Tag Archive | miss kearney

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’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

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.

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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

The Chameleon Queen

I present to you the most amazing picture in the history of photography.

Camilla

Let’s just say Camilla was a tad excited to see Miss Nebraska Aleah Peters and to try on her crown.  This was one of my favorite moments from the weekend, when nine of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants joined Aleah for an Omaha Princess Party as part of our #MissAmericaServes campaign.

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So. Much. Sass.  I LOVE IT.

This event raised an estimated $250, money that will be used to create care packages for open heart surgery patients through Abriendo Corazones, a mission founded by a medical team at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.  (CLICK HERE to learn more!)  An incredible cause very close to my heart, made even better by seeing the looks in these little girls’ eyes as they got to meet ‘real life princesses’!

Who was your role model growing up?  My husband adored sports icons like Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan.  I was obsessed with celebrities, from the stars of Beverly Hills 90210 to New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men.  Children are sponges and find inspiration everywhere, often zoning in on the people and things they are interested in.

A young woman from small-town Nebraska is a chameleon of sorts when it comes to what ‘type’ of woman she is… athlete, graduate student, survivor AND ‘princess’.

Miss Kearney 2017 Jessica Shultis

“I wholeheartedly believe that if you are going to do something it is essential to give 110%,” Jessica told me recently.  “I have been involved in athletics my entire life.  I believe that greatness is truly constructed when no one is looking.  It is the work that you put in behind the scenes that pays off in the long run.”

This is Jessica’s first and only year competing in the Miss Nebraska Pageant.  At 24, she’s already filled her resume with accolades from Centura High School, college at both Doane and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and now graduate school in Doane’s Masters program.  Jessica is a multi-sport athlete, qualifying for state competition as a high school student and competing as a collegiate basketball player while completing her undergrad degree.

“Basketball has always been a large part of my life,” said Jessica.  “I recall getting a Little Tikes basketball hoop for my fourth birthday and stomping around the house in my dad’s basketball shoes.  As a little girl I dreamt of being a professional basketball player.  I had the opportunity to play basketball at the youth, junior high, high school, elite and collegiate level.  I have been had the opportunity to coach high school basketball.  Through basketball, I learned the value of perseverance, positivity and teamwork.  As a little girl shooting hoops in my parents’ driveway, I never thought that one day the lessons I learned from basketball would help me overcome one of my greatest obstacles: cancer.”

Jessica describes a frustrating sophomore year of college, a time filled with countless doctors visits and tests.  Her diagnosis: her body is predisposed to form tumors, a condition Jessica says she will face for the rest of her life.

“Without basketball, I’m not sure I would have possessed the mental strength to persevere through the following year,” said Jessica.

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So when crowned Miss Kearney last fall, Jessica decided to combine the two systems that helped her face her diagnosis: basketball and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  She calls her platform ‘Hoops For Hope: Supporting Children’s Miracle Network.’

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“I am able to coach fundamental camps for today’s youth while raising funds to support an amazing cause,” said Jessica.  “All of the proceeds from the camps directly benefit the children and families at CMNH.”

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When she’s not hosting clinics in cities across Nebraska, Jessica is working on her Master’s degree, preparing to explore PhD programs in psychology. She also has two jobs;  as a mental health technician at Mental Health Crisis Center in Lincoln and as Cinderella, visiting classrooms and children throughout her community.

“I love to smile and laugh,” said Jessica.  “I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine. Moreover, I love to make other people smile because life is too short to be anything but happy and if I can be the reason someone smiles then I have done my job as a fellow human being.  My goal is to become Miss Nebraska and hopefully Miss America, to transform my statewide fundraiser into a nationwide fundraiser.  Both of these titles allow the women to reach countless people and make a significant difference in their lives, which is what I aspire to do.  The appearance opportunities also allow young women to gain confidence while promoting a cause that is important to them.  This helps young women grow and give back!”

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“The Miss America Organization is so much more than a beauty pageant,” said Jessica.  “It is a scholarship program that encourages young women to achieve greatness both personally and academically.  I want to encourage young girls to step outside their comfort zone and compete.  I will be forever thankful for this experience.”

Maybe your little girl wants to be a princess, too.  Maybe she wants to be an Olympian.  Maybe she wants to cure cancer.

The thing is.. she doesn’t have to choose.  Little girls can grow up to be women who do it all.

Miss Kearney Jessica Shultis is proof of that.

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“As I have grown up I have discovered who I am and what I want out of life,” said Jessica.  “My experiences have shaped the woman that I am today and I am extremely comfortable with myself.  In a society where media outlets constantly tell women ‘they aren’t good enough’, I believe it is essential to love yourself for who you are.”

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Click here to follow Miss Kearney 2017 Jessica Shultis on Facebook.

For more information about the Miss Kearney Pageant or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook. You can also email Directors Megan Goeke and Jenna Lukasiewitz at jenna@hellobeautifulbridal.com or call 308-7-8-0678.

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

CLICK HERE for more detailsHERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Hope McCoy

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!

Weathering The Storm

SOOOO earlier this month at work, we were on air, LIVE, as a tornado dropped out of the sky and touched down near Nehawka, Nebraska.

YEAH.  THAT HAPPENED.  CLICK HERE TO SEE FOR YOURSELF!

Bill Randby has been a meteorologist at KETV for 24 years.  I asked him after we ended our coverage.. he’s NEVER had that happen on live TV before.  Pretty astounding, considering the sheer number of storms Bill, and all Nebraska meteorologists and journalists will inevitably cover over the course of our careers.

SUMMER 2004.  HALLAM, NEBRASKA

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Photo courtesy HarkPhoto.com

This photo is so powerful.. yet doesn’t even scratch the surface of the devastation an EF-4 tornado caused this community. KETV photojournalist Bob Gillum and I drove towards the town and all we saw was a line of piles.. piles of wood pieces where a row of houses stood just one day before.  We drove as close to the town as first responders would allow, and someone had spray painted ‘Built Hallam Tough’ on a Ford truck, flipped onto its roof by the twister.  In the nearby town of Clatonia, Nebraska, Bob and I came upon another pile.. someone’s home.. where a couple and their loved ones were going through the pieces to salvage what they could.  When we asked them if we could talk to them on camera, they stood side by side, the husband draping his arm around his wife’s shoulders, to answer our questions.  After a few moments, we heard a whimpering coming from their destroyed home.. and suddenly they both bolted.

“Percy!”

Their dog was still alive, buried under the wreckage of the home.  As the man frantically pulled back boards, his friends and loved ones ran over to help.  Within moments, he scooped up a bloody and battered dog in his arms, and rushed him up a hill to someone’s car.

My guess is that Percy heard his owners’ voices, talking to us just a few feet away from where he had been buried.  I found out later the dog died just days after.  I still remember his name, and still see that row of piles in my mind when I think of Hallam, Nebraska.

The night the twister hit, Hallam native Stacy Pospisil was on stage at a dance recital.  She and her family stayed in a hotel in Crete, unable to get to their home through the flooding that followed the storm.

“It was super scary because my Dad was going to go there that night to have dinner with friends, but ended up deciding to go to my recital instead!”

This was just one of several storms Stacy and her father have faced together, inspiring this young woman to pursue a goal many only dream of.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“The most important thing to me is the relationships I have with my family and friends and I truly do want to help people achieve their own personal goals,” said Stacy, crowned Miss Kearney 2016 last fall.  “With [the Miss Nebraska Pageant], I have learned so much about myself through this journey already.”

When I contacted Stacy this Spring, she told me becoming Miss Nebraska was something she decided to pursue upon graduating from Doane College last May.  Before she even became a local titleholder, she knew what her message would be.

“I am very passionate about my platform, ‘Kiss Cancer Goodbye with Education and Research Funding’, and it is very personal to me because I know how cancer can affect one person so greatly and the ripple effect it can have on the community,” said Stacy.  “My own father had half of his kidney removed due to a cancer scare when I was 14.  Ever since that major surgery, he hasn’t been the same.”

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“I’ve seen how that surgery led to a long road of recovery that also resulted in additional health problems, endless medical bills, and without being able to work has put my family in a financial crisis,” said Stacy.  “I have also seen his self esteem and emotional health also come to near depletion.  This was so hard for me to see because my father has always been my number one fan and most positive and supportive person I [have] ever known.”

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Photo courtesy Russtana Photography

Stacy has shared her campaign and message across social media, with her Doane family, and with her friends.  She tells everyone who will listen about her dad and how badly she wants to kiss-off cancer for good.

“To think that his life might be cut short terrifies me, and that is why I want to spread awareness about how to eliminate cancer by donating to research centers and teach prevention tips to everyone I can in order to lead them to healthy and long lives,” said Stacy.  “I know we can kiss cancer goodbye in every shade of lipstick!”

Sharing her platform, and doing research to make it stronger, has also helped Stacy prepare for her next challenge.. competing to become Miss Nebraska.

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“Wearing a swimsuit (which, by the way, has terrified me for a very long time), has now become my favorite part of the competition,” said Stacy.  “I have learend so much about how to take care of the body that was a gift from God in not only the way I stayed active but also how to give my body the right nutrients it needs with healthy and substantial, nutritious foods.  I have always been passionate about staying active because I have grown up dancing, which is what my talent is, but I never truly understood how much staying active was a part of who I am.”

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Stacy on Facebook: ‘California dreaming… if I ever go missing, follow the sound of the ocean and that’s where I will be dancing my life away…’

“There are so many ways to stay active and there are so many reasons emotionally, mentally and physically to why staying active can benefit everyone,” said Stacy.  “I truly do think I can help people find ways to stay active, appreciate their bodies, and learn to love themselves.  By doing this, it would lead to ways in which we can prevent cancer and I would absolutely love to help people feel more confident in this way.”

Stacy makes appearances every month as Miss Kearney, taking part in the Team Jack Foundation Gala to fight pediatric brain cancer, raising money for Special Olympics, and meeting her fellow titleholders to help the American Heart Association.  Through these events and more, Stacy has confirmed she was destined to be a teacher, but perhaps not in the way this Early Childhood Education major thought.

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“By doing research for my platform I discovered my passion for truly helping people with their health and fitness goals,” said Stacy.  “I have recently started a new job this year at Physicians Weight Loss Center in Lincoln, a position where I can help my dad and also passionately help other people to achieve their goals in order to live their lives in a more happy and healthy way.”

That is the same success Stacy wants to inspire across the state, taking her message of wellness to as many people as possible as Miss Nebraska.

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“I’m here to wake this country up to what is really important,” said Stacy.  “I want to create a ripple effect of helping one another and the first step is to get everyone feeling less helpless in how they view themselves and to build confidence by leading a healthy life again.”

Hallam, Nebraska is back.  Nine years later, homes and businesses have been rebuilt.  They ARE ‘built Hallam tough’.  The same holds true for Stacy and her dad.  With his daughter’s guidance, he’s lost 30 pounds.. and counting.. taking back the health and happiness cancer tried to steal from him.  His biggest cheerleader will take the Miss Nebraska stage in a few short weeks, hoping to help countless others weather their own storms, whatever they may be.

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“People everywhere are looking for answers and something to believe in when diagnosed with major illnesses,” said Stacy.  I want to bring them hope and light in the darknesses that they may be facing. This is what I know I was put in this world to do and it has already been stamped on my heart.”

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Click each link to follow Miss Kearney 2016 Stacy Pospisil

on Facebook and on Instagram

For more information about the Miss Kearney/Miss Tri-Citites Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR WEBSITEFACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Directors Megan Goeke or Jenna Lukasiewitz at hello@beautifulbridal.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Dawes County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Aubree Noble!

NEXT.. Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Cherokee Purviance!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

All The World’s A Stage

I am currently experiencing a CRAZY sense of deja vu..

This week, I’m back on stage at Papillion-La Vista High School for the first time in 17 years, as a special guest in Monarch Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde the Musical.

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The choir room in this picture.. the theater filled with maroon seats.. the green room where the cast gets ready each night.. it’s all SACRED GROUND to me.  It was my home away from home while I was in high school, where I took part in plays and performances, formed my dearest friendships, and created art that I was so very proud to showcase to our community.  There was something intoxicating about theater to me.. the thrill of seeing your name on a casting sheet, the adrenaline rush when the curtain goes up, the sheer GLEE of hearing the audience applaud at the end.

Many of my fellow ‘drama nerds’ channeled that love into our current careers: my friend Joe Rohacik now teaches at PLHS, where he is also the PA announcer for the entire district.  My friend David Wenzel is now a motivational speaker booked around the country for events (CLICK HERE to read his incredible story!)  My ‘green room’ is now the KETV newsroom, and my stage is 7 Burlington Station.

For others.. performing is simply what they were destined to do.  My fellow classmates Audrey Billings and Leanne Hill-Carlson are now professional actresses in Chicago and here in Omaha.  Monarch alumni Merle Dandridge and Abbie Cobb are now on national TV, starring in shows ranging from HBO to ABC.

Tyler Rambali is somewhere in between.. constantly learning new skills to teach future performers, while fine-tuning her own talents and seeking out opportunities to perform.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I love to sing and act!” Tyler told me recently, and backed that up with an impressive resume of work, including awards with her trio, Major minor 3.

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“[We] competed in the Galaxy of Stars competition this last summer and the summer before,” said Tyler (CLICK HERE to link up to Major minor 3’s Facebook page to watch and listen to them sing!).  The group won a slew of honors their first year and the Megastar Award last summer, earning a recording session as their prize.  Tyler walked away with an additional bonus.

“That is where I met Chelsea Arnold (Miss Kool-Aid Days) and her mother, Paige, who first talked to me about competing in the Miss America system,” said Tyler.

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Tyler was crowned Miss Chadron last fall, opening up the doors for more performance opportunities across the state… not that she needs them.  She’s starred in Annie Get Your Gun, Nunsense, Lettice and Lovageas, Defying Gravity, and currently, she’s the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Tyler takes on these roles in addition to classes at McCook Community College where she is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Phi Beta Lambda, the National Association for Music Educators and Not Your Average Theatre Group.  Now as Miss Chadron, she’s also making appearances and often, trying to promote change with her personal platform ‘Reach Out and Read’.

  “Reading has become one of the least important things to my generation,” said Tyler.  “Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by integrating children’s books and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud [during] well-child visits.  I am trying to expand on this by connecting it to Children’s Miracle Network: reading to the children there, giving them books and teaching them the importance as well.  I also want to start a Reach Out and Read site in my hometown of McCook!”

It’s the part of pageants that doesn’t end up on reality TV, the service and networking opportunities that open up for these titleholders.  THAT is part of what Tyler, a pageant newcomer, hopes to show with her new title.

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Tyler painted this to symbolize her new adventure competing for Miss Nebraska.

“I wanted to try something new, and on top of that, I had a chance to make my voice heard, make a difference, and be apart of something really special,” said Tyler.  “Miss America celebrates women and empowers them and their abilities and accomplishments.  It’s purpose is to serve others, show your personal style and what you can bring to the table, provide scholarships, and help you to be successful, and that is what it has done for me!”

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Tyler also stresses the friendships she’s already made, adding to circle of loved ones she describes as the most important in her life.

“I have a huge family (over 20 first cousins on one side!),” said Tyler.  “Both of my parents served in the US Army (Dad for 20 and Mom for 7) and my brother leaves for basic training in the Navy in May, but I am so proud of him and his endeavors to be a Navy Air Rescue swimmer.  My faith in God is the BIGGEST thing in my life, and it is the only way I will be able to let my brother go off to the military.”

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Tyler adds that her mother is also one of her role models, teaching her at home from Kindergarten through her senior year.. a tie Tyler compares to ANOTHER of her role models, Miss Nebraska and then Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan.

“She has so much in common with me,” said Tyler.  “She loves to sing and act and she was home schooled.  It gives me encouragement and I know that I can do anything I can set my mind to.”

For anyone at a Nebraska high school right now, dreaming of someday being on a big time stage or on that screen in front of millions.. just LOOK at the incredible talent coming out of our state.  Omaha native Gabrielle Union.  North Bend native Marg Helgenberger.  Norfolk native Johnny Carson.

Tyler Rambali not only wants to follow their lead, she wants to be CAST as the lead in this incredible production called ‘life’.. and she’s ready to call Act I: ‘Becoming Miss Nebraska.’

“I feel that I am an extremely diverse person who can relate to so many people because I have so many different backgrounds: I am biracial, military, city girl, country girl, stage-fright-girl-turned-performer, and so much more!” said Tyler.  “I have been placed where I am, in the position I am for a reason, and I will do my very best to not squander the opportunities that God has given me to be a light for HIM.”

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Photo courtesy Chris Swasta

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Chadron 2016 Tyler Rambali on FACEBOOK

For more information about the Miss Chadron/Miss Northwest/Miss Fur Trade Days Pageant, visit their FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Directors Caitlin Rodiek and Sara Smith by email at misscnwdirectors@gmail.com.  You can also contact Caitlin Rodiek by phone at 308-207-0336.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Sugar Valley’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Courtney Pelland!

NEXT.. Miss Heartland 2016 Tosha Skinner!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Sister, Sister

I am the oldest of three, with two ‘little’ brothers.  ‘Little’, because now they could crush me if they wanted to, but in a way, I’ll still always be their big sister.

I’ve never longed for a sister, in part, because I am blessed to have such dear friends who have always filled that role for me beautifully.

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But to be a woman and have a sister must be a beautiful thing; sharing secrets, dreams, frustrations, CLOTHES.  To have their support when you need them most, and to help you fly even higher when you soar.

The young woman you’re about to meet has shared a bond with her twin sister since the moment they arrived in the world, a journey now inspiring her individually as one of the state’s most outstanding teenagers.

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MISS KEARNEY CRANE FESTIVAL’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 MERRILEE PRILL

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I was born at Children’s Hospital in Omaha as a micro preemie weighing in at 1 pound 7 ounces and I had a 10-percent chance of survival!”  Merrilee told me recently.  “At 2 years old, [my twin sister and I] were featured on the Children’s Miracle Network telethon.  So, I am Children’s Miracle Network!”

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Merrilee and her sister, Mariclaire, spent four months in the hospital as newborns.  Many deemed them miracle babies since they later only underwent surgery for ear tubes and had no other developmental problems.  This personal story inspired Merrilee’s platform of service ‘Believe the Impossible: Miracles Happen.’

“Because I have experienced this miracle in my own life, I want to inspire others to believe that miracles can happen in their own lives no matter what the circumstances,” said Merrilee.  “This piece of the Miss Nebraska system holds a very special place in my heart!”

One piece of many for not just Merrilee, but the entire Prill family.

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Merrilee’s big sister, Lianna, was Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2012, and just last year, competed for the title of Miss Nebraska (click here to read my profile of Lianna during her time as Miss Crane Festival 2014).  Merrilee’s twin, Mariclaire, was Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen 2013.

“I first got involved in the Miss Nebraska program because my sisters were titleholders,” said Merrilee.  “I experienced challenges while competing for [local titles].  Consequently, winning did not come as quickly for me as it did for my sisters.  Now as I come to the close of my reign as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen, I have been able to sharpen my public speaking and stage presence skills.  These parts of the competition used to terrify me.  Now, I comfortably speak to a crowd of insurance professionals as a keynote speaker, address a crowd of community members at an outdoor festival and convey encouragements to patients at Children’s Hospital.”

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And those visits to Children’s are among Merrilee’s favorite moments as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s OT.

“My signature project for this program has been decorating over 400 colorful place mats for patient meal trays,” said Merrilee.  “Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces during craft hours just makes my job as a titleholder so gratifying because that makes me feel like I am making an impact by encouraging them that miracles can happen in their lives as it did in mine.”

Among Merrilee’s other top memories this past year include signing nearly 400 autographs for the annual Daddy-Daughter Banquet in Kearney and spending time with her sister queen Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen (click here to to learn more about Allison!).

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“I know the importance of being a positive local role model for young girls,” said Merrilee.  “It was a bonus during my year to share this event and many others with Allison!”

Merrilee is also looking forward to connecting with a few other ‘sisters’.. her fellow outstanding teens from across the state.  She sent me this picture, taken the last time many of these girls were together, at the Crowns and Gowns weekend in North Platte.

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Merrilee striking a pose with Miss Douglas County’s OT 2015 Steffany Lien and Miss Scotts Bluff County’s OT Grace Heggem.

A year’s worth of moments and memories, all leading up to one amazing night.  So many ‘sisters’, biological or otherwise, that will no doubt be in Merrilee Prill’s mind and heart during those moments she takes the stage alone in North Platte.

“I have to say that walking in my evening gown is the most fulfilling part of the competition for me, because that’s the point when I feel the most confident and I feel like I’m on top of the world,” said Merilee.  “Very few teenagers get to do this on such an awesome stage!”

Only 11, in fact, this year.  And of those outstanding girls, one will be crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Will it be Merrilee Prill?  Just ask the once 1.5 pound miracle who defied all odds at birth; ANYTHING is possible.

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Follow Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Merrilee Prill on Instagram.

 To contact Merrilee for appearances and events, visit the Miss Kearney/Miss Tri-Cities Pageant on Facebook.

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

For more information about how to become a contestant, email Director Megan Goeke at megan@hellobeautifulbridal.com.

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

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NEXT.. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen

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