to fall back on in case things don’t go as planned. Nebraska should care about the Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen Pageant because it helps shape the future leaders of America. Providing scholarships to well-rounded young women is worth investing in.”

“I have dreamed of performing the most amazing shows for the biggest audiences since I was a little girl,” said Phoenix. “All I have wanted to do is sing and perform my heart out and that is what I intend on doing. Performing gives me a sense of freedom and a power I look for in life. This program has been a blessing and a huge stepping stone for me.”

No surprise then that Phoenix’s female role model comes from the world of music: Lady Gaga.

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“We have one life, so live it regardless of what anyone else says. That is what Lady Gaga has taught me,” said Phoenix. “I also look up to her untouchable music career. She writes the majority of her own music and performs at high profile events. Even if you are not a Gaga fan, you will certainly be entertained by one of her cinematic shows. I praise her amazing work ethic; she is a rolling stone showing no sign of stopping any time soon. It is people like her I admire and dream of being.”

I would argue Lady Gaga has shifted her status from sensation to legacy by ensuring there is substance and meaning behind every song and every performance. Phoenix is already emulating that.. certainly thinking of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen crown she’ll compete for in 2 weeks, but also using her microphone to make sure people hear and understand things happening in our world. Proof… a message the Miss Nebraska Organization received from Phoenix on March 14, just a few short months after we lost a beloved member of our pageant family, Miss Chadron Kaelia Nelson.

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“Just wanted to let you know that Kaelia won’t be forgotten and people are still fighting for her even on this day,” wrote Phoenix. “Attended the Nebraska State Advocacy day held by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”

At just 13 years old, Phoenix is now also helping Stomp The Stigma against mental illness, the very personal cause that Kaelia fought so passionately for.

“The biggest issue my generation is facing is suicide,” said Phoenix. “It’s an epidemic that is sweeping the nation. More teens have been diagnosed with mental illness in this generation than ever before. We need to pass Nebraska’s LB998, a collaborative school behavioral and mental health program. We also need to eliminate the stigma of mental illness so teens can comfortably seek help and not feel ashamed of what they are going through.”

Lady Gaga once told a journalist she wrote ‘The Edge of Glory” in about 10 minutes, the same night her grandfather passed away. She told Lisa Capretto, “I started playing and I said to my dad, I said, ‘Don’t be sad. He’s on the edge of the most glorious moment in life, when you realize that you won. I said, ‘Look how much he won at life. He won at love with Grandma, and he’s on the edge of a glorious moment.’”

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Look at the women in these articles. Look at Phoenix Stanford. Look at how much they are winning at life. At 24, 17, even 13 years old, they are using every moment they are given, feeling the rush, and pushing themselves to the edge.

Who are you, and in this one, beautiful life you have.. where are you?

“I try to focus on performing at the best of my abilities,” said Phoenix. “If I know I did my best, then I will be content with whatever I leave with. That, to me, is still success.”

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To follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SHELBY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Just The Way You Are

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.

PREVIOUS.. Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen Jadyn Wetherington

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.  – @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’s 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.

Krista and sis

“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

Young and Beautiful

My first internship at KETV, I was 20 years old and thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from such incredible professionals in a field I someday hoped to join. Three days a week, I worked a nine hour shift, following around amazing reporters like Tom Elser and Trisha Meuret. This was an unpaid internship, so I also worked part-time, waitressing at Charlie’s on the Lake, in addition to my service work and appearances as Miss Douglas County. I worked every single shift I was offered at KETV; any task, around the clock. I don’t regret one second of it and didn’t think anything of then, either – I grew up with two parents who started their own successful businesses and taught me from an early age that if you want something, you work hard for it. They, and each of these experiences, helped shape who I am, opening doors for me as a broadcast professional at an early age in comparison to many of my peers.

This is why I get a smidge frustrated when I hear young adults complaining about not getting paid enough.. needing a job that allows them to ‘still do stuff’.. or expecting privileges, opportunities, and more will just HAPPEN to them because they ‘deserve’ it.

AND GET OFF MY LAWN, said Old Lady Brandi.

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On the flip side.. it’s also why I am so excited about, and want to support, young people who show ambition, passion and a strong work ethic. Last Spring, I connected with Omaha’s Beverly Luma, who had started her own company, Lady Beverly Cosmetics. She graciously offered to present all of the 2017 Miss Nebraska contestants and judges with her products, including a special prize package for our new Miss Nebraska. Grand total: Beverly donated more than $2500 in her product to our organization. That is HUGE for a small business! I was already blown away.. and then I met Beverly.

Beverly

SHE IS ONLY 25 YEARS OLD.

“I really have sensitive skin and have always used topnotch products. However, being a college student in the US, wasn’t being graceful to my savings,” Beverly explained to me. “My sister, who is vegan, also has that problem. We started with lipsticks and eyelashes. We decided to make it official in 2016 by registering our company and getting the right documents when people would compliment us and ask to buy the lipstick we were wearing. Started small scale then expanded since then.”

With the help of her brother, a business graduate; her father, a retired businessman; and her mother, the sisters’ ‘manager’, Beverly’s hobby has expanded across Nebraska and to several other states, all while she completes a healthcare administration degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her own minor in business. Click here to learn more about Lady Beverly Cosmetics!

Guys. She’s 25. She JUST turned the legal age to rent a car. Let that sink in for a minute.

A 14-year old from Alliance, Nebraska is dreaming big early, too.

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Chloe Blumanthal was crowned Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen last fall, a goal she’s been focused on for at least five years, if not longer.

“I was ‘special entertainment’ at the 2013 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant. I was 9 years old and I sang ‘Lights’,” Chloe told me recently. “From then on, I was determined to someday compete in that pageant. This system is for the best of the best and I wanted to be part of that.”

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Chloe, a student at Alliance High School, says she’s been singing since the age of 2. (“And before that I would hum everything!”) A love of performing has been a constant as far back as she can remember, and her talent was clear to her family and people throughout western Nebraska.

“I was in a move made by Aperture Films about Western Expansion,” said Chloe. “It will open any day now at the museum under the Arch in St. Louis; we filmed it by Chimney Rock in 2015. I [also] won Little Miss titles when I was 9, 10 and 11 years old.”

Chloe notes those awards were just for fun, but even as an elementary student, she understood she could make good things happen.

 

 

“I raised over $2000 and donated it all,” said Chloe. “I thought up the fundraisers all on my own. As a Girl Scout, service has been a HUGE part of my life since 1st grade. I’ve earned my Girl Scout Bronze and Silver Awards; that’s over 70 hours of volunteer time. I am currently working on my Gold Award.”

Being Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen aligns right along with Chloe’s service goals. Each titleholder selects a cause they are passionate about and want to promote; Chloe calls her platform ‘Secret Kindness Agents’.

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“It’s a movement that shows how a simple act of kindness can change the culture within a school or group and eventually change the world,” said Chloe, inspired by UNO Instructor and award-winning educator Ferial Pearson. “Her positivity, in the darkest of times, has changed my life. I saved up my babysitting money and bought copies of the Secret Kindness Agent book. [When I visit classrooms], I bring a book for each teacher, a small notebook for each child to journal in, and envelopes of Secret Agent assignments. The children brainstorm new assignments, something that costs no money, so everyone has the same impact. Each child also gets assigned a Secret Agent name; they never use their own name or take credit for their assignments. It’s a great feeling to give without reward or recognition.”

But Chloe says she IS rewarded.. through friendships and life skills.

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“My friends see my confidence and pride in my accomplishments and know that much of that comes from my time as a titleholder,” said Chloe. “People should care about this program because of the exceptional work the titleholders do to make this state great. Because of the variety of platforms, our titleholders are helping so many different people and touching so many lives for the better.”

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Just as her own life has been touched by the women who came before her. The Girl Scout alumni and troop leaders who taught Chloe about female leadership, risk-taking and innovation. The pageant mentors who taught her about making goals, and that trying new things often leads to success. And the women in business like Beverly Luma, inspiring Chloe to dream of going to culinary school and someday, opening her own specialty bakery.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.”

Beverly Luma and Chloe Blumanthal are two young women not waiting for any magical milestone in life to accomplish their goals. Beverly recently shared a quote on social media.. “Sometimes you need to step outside, get some fresh air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.”

They are women making the world more beautiful by simply dreaming big, and inspiring others through hard work, love for life, and kindness to others. No matter what age, that is something we should all want to be.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“What a great way to work for something!” said Chloe, who will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April. “I want to show all of Nebraska what I can do and how I am changing the world.”

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To follow Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen Chloe Blumanthal on Facebook, click here.

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 Lincoln Jessica Shultis

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

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Often times when I encourage a young woman to try the Miss Nebraska Organization, I get the same questions. “Do I need a coach?” “Do I have to spend a bunch of money for a new dress and clothes?” “But what if I’ve never done a pageant before?”

Maybe I should just attach this photo to my ‘auto-reply’.

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October 2000. I received a flyer in the mail with information about the Miss Omaha Pageant. I had grown up IN AWE of the Miss America Pageant on TV; I even staged my own pageant with my friends for my 13th birthday party. I loved to sing on stage and welcomed the opportunity to do that one more time since my high school performance days were done.

That was the end of my pageant knowledge or background. I went to Mall of the Bluffs with my friend Shawna a few days before to buy my talent outfit off a clearance rack, and my friend Suzanne came to my dorm room at UNL to slap together some choreography for a song. I wore the swimsuit I actually swam in. My evening gown was the prom dress I had worn two years earlier in high school. I did my own hair and makeup… with the little makeup and hairspray I had. THANK GOODNESS my Little Sister and now dear friend Kelsey was ADORABLE and clearly stole the show!

God, it turns out, has a plan for everything.. and for whatever reason told those six judges at Westside High School that I would be a good representative of Douglas County; I won a local title and a ticket to compete at the 2001 Miss Nebraska Pageant. I had NO CLUE what I was doing.

Thankfully, this program past and present is made up of incredible former titleholders who are happy to help guide the ‘newbies’ and share their insight into this wonderful, and at times, overwhelming world. Within a few weeks, I was introduced to Miss Nebraska 1999 Becky Smith.

Becky Smith

Becky was an Omaha-area girl like me, crowned Miss Nebraska at just 20 years old. By the time I became Miss Douglas County in 2001, Becky had returned to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln to pursue Fine Arts degree in Dance. Word must have spread that the newest member of the Miss Omaha family was a HOT MESS..

Miss Congeniality

.. because within a few weeks, I had an invitation to meet with Becky at Chi Omega, right next door to my dorm on UNL’s campus. She welcomed me to her sorority house with a warm smile and engaging personality, giggling with and not at me as she showed me how to walk in heels and not clomp around on stage like a hippo meandering through the savannah. (Really, guys, it was BAD.) She was just SO COOL, and made ME feel cool because I got to be around her.

Becky was a natural teacher, just one year later opening The Dance Factory in Miss Nebraska’s home base of North Platte. Her studio became a staple in town, so popular over the years, that Becky later opened a second location in Ogallala. I would argue one of the biggest reasons to enroll a child here, would be so they can work with Becky herself.

Becky official

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Yes, Becky looks EXACTLY THE SAME as she did 18 years ago. Same sparkle in her smile, same passion for dance, same energy for life and everyone around her. People turn to Becky because they want to BE like Becky.

Her daughter, Gabriella, is no different.. and she’s ready to follow in her mom’s footsteps.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I have been watching pageants for years and always wanted to try,” Gabriella told me recently. “My goal is to feel successful after everything is over. I want to feel that I did a great job and made an impact.”

Gabriella, a 15-year old student at North Platte High School, was crowned Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen last fall.

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She, too, is a gifted dancer, practicing her craft at home and at The Dance Factory from a very early age. As her mom continued to volunteer with the Miss Nebraska Organization over the years, Gabriella saw an opportunity to both perform and to serve.

“Community service [is my favorite part]. I love visiting kids and helping others,” said Gabriella. “It makes me so happy to meet all of them and teach them about my platform, ‘Someone Is Your Type’. It’s all about blood donation so no matter your race, your blood type or your gender, you can donate blood that will save someone’s life. To promote my platform, I visit kids and educate them about blood donation and the importance of giving.”

 

 

Gabriella, who wants to someday be an anesthesiologist, notes her gratitude to be able to share a message she is passionate about. She’s also grateful for and aware of the connections she’s making, whether it be through dance, school, or with other teens from across the state who will compete to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“My favorite moment has been meeting all of the girls in the competition,” said Gabriella. “It’s so great to meet people who are just as motivated as you and who make you feel encouraged to persevere.”

Ultimately, those are the qualities that drive Gabriella Wagner. Even at 15, she is a young woman who values success and pushes for it in every aspect of her life. When asked about her female role models, she references Taylor Swift and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Morgan Holen, noting how they’ve inspired her by taking advantages of opportunities as young women with innovation, creativity and passion.

“You can do so many things, but if you don’t feel successful after completing them, you didn’t do it right,” said Gabriella. “Success to me means that you met your personal goals and you feel good about doing so.”

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This photo shows Gabriella with her mom, Miss Nebraska 1999 Becky Smith Wagner, and Morgan Holen with her mom, Miss Nebraska 1988 Jodi Miller Holen. Becky, Morgan and Jodi are all INCREDIBLY inspiring women to me. They are hard working. They are caring and kind. They are dynamic. They endlessly give of themselves. They are friends to everyone they meet.

Gabriella hopes to be just like them.. for reasons that extend far beyond a crown.

“I come from a pageant involved family and I really enjoy being a part of it,” said Gabriella. “However, I chose this path because I love it and I want to make a difference in the world.”

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

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To follow Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Gabriella Wagner on Facebook, click here.

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 Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Morgan Baird

NEXT.. Miss Lincoln Jessica Shultis

Center Stage

Last week, I had one of those life experiences that reminds you of everything all at once. You’re smiling, you’re crying, you’re so happy, you’re so utterly grateful.

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Meet Ellie, the cute little brunette with the pixie cut on the left, and Kaleb, the strong, blonde gentleman in the middle. They are both elementary school students at Westside’s Sunset Hills, and when their principal, Michelle Patterson, found out they were competing in the Special Olympics for gymnastics, she scheduled a field trip so their entire 3rd and 5th grade classes could attend to cheer them on.

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They made signs. They wore Team Sunset Hills t-shirts. They exploded with cheers and rally chants every time Ellie or Kaleb stood up to compete, and they applauded just as loudly when one of the other athletes did well. Ellie stopped mid-floor routine, turned and grinned at her cheering section. I bawled behind my I-phone. CLICK HERE to watch Ellie & Kaleb’s story on KETV by Sarah Fili and Adam Ennis!

I remember another moment several months ago when tears welled up in my eyes.. watching Kindergartners in my son’s class run up to him to say hi and give him a hug. He has friends; he’s happy; he feels loved and wanted at school. It made my heart burst with pride and happiness for my sweet boy.

It’s all so much the same; we as parents have a universal wish for our children, perhaps more than anything else. We want them to be happy.

Kogan Murphy isn’t a parent, but she wants the same thing for every child she comes in contact with… so those children don’t go through what she did as a teenager.

Miss Douglas County 2017 Kogan Murphy

“I was bullied for years in middle and high school,” Kogan told me recently. “I struggled alone for nearly five years before anyone stepped in to help – they just didn’t know or couldn’t see what was happening to me. There were days I feared for my life and days I couldn’t leave the house, let alone feel safe enough to go to school.  Although I triumphed by working with people who supported and cared about me, not everyone is so lucky.”

It seems like these stories are everywhere these days, happening to people you would never predict as the target. Kogan is a gifted ballet dancer, a gorgeous blonde, a confident and mature young woman. Why would anyone bully her? It’s a question Kogan has asked for years, and one she intends to find answers to and solutions for.

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“I have spent over seven years now researching, living, visiting, speaking and gathering information on bullying,” said Kogan. “I was a victim of both harassment and physical violence. Unfortunately, as is often the case with technology, the harassment didn’t end when I got home at night. A large portion of my bully’s attacks came through online channels and social media. I have spoken to many different age groups and types of people about bullying and it continues to become a more and more important issue that is still so relevant today.”

Kogan found a powerful weapon against her bully when she was 17.. in the form of a crown. That was the first time she competed for the title of Miss Illinois.

“I still felt very lost after being bullied, “said Kogan. “What most people don’t realize is that even after the bullying stops and the problem is ‘resolved’, there is still a lot of work to be done. It took me years of trying to get my school grades up and figure out who I was again. Each time I competed, I felt like I was a little bit closer to finding myself again.”

Kogan held multiple titles within the Miss Illinois Organization, but took a year off when she moved to Omaha and joined Ballet Nebraska.

“I have been dancing for 21 years,” said Kogan, who has since performed professionally in productions including Swan Lake. “Dancing has always been a great way for me to express myself and I love getting the opportunity to perform. I also choreographed my solo for Miss Nebraska and it is very special to me.”

Kogan discovered the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant in her new home, and decided to refocus on the organization that had done so much to build back up her self-confidence.

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She was crowned Miss Douglas County last fall, and was immediately surrounded with a network of people offering constant friendship and encouragement no matter life’s circumstances.

“The people you meet during your year, the people who volunteer their time and money to make this organization all that it is, and then of course, the mentoring,” said Kogan. “Over the past 6-7 years being involved in this organization I have met countless young women that I have looked up to and admired and then been able to take on that ‘big sister’ role myself with many little girls and my ‘pageant families’!”

For Kogan, this has also been an opportunity to try prevent other kids from traveling the same rough road she had to. She visits classrooms, youth groups and dance classes all over Eastern Nebraska sharing her personal platform: ‘Respect: Changing the conversation about bullying.’

“I feel so lucky that I have been given the opportunity to have a voice and share my story,” said Kogan. “Having a dramatic personal experience gives me the credibility and relevance to connect with kids and adults alike; I’ve been there. I have been hurt, afraid for my life and embarrassed. No one should feel afraid to go to school, leave their house or feel as if their life does not matter. I am proof that there is a way out and a way back to having confidence in yourself. Let’s bring RESPECT back to the conversation. Everyone deserves the right to feel loved, appreciated and wanted in this world.”

AGREED. I think that’s why I was so touched by what happened in that gym last week. My hope is that not only did Ellie and Kaleb feel loved and supported, but that all of their friends saw the value in loving and supporting others. I was only a bystander that day, but I left that gym feeling like I could conquer the world.. and that our world was an accepting, beautiful place. Love multiplied again and again that day, and I hope the lasting memory every single one of those children will have is that smile on Ellie’s face. I hope they all realize they can do that throughout their whole lives; they can impact someone’s life by simply being KIND.

It’s a message Kogan Murphy will continue to spread through her words, through dance, and she hopes, as Miss Nebraska 2017.

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“This organization has not only shaped me into the woman I want to be but it continues to encourage me to be the best version of myself,” said Kogan. “I am very much at a place where I would love to dedicate a full year and serve the wonderful state of Nebraska through this organization. My goal and mindset is to always be the very best version of myself, enjoy every moment and know that timing is everything.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Douglas County 2017 Kogan Murphy on Facebook.

For more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Pageant or to become a contestant CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, and CLICK HERE to follow on Twitter. You can also email missomahapageant@yahoo.com, or contact Director Marianne Grubaugh at ggrubaugh@cox.net.

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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 Queen City of the Plains 2017 Jaicelyn Shakespaere

COMING SOON.. Miss Gering 2017 Alayna Wilson

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!

Intervention

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.

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Crowned Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen in October, Katie immediately used her crown and sash as an ‘in’ to speak to classes and groups.

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Katie speaking at Westside’s Loveland Elementary

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!”

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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.”

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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 omahadouglascountyot@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook. For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Sydny Ridgeway

NEXT.. Miss Omaha 2017 Wellesley Michael

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!