Tag Archive | miss kool-aid days

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.

Speeding

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.

official

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.

27657692_2153000128263881_8794564540982674667_n

“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!’ 

***

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.

***

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

***

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

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

Bo Knows Inspiration

Once in awhile, you meet someone that makes you want to jump higher and run faster. You meet a Bo Jackson.

Bo-Jackson-Nike

He won the Heisman… AND played baseball for Auburn. He was a #1 NFL Draft pick AND a 4th round draft pick for the Kansas City Royals. To this day, he remains the only person to be named an All-Star in both the MLB and the NFL. Bo Knows Awesome.

(Sorry, guys – Spring Training is here. Get ready for lots of baseball references!)

We are surrounded by Bo Jacksons, right here in Nebraska. I know one.. he goes by the alias Tyler Hottovy.

Hottovy 3

Tyler is a musician. He’s a church leader. He’s a proud husband and father. And as of last summer, he has been the principal of one of the largest schools in Westside, Westbrook Elementary.

Westbrook is a Title I school; a relatively high number of the students enrolled here receive free or reduced lunch. For many of them, their biggest worry every day is not homework or getting enough screen time.. it’s thinking of when they’ll eat next, or wondering how they’ll stay warm when the temperatures drop. Mr. Hottovy has made it his career mission to make school consistent, comforting, and a source of hope and opportunity for every, single child who passes through his doors.

“If they are hungry, we will feed them. If they are cold, we will make sure that they are warm,” Mr. Hottovy told me recently. “We don’t turn anyone away. We learn to support and serve the students that show up at our door and give them as many opportunities as we can.”

On the first day of school, he literally rolled out a red carpet for Westbrook students and invited Westside cheerleaders to root on kids as they walked into the building. He and Teacher Leader Amy Falcone don goofy glasses and deliver snacks by wagon, endearing themselves to their students as friends and trusted adults. Mr. Hottovy goes above and beyond to bring experiences and inspiration to his students, like the Nebraska Brass Band (of which he’s a proud member of!) His goal: to make both his students and teachers LOVE coming to school everyday. Click here to follow Mr. Hottovy on Twitter!

“My beautiful moments are when I hear adults supporting each other, recognizing the positive in kids, building meaningful relationships with students, and when I hear staff stop talking about what our kids have done and instead talk about what they will do,” said Mr. Hottovy.

It’s one thing to accept a role and fulfill your responsibilities. It takes a Bo Jackson to keep pushing, to test the limits and to do more.

Cue Nikki-Catrina.

Final TJP

Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

People think beauty queens brawl for tiaras to wave their hands and ride in convertibles. Nikki-Catrina Anderson has put her crowns and sashes through more than 1,300 hours of community service… and counting.

“One reason I love serving is the people I have met and the stories I have heard,” Nikki-Catrina recently told me. “It’s a two-way street; I’m helping people, but it is rare that I don’t leave a service opportunity enlightened and uplifted from the people I have met. Serving in my community is something I will do for the rest of my life.”

 

 

The current Miss Kool-Aid Days has jumped into ice-cold lakes to raise money for Special Olympics. She’s flipped pancakes and handed out ice cream for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. She’s spoken to schools from Scottsbluff to Kearney, walked in charity fashion shows, served food to families in need.. the list goes on and on. But Nikki-Catrina’s prime focus and favorite contribution is through an ages-old hobby and essential skill: reading.

Nikki TJP

Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

“My platform is ‘Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader’,” said Nikki-Catrina. “It is about promoting family reading and children’s literacy, sharing the importance and relevance of reading, and the bond it can create.”

From business to personal health to civic empathy.. there are endless pieces of evidence as to the positive benefits of simply reading. Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, C.S. Lewis, Maya Angelou, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis… they all agree(d) reading is the key to success. Nikki-Catrina shares their messages and puts in the time on the ground, getting books to as many children across Nebraska as possible.

Nikki books

“Last May, I did a book drive in which I collected more than 4,800 books to give to students,” said Nikki-Catrina. “I’m also privileged to partner with the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library, which has allowed me to vastly promote literacy in the community. With them, I was able to visit every elementary and preschool in the Scottsbluff Public School District to encourage 1,800 students to sign up for the summer reading program!”

Two years ago, Nikki-Catrina amplified her message and mission as a titleholder within the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program. She soon realized that crown and sash also netted her some personal rewards for her hard work.

“This has been a life-changing organization,” said Nikki-Catrina. “Even before I was old enough to compete, I was inspired by the titleholders in my community who became role models and the women I aspired to emulate. Since becoming a titleholder, I have found countless friendships with women who’s strength, determination, and stories inspire me to be better. I have developed a greater confidence and a deeper sense of who I am. I have been given opportunities to serve my community in a way I would not have been able to do without the prestige reputation of this organization. I have created large projects from beginning to end, and because of those experiences, I am now confident in my ability to continue to make great change even after I am no longer a titleholder.”

all girls TJP

Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

“I do not want to get wrapped up in the idea that this is a competition, I see this more as an experience,” said Nikki-Catrina. “A chance to get to know amazing and wonderful girls. I do not want to be the shy person I typically am in large groups; I want to get to know the girls and build relationships with them. I am surrounded by uplifting, inspiring, and friendly women. I want to make this the best experience it can be, because I am blessed to be able to have it.”

At one recent appearance, Nikki-Catrina warmly greeted a deaf family who approached her… and she communicated with them in sign language. Yup, she does that, too. THAT is the beauty this young woman has defined in the phrase ‘beauty queen’. Look at the faces of the children in these photos. Just like Tyler Hottovy’s pictures, I not only see a caring, person to devoted to making the world better, but I see sheer happiness in the children she is impacting.

People like Tyler and Nikki-Catrina are talented. They are hard working. They do it all.

They are our Bo Jacksons.

The sports legend once said, “Set your goals high and don’t stop ’til you get there.”

Tyler with suit

Tyler Hottovy has started his doctorate. He thinks about expanding his work with Title I schools, but for now: “I’m focused on making Westbrook a great place for kids.”

Nikki-Catrina hopes to work in an elementary school, too; she is studying to become a teacher, and may someday be telling her students the story of her time as Miss Nebraska.

Nikki

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I never believed in myself enough to give it a try,” said Nikki-Catrina. “[Now] I love it. This gives me the chance to grow, to be who I am, and feel I have a place.”

***

To follow Miss Kool-Aid Days Nikki-Catrina Anderson on Facebook, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NIKKI-CATRINA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Leading Through Reading

For more information about the Miss Queen City of the Plains/Miss Kool-Aid Days Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their website, or CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also emails Directors Angie Trausch at angie.trausch@gmail.com or Angela Keiser at angelakeiser@gmail.com.

***

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

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen Kiera Rhodes

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Morgan Baird

The Meaning Of Life

Guys, I’m pooped.  Not enough coffee in my house and not enough creativity in my head.  I’ve been sitting here, grasping for inspiration, and a moment outside caught my attention.. a little boy doing backflips on his trampoline.  Do you remember that?  Boundless energy.  No fear.  The adrenaline rush of trying something like a flip and boom–just doing it.  That little guy isn’t thinking about everything on his to-do list, or how nice a nap sounds right now.. he is enjoying every second of springing backward without a care in the world.

As adults, we take every moment for granted.  We don’t just jump.. we dwell on all of the reasons why we can’t; we don’t have time, we should be working, we could get hurt. But then I see things like this:

At 10:10 am on March 3, 2017, in his mamma’s arms, Trucker took his last breath here and went home to be with Jesus.💔💔💔  We prayed that his passing (and I say passing because we have hope of seeing him again in Heaven) would be peaceful, not painful and with ohana there.

This brave child, just 3 years old, died Friday after a valiant battle with cancer.  This morning, I just stared at my boys for a few seconds.  How do I ever take for granted each precious second God has given me with them? How do I think of anything but how blessed we are that we have two happy, healthy boys?

The simple answer is.. because we subconsciously have an ‘invincible’ mentality.  ‘This is so sad.. but it could never happen to me.’  We get busy with work and drama and what we think is so important, and we forget the everyday beauty that life truly is all about.  Even after 15 years of covering terrible things that DID happen to us, right here in Nebraska.. it takes moments like this to wake me up. To remind me to celebrate everything special we have and to never, ever assume the next day will happen.

“Life is too short to go one second without a smile,” I heard recently. “Whether I am having the most stressful day of my life or I am having one of the most exciting days of my life I always remember to stay positive and smile through it all.”

Miss Kool-Aid Days 2017 Krista Hinrichs

Krista is a brand new titleholder in the Miss Nebraska Organization, showcasing her own ‘live for the moment’ mantra when she signed up to compete for Miss Kool-Aid Days last summer.

“Before 2016 I don’t think I could ever picture myself gliding across a stage in a formal gown or speaking in front of hundreds people,” said Krista.  “One of my close friends, Chelsea Arnold (Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016, click here to read more) asked me if I would be interested in participating.  I always followed her journey and I thought it looked like an amazing experience.  I told myself to just go for it and see what would happen.  I was overjoyed to hear my name called as the new titleholder and it is a moment I will never forget.”

And since that night, Krista has graciously accepted and embraced every life experience that crown and sash have offered her.

“In the past few months I have had the opportunity to go to parades and perform, speak to schools about my platform and participate in so many fun events that I will cherish forever,” said Krista.  “I have been able to volunteer throughout my community and help others in need and find out more about how others live around me.  I have learned so much about communicating with others and being able to stand up in front of others and express what is important to me.  The Miss Nebraska [program] has given me more confidence than I knew I was capable of.”

krista-newsletter

Krista’s Miss Kool-Aid Days winter newsletter

Krista also knows the impact she can have on children who view her as nothing less than royalty every time she enters a classroom.  She’s used that exposure to teach kids a lesson that will be important now and long after her pageant days are done.

“My platform is Distracted Driving,” said Krista.  “[This] affects all ages and everyone has a voice when it comes to protecting the ones we love.  It is important for older ages to be informed on the dangers they have on others if they are driving while distracted.  It is also important for younger ages to understand that even though they are not driving they can always remind their parents or older siblings that they love them and they want everyone to arrive at the destination safely.”

Krista does all of this; speaking at schools, volunteering at events and advocating for important causes, while studying at Midland University, where she’s majoring in Psychology and Art Management and performing for the school’s award winning dance squad.

krista-dance

“I always remember to set goals for myself and push myself to achieve my goals one step at a time,” said Krista.  “Whether its working towards a first place award at a dance competition, achieving a high GPA or going for Miss Nebraska, everything comes in steps and each step will bring me closer to achieving my dreams.  While balancing school, dance team, family, friends and pageant events I have learned to make the balance equal between all of these activities so I can be the best I can be in each area.”

This young woman is making the most of every day, filling her life with meaningful moments while appreciating every person and experience.  Much of that she credits to self determination, compassion for others and positivity.. traits she hopes to impress upon others throughout this special year.

“I love taking any opportunity I can get to be a role model for others,” said Krista.  “This organization has allowed me to serve in a way where younger girls can look up to me and I can offer them words of encouragement and allow them to believe in themselves.”

Krista’s goals: she wants to take the feedback she receives competing and use that to improve as a person, while also supporting her fellow contestants in anyway she can. She wants to raise as much money as possible for the Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals, money that goes straight to our local hospitals and doctors finding ways to save little boys like Trucker.  (To date, she’s raised $1857) To everyone who meets Miss Kool-Aid Days 2017 Krista Hinrichs, whether it be a little girl at a parade or a someone simply looking for inspiration, she offers a reminder to live in the now and to be grateful for every minute.

“I would be honored and thrilled if I was crowned the next Miss Nebraska,” said Krista.  “I also hope to always continue to be a role model to others throughout my life and be there for others whenever they may need me.  My final goal is to always be happy and positive and enjoy every moment of this amazing experience.”

My sincere condolences to those who loved Trucker Dukes, especially his mom and dad.  My heart is broken for you, and your sweet boy is in my prayers.

trucker-2

***

To follow Miss Kool-Aid Days 2017 Krista Hinrichs on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

For more information about the Miss Kool-Aid Days Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their website, or CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also emails Directors Angie Trausch at angie.trausch@gmail.com or Angela Keiser at angelakeiser@gmail.com.

***

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.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Eastern Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Naomi Turner

NEXT.. Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Jamie Chen

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!

Good Work

So I’ve mentioned I want to write a book..

So very many of the stories I’ve covered are inspiring, emotional and powerful… often because they reflect something incredibly positive, born out of something terrible and tragic.

January 5, 2011.  I was 8 months pregnant, sluggish and FOREVER late.  That day I was running behind as usual, hoping to stop at Subway on my way to work.  I was at the stoplight at 144th and Q and one, then two, then three Omaha Police cruisers flew past me with lights and sirens blaring.  I called the KETV assignment desk to let them know something was going on, and my managing editor, Jim Reding, responded, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a shooting at Millard South, we need you here right away.’

I immediately turned my car around and sped to KETV as quickly as I could.  Within minutes, I was on the anchor desk and on air, sharing what we knew with our viewers. A young man had walked into the front office and opened fire, shooting two principals.  One of them was dead, another was critically hurt.  The teenager drove a few miles away, then shot and killed himself.

12400723_10154467066807306_5715701494276042041_n

Millard South student Kyler Erickson heard and saw it all.  He hid in a bathroom, called 911, and waited.  No one should be witness to a nightmare like this; Kyler was as a teenager.  Still, he refused to let that horror take him down, despite the nightmares and grief that followed.  With therapy and sheer inner strength, Kyler healed emotionally and grew physically, attending the University of Nebraska Omaha to play Division 1 Basketball.  He began to share his story, meeting with everyone from veterans suffering from PTSD to other students.  This year, Kyler was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team, recognized at the 2016 Final Four tournament, one of only five student athletes nationwide.  This dude is simply AWESOME.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Kyler’s incredible journey from KETV’s Matt Lothrop.

Kyler’s loved ones are among those most proud of this young man, including his longtime friends from Millard South…

12768382_10154045725544954_1761044331874904110_o

..friends who were there in full force at Kyler’s final game with UNO.  The girl in the beige and black sweater is LaRissa McKean.

“He’s so inspiring,” LaRissa told me recently.  She too was at Millard South that day, in AP Economics class.  And much like her friend Kyler, she’s devoted much of her time and focus on simply trying to make the world a better place.

12711119_10154028535559954_2838773612485285297_o

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“The best compliment I received was from a sorority sister.  She anonymously left me a note saying ‘you make people feel good about themselves,'” said LaRissa.  “That statement is what motivates me daily to make an impact on someone’s life.”

I first met LaRissa last summer at the Miss Nebraska Pageant; she left her mark on most, if not all of the audience and her fellow contestants.  This girl is SHEER JOY.. she lights up a room with her smile and personality, and radiates energy and glee the second she steps on stage. LaRissa was also voted Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants.

12247880_10153828839024954_3407192905820610597_o

That beautiful smile shows LaRissa’s inner spirit… but so does THIS.

Hilarious.  Carefree.  So many women in pageants, business and LIFE are afraid to let their guard down, so afraid of what people will think about them.  LaRissa knows who she is and OWNS it.  You can just tell she LOVES life, and everyone around her smiles and lets THEIR guard down because of it.

LaRissa will compete at Miss Nebraska again this year as Miss Gering 2016.  Her personal platform of service is called ‘Feel The Difference: Empowerment Through Communication.’

“[It’s] based on Maya Angelou’s quote, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’  I will leave a legacy where I make people feel inspired and willing to take the act of listening through conversation to better the lives around them.”

LaRissa has all kinds of opportunities to communicate.. the girl is surrounded by people CONSTANTLY.  A University of Kansas graduate specialized in Accounting and Human Resources, LaRissa currently works three jobs; she’s a Head Instructor of summer high school/college dance camps with Universal Dance Association, she’s a full-time educator with Lululemon, and she’s a substitute paraprofessional in the district where she grew up, Millard Public Schools.  She volunteers every week with local 4th graders, helping them catch up on homework and answering questions.  LaRissa also takes part frequently at charity events, doing what she can to help as Miss Gering.

THEN.. there’s dance, a constant in LaRissa’s life for many years.

“I have judged the State Dance Competition for the last three years along with other local high school competitions and college regional competitions for the NAIA Nationals,” said LaRissa, who learned at and competed with Kitty Lee Dance, a place she still practices and volunteers.  “One of my biggest role models was Miss Kitty.  Not only did she instill my love for dance, she taught me to be stronger and never think you can’t improve.  She raised me in the studio and I can’t thank her enough for whacking my leg with a ruler to get my knees straight.  She was the first one to correct me in every dance class but also the first to congratulate me on a performance well done.  Even with her gone, I know she is watching every class and performance, smiling that her passion lives inside of me.”

11266503_10153467206839954_440277046882975953_n

Talent is LaRissa’s favorite part of the Miss Nebraska Pageant; she plans to combine her love of comedy and dance to present a musical theater piece with ‘an element of surprise’ this year.

“Not only does [talent] set our system apart from others, it is truly beautiful to see all the contestants show their art to the world,” said LaRissa.  “I love watching the contestants light up the floor with their interests and show a piece of themselves to everyone.  The emotion that can be portrayed in 90 seconds gives me goosebumps and really shows the uniqueness of every competitor.”

12096031_10153771687579954_7798997698585801305_n

That’s one of the things LaRissa hopes to share with pageant naysayers.. to learn more about the women who take part before forming an opinion.

“I remember going to pageants as a young girl and telling my mom I couldn’t wait to be as pretty or as talented as the women that compete for Miss Nebraska,” said LaRissa.  “The majority of people who compete are varsity athletes in their schools, Honor Roll recipients, and leaders in their community.  They are some of the most respected people and receive more credit for being mentors to people all across the nation.”

12235069_1003674453031830_1580178002627350191_n

LaRissa adds that every woman she knows who’s taken part in this system has made a difference in someone’s life.. and that she became a leader because of it.  She describes the title of Miss Nebraska as a job she’s applying for that could give her a year of memories she can only imagine.  BUT.. in the swirl of glamour and costumes and performances, LaRissa hasn’t lost focus of her values and priorities; her family, including grandparents Pampy and Nana who she spends several hours with every week.  Education, through both mentoring students and planning ahead to obtain a Masters Degree.  Love, and her love of people.. simply spending time with those who matter most, friends like Kyler Erickson.

No one would have faulted Kyler for never talking about that day again, for withdrawing from everything to process what happened, for moving thousands of miles away from Omaha to escape everything and start fresh.  Instead, this guy confronted his demons, defeated them, then stayed and shared his journey to help others still battling.  LaRissa McKean’s story doesn’t stem from tragedy and horror but is inspiring nonetheless.. a young woman using her gifts and positive attitude to simply do good work in our world.

Loren winkler

Photo courtesy  Loren C Winkler Images

“At the end of the day, I look in the mirror, washing off my makeup and think it would be amazing to be Miss Nebraska 2016, but I would rather be known as LaRissa who became Miss Nebraska because of the person I am,” said LaRissa.  “I’m an honest person, who gives my opinion respectively.  I won’t change my values or morals because of a title, I will continue to grow and live a life I treasure.  At the end of the day, I will still be LaRissa McKean forever.”

I think they call this perspective.  Maybe it’s what she saw Kyler go through.  Maybe it’s been the lesser challenges she, like the rest of us, go through.  No matter where the drive comes from.. imagine what life could be like if we all strived to do good work to help each other, and in turn, found peace and joy within ourselves.

Kyler Erickson is available to speak at events; CLICK HERE for details and to learn more about his story.

***

Click on each link below to follow Miss Gering 2016 LaRissa McKean

on FACEBOOK and on INSTAGRAM.  You an also email LaRissa for appearances and events at larissamckean@gmail.com.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT LaRISSA?

2015 * Sleepless Beauty

For more information about the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Heather Hayes by phone at 307-340-0601, or by email at Heather.Hayes@chartercom.com.

***

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.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashlynn Haun!

NEXT.. Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Shaniah Freeseman!

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.

Cdr6zevUIAAfLwm

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.

12832359_478418515692561_6744862319749783981_n

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.

10511188_10202740610372783_6197113504755640072_n

“[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.

12088555_433536043514142_6547427479322324694_n

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.

12507613_458372867697126_7538336578204517203_n

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!”

12310587_10205308430286676_5603783307536721988_n

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.”

12079446_10205065023681663_546934502975760452_n

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.”

11223689_10204274986051216_8003804126834410799_n

Photo courtesy Chris Swasta

***

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.

***

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.

***

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!

Top Of The Class

What do you think of when you hear the word SCHOOL?

school

This?

maxresdefault

This?

Maybe even this?

9765c8b7b591bbeb3c2a053300a1d5bc_400x1000

(Disclaimer.. this is actually what I first thought of about the word ‘school’.. getting totally, embarassingly defeated at something.  Morpheus and the Matrix were just an added bonus that made me laugh..)

WELL.. now that I’ve hit my NERD quota for 2016, I’ll get to my point… SCHOOL.  The word, and the issue, are anything BUT simply defined these days.  College education is highly debated issue in the current presidential campaign.  School bond issues are often top stories in our newscasts.  Just within the last few weeks, charter schools again resurfaced as a hot topic in Nebraska. (Click here to learn more about the new statewide initiative in reporter Kristyna Engdahl’s story on KETV.)

However you want to define school, Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016 Chelsea Arnold is willing to listen.

12814055_1759336367612176_2341106316711372856_n

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Even before my involvement in the Miss America Organization, I was very vocal about how important it is for students to individualize their education plans,” Chelsea told me recently.  “I’ve been a student at many different kinds of schools (charter, online, public, home, private) and have witnessed firsthand how important it is to be an advocate for your own education.”

That message has also been Chelsea’s personal platform of service, both as a teen titleholder (click here to read more!) and now as Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016.  She says ‘The 4 Learning Languages’ focuses on the four main types of learning and teaching study habits.  Working with students of all ages is a passion for Chelsea, who also volunteers with the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, including Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Travelling to Omaha is no big deal for the Lincoln Southwest senior; she’s visited 48 of our 50 states (one of those trips–an Alaskan cruise right before Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen two years ago, click here to read more!).  In addition to being a student and MAO titleholder, Chelsea also models for clients like the Omaha Bridal Fair and Oriental Trading Company.

Still, Nebraska is where the Crete native wants to be, planning to attend the University of Nebraska – Lincoln next fall to double major in broadcasting and communications, inspired and humbled by her own family.

12063875_1094617100548445_579363334021268994_n

Her grandfather, Wayne Drummond, is the Emeritus Dean and a Professor of Architecture at UNL with nearly 40 years of professional and academic experience.

“My role model is my grandfather, ‘Poppy’,” said Chelsea.  “I have never met anyone who has been so successful in their chosen profession while still making their family their number one priority.  I admire his patience, kindness, and integrity.  He has told me many times, ‘always be honest and do what is right,’ and I hope to be as successful in my career as he has been following that mantra!”

11750639_1054441307899358_67840349686637621_n

 Chelsea’s mom has also had a huge impact; as a former Miss Alabama contestant, she introduced her daughter to the Miss America Organization.

“I love to sing and it was an opportunity to be on stage,” said Chelsea.  “I have benefited from the Miss Nebraska Organization more than I could ever put into words.  It has truly pushed me to be the best version of myself, and I will always be thankful for that.”

And to those who criticize the Miss America Organization or pageantry in general, Chelsea Arnold has a quick lesson..

12660406_1161296973880457_1681609410_n

This..

11147869_1038627746147381_3978182555220446467_n.jpg

This.. and this.

12522910_1146787751998046_2264894747894458938_n

“It is SO much more than what [we’re] saying on stage,” said Chelsea.  “It is not about objectifying women, physical appearance, or hairspray.  It’s about women who are given a platform to speak their mind and further their education and careers.  Getting that many successful women in one place in incredibly empowering.”

THIS is the class Chelsea Arnold is a part of right now.. the Miss Nebraska Pageant Class of 2016.  She wants to take what she’s learned as Miss Kool-Aid Days and educate others as she moves forward, hoping to visit schools of all kinds with a new title: Miss Nebraska 2016.

Cev-gw0C

Photo courtesy Ali Marie Photography

***

CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016 Chelsea Arnold

on FACEBOOK, on TWITTER, on INSTAGRAM

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHELSEA?

CLICK HERE * 2015 * A Beauty Queen’s Bucket List

CLICK HERE * 2014 * Nebraska’s Outstanding Teens

For more information about the Miss Kool-Aid Days Scholarship Pageant, visit THEIR WEBSITE or  FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Angie Trausch at (402) 984-2690 or angie.trausch@gmail.com, or contact Director Angela Keiser at (402) 578-8621 or angelakeiser@gmail.com.

***

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.

***

PREVIOUS.. Special Feature, Miss Nebraska USA 2016 Sarah Hollins!

NEXT.. Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Grace Heggem!

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!

ROAR

Well, HELLO!!!!! Long time no post! As always, THANK YOU for reading the blog!

I have been ‘off the grid’ for most of the month of June.  Vacation, time with family, heaven at home.

IT HAS BEEN FABULOUS!

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, step back, close your eyes and BE.  I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and reminded of who I am.  GO OFF THE GRID! IT’S GREAT!  Even if just for a few days.

Before my amazing time at home with the three men in my life (four, if you count our dog, Mack), my hiatus began with a long awaited trip to North Platte, Nebraska.

MISS NEBRASKA 2015.

11424461_1667335490165038_1732359934618830364_n

Photo courtesy of Corbey Dorsey for the North Platte Telegraph; click here to read the NPT’s wonderful article on Alyssa by reporter Kamie Stephen!

After seven days of rehearsals and events, four days of nerve-wracking competition, a lot of laughs and some tears, too.. Miss Douglas County Alyssa Howell was crowned Miss Nebraska 2015.  What an INCREDIBLE moment to cap off a wonderful week for this caring, young woman.  Alyssa has dedicated so much of her time to others.  She is sweet, kind, hard working and focused.  For five years, she also watched her big sister compete at both the Miss Iowa and Miss Nebraska pageant, finishing as a finalist multiple times.

THIS MOMENT WAS ALL ALYSSA.  SHE WILL NOW FOREVER BE MISS NEBRASKA.

22396_871139626281329_3462163964733806682_n 1424493_871830892878869_6377259748978629830_n 10641085_871746456220646_6933829812333264095_n 11169402_874429055952386_4704679366055369864_n 11350476_871113499617275_6486011756191348337_n 11377217_871139919614633_1478749432335656428_n 11402909_872023272859631_6571225368431080310_o 11406594_872562942805664_8859651553213680121_n 11407319_874429195952372_1211355176790995046_n 11536110_874428362619122_2394524877527121349_n

So many cool moments; the kids who just LOVED Alyssa, including her Little Sisters who took part in all of the Miss Nebraska events at her side, and the little boy who not only wanted one kiss, he circled around for a second.  Alyssa’s real boyfriend, Grady, and his excitement and sheer pride every moment leading up to his girl’s crowning moment.  Shrieks of joy between Alyssa and the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien; the two have been Miss Douglas County sisters for months, now they are going to Miss America together.  And the heartwarming friendship and bond between Alyssa and her sister queen Miss Omaha Megan Gould, supporting each other from Omaha to North Platte and still to this day.

But.. I’m going to throw this out there.. was Alyssa ‘the best’?

11425078_817246344997512_713591516705215789_n

How do you choose which flower is ‘the best’ in the garden?  Which city is ‘the best’ in our state?  Which art, whether it be singing or dancing or playing piano, is ‘the best’?  Alyssa will be a FANTASTIC Miss Nebraska and I cannot WAIT to see how far she’ll go at Miss America.  This is Alyssa’s time; this is the result of her hard work; this recognizes an exceptional young woman, helping her to inspire so many more; and five smart, talented, and critical judges determined Alyssa Howell was the best candidate for this job as Miss Nebraska 2015.

The best of the best, you might say.. because HOLY CRAP, did this event showcase some absolutely incredible women in our state.

4th Runner Up, Miss Northwest LaRissa McKean

JOYFUL.  LaRissa McKean radiated happiness, and made everyone in the Miss Nebraska audience feel it.  She also shared that positivity with her fellow contestants, voted Miss Congeniality by the majority of the other titleholders.  LaRissa CAPTIVATED the audience Thursday night, winning the Preliminary Talent Award with an energetic and dazzling dance (another Kitty Lee Dance graduate!)  As I told one of my friends during finals night, she JUST MAKES ME SMILE.  What a better role model than that?

10465261_10153363761894717_2260100376109127566_o

3rd Runner Up, Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux

BREATHTAKING.  I love watching dance, but don’t know much about it (and hurt myself trying.) I know even less about ballet, but I LOVE the costumes, the makeup, the SHOW.  And boy, oh boy, did Steffani Jiroux deliver.

11406539_905672729478438_1216888943444887985_n

Just stop and look at this picture for a second.. (and thanks to Kamie Stephen and the North Platte Telegraph for sharing it!)

It was like watching a scene from a movie. Steffani also seemed to enjoy herself every moment; smiling nonstop, walking across that stage like she OWNED it, twirling around her Little Sisters like they were just dancing in the living room and not competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.  What’s next for Steffani? Continuing LAW SCHOOL at Creighton University.

2nd Runner Up, Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann

SENSATIONAL.  Miss Nebraska and Miss America challenge a woman to become the best version of herself in all areas, and Brooke Ludemann pushed herself to the max in every. single. test.  Her gown made me gasp (in a good way!); her answers showed evidence of a woman with a business plan as Miss Nebraska; her physical self was a demonstration of what our bodies can become with hard work and discipline, and her talent.. I have no words.  On the final night of competition, with everything on the line, Brooke’s performance singing ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables game me CHILLS.  Brooke won 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, and she will be Nebraska’s representative at the National Sweetheart Pageant this summer.

11406163_10202980350468496_2149197652179894276_o

1st Runner Up, Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen

JAW DROPPING.  Every time Allison Tietjen walked on stage, my eyes were just DRAWN to her.  (In a completely uncreepy way, regardless of how that sounds…) She is the model of poise, grace, and beauty.  Allison could’ve walked right off the Miss Nebraska stage onto Hollywood’s red carpet and fit right in. BUT, what I love is that Allison knows, and SHOWS, this program’s power and purpose extends long beyond Miss Nebraska week.  Allison’s work promoting awareness of our veterans earned her the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award and the Miss America Community Service Award; she also earned the Miracle Maker Award for raising more than $1300 for the Children’s Miracle Network, helping hospitals like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.  Oh yea, and Allison JUST TURNED 19 in April.  Truly exceptional.

I would argue not one of these women is ‘better’ than the other; each is SENSATIONAL.  They each prepared, volunteered, practiced.. hoping THIS was their year, and their time.  It was only destiny for one–and Alyssa is FABULOUS.  But this is why you see so many girls try again for the crown.. and thank the Lord for that, because they are all deserving, INCREDIBLE women, and bringing them together to recognize them and their accomplishments is uplifting and inspiring to everyone who can be part of it.  WE ARE WOMEN, HEAR US ROAR!!!!

***

Now to the moment I know you all have been waiting for…

The 2nd Annual Brandi Petersen Unofficial Superfan Awards!

( ahem… I’ll wait for your laughter to die down before I proceed..)

The ‘My Life Goal Is To Look Like Carrie Underwood’ Awards…

Again.. the work and service that take place the other 364 days of the year are arguably the most important part of the Miss America Organization.. but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the gowns!!  C’mon.. from dreaming of your wedding gown, to picking out prom dresses, to playing dress up as a little girl, who DOESN’T love beautiful dresses?!? 2015 was simply a RAINBOW of color on the Miss Nebraska stage, and THAT alone made it awesome.  So much diversity; different colors, styles, fits.. and so much elegance!

18617_10202980382909307_821612036163868962_n

Remember how I said Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann’s gown made me gasp?  GASP!!!  OHHH.. this dress.. this moment.. absolutely INCREDIBLE. (Details: Tarik Ediz gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln)

11312670_10153363719524717_235579917640736749_o

Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen.. ANOTHER gown that stole my breath.  Just STUNNING.  (Details: custom Sherri Hill gown from the Winning Crown Boutique in Omaha)

11391354_736720879806500_1334970181652682476_n

And boy, those Kearney Crane Festival Directors KNOW THEIR STYLE.. because Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen was possibly MY FAVORITE gown of the weekend!  There was just something so very special about Merrilee Prill when she walked on stage in this dress.  The color, the style, HOW she wore it.  I LOVED IT. ( Details: Jovani Fashions gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln–thanks to owner Joe Bohac for the photo!)

11415466_845070792225462_4715499471754087924_o

Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen Cherokee Purviance.. what a GORGEOUS choice for her gown!  On stage, this color and the sparkle were just RADIANT.  (Details: a Mac Duggal gown from Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe in North Platte–thanks to them for the photo!)

The ‘Holy Crap, Petersen, Put Down That Blizzard’ Awards..

I’d like to show you my reaction to this year’s Miss contestants competing in swimsuit.

enhanced-buzz-29413-1378495673-3

My thanks to Taylor Swift for the assist.

ABSOLUTELY SENSATIONAL.  This year EXEMPLIFIED that Lifestyle and Fitness is just that–this competition is intended to encourage women to treat their bodies like temples and reach their full physical potential.  AND THESE WOMEN DID.  Abs, biceps, quads for days. This wasn’t about starving, or being the skinniest.  You could SEE their work; the time they spent in the gym and the time they DIDN’T spend at their local fast food spot.

11417774_10153363788699717_8412475752011061570_o

Miss Omaha Megan Gould was my winner for swimsuit.  I know this girl puts in countless hours of dance and practice as a Nebraska Cornhusker cheerleader, and WOW-did that hard work show!!  Plus Megan was just SOO confident, not conceited in the least, just wonderfully comfortable in her own skin.  You go, Megan!

1907543_905687206143657_8262410826092817313_n

Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux.  This is her profile picture now on Facebook (taken by Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph), and to me, that’s using restraint.  If I looked like this, I’d make a cardboard cutout of myself to greet people at my front door.  THIS is what happens with 20 years of ballet training and several more as a member of the Creighton University dance team!

11393336_10153363788604717_7910429993041322666_o

Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen was the Overall Swimsuit Winner at Miss Nebraska this year, and here’s why!  Another absolutely radiant moment in red for the UNL sophomore, and in case you’re wondering, she’s a piano player.. so what you see is the result of sheer hours in the gym and dedication to nutrition!

11312784_10153363756944717_1347043052005932044_o

And Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann.  Just.. WOW.  MUSCLE ON MUSCLE WITH MUSCLE.  When I messaged Brooke about using this photo, she responded ‘I’m darn proud of those photos!’  AS SHE SHOULD BE!! AH-MAZ-ING!!

STRENGTH, POWER, HEALTH. Are you listening, America? I just read this morning there are more clinically obese people in our country than simply overweight Americans.  Heart disease remains a leading killer.  These women exercised and ate healthy with consistency and self discipline for months, and likely formed a foundation to continue to do so to some extent.  Long after that 10 second walk across stage in a swimsuit, their health is improved, their confidence is boosted, and they’ve empowered and inspired many others. (I’M AT THE TOP OF THAT LIST!) Ladies, you should be so very proud of yourselves.

The Nebraska’s Got Talent Awards..

MY WINNERS FOR TALENT: THIS YEAR’S MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN CONTESTANTS.

BLOWN AWAY.

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to the other young woman who wrapped up this weekend in North Platte with a state title..

11391321_706034459519932_7737170789847360990_n

Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien is now Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015!  (A 3-peat for Omaha titleholders!)  While Steffany shined all night at the competition, SHE OWNED talent.  America, watch out; when this girl competes for the national title in Orlando this July, she will STUN YOU!

CLICK HERE to see a preview, showing Steffany competing at the World Championships in Italy in April, winning her SIXTH world title.

Steffany does things with a baton that challenge the Laws of Gravity and Physics.  Not only have I never seen her drop a baton in competition, I’ve never seen the girl even ‘almost’ drop one in rehearsal.  She is SENSATIONAL!

Nebraska’s 10th Outstanding Teen was one of several incredibly talented young teenagers who competed in North Platte this year.  Piano players, singers, dancers.. these girls are so young they can’t vote, but they knocked the socks off everyone in the audience Friday night.

Among my favorites (along with Steffany, of course!)..

11401569_894956907227271_5136888123483408894_n

..singer Emma Kate Brown, Miss Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen.  There’s a reason why little girls love her.. because someday she will be the voice of a princess in a Disney movie.  That’s how I described her voice to my husband.  Emma Kate sang ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story and her innate vocal talent is just BEAUTIFUL.  I’m calling it now.. the next animated blockbuster you take your kids to, you will likely hear Emma Kate in the soundtrack! (And a huge CONGRATULATIONS to this beauty as well!  Less than two weeks after being named 2nd Runner Up at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, the Elkhorn South student was also named Nebraska’s Best High School Actress, winning an all-expenses paid trip to New York to compete for the National Award!!)

11337079_10204281192531938_6223047804027148537_o

Grace Heggem, Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen, was dazzling from start to finish.  She played Tarantella on the piano, her fingers dancing across the keys at the speed of light, and she NAILED it.  Much like ballet, I know nothing about piano, but I can hear a bad note… and I didn’t hear one off-key when Grace performed.  Incredible!

11401031_847419771979783_6935144355842316472_n

Emma Keifer, Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen, was just a joy to watch.  I felt like I was watching an act from So You Think You Can Dance (and you all know what a freak I am about that show!!) Emma tapped.. up and down STAIRS.  Her energy was just OFF THE CHARTS.  Emma, you would’ve made Nigel proud!

And finally, though she wasn’t competing for a title, this performance was MY FAVORITE TALENT PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK..

11427246_473277716168989_1997538885131275466_n

THE WATER CUPS DANCE.  Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen, performing the same dance her mother Jodi did as Miss Nebraska 1988 at the Miss America pageant that year.  Balancing three cups of water on her hands and forehead, Morgan bent backward, forward, down into splits, up from splits… all without spilling a drop.  You could’ve heard a PIN drop in the auditorium, as hundreds of us collectively held our breath through this performance.  ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE..  just like Morgan.  Many of us shed tears as she took her final walk as our state titleholder.. mine started to fall as her proud daddy, Brad, handed her a bouquet of flowers at the bottom of the Miss Nebraska stage.  The sky is the limit for this young woman–you WILL see her again.

The Brittany Jeffers Awards for Super Awesomeness

We all have someone we just ADMIRE.. their style, their confidence, just because THEY ARE AWESOME.  Some of mine: one of my best friends Jenni Rohacik who always looks so good she could host E!, my neighbor Brittni Madden who can take a picture off Pinterest and make a project look like it cost thousands of dollars.. and my fellow anchor/reporter/forever Miss Omaha Brittany Jeffers-Hannema, who I swear is fabulous, in every way possible, 24/7.  (And now that I’ve declared my obsession with these ladies.. they may all be working on protection orders..) THESE GIRLS ARE JUST AWESOME!  Brittany gets the award named after her because she had to work rather than attend the Miss Nebraska pageant this year.. she may have been on air in Oklahoma, but her heart was in North Platte!

Two young ladies made a huge impression on me this year.. two teens who I didn’t know prior to this year’s pageant.

11391770_1588698231400445_2737169950825112891_n

Shelby Blundell, Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen, was the youngest and tiniest of ALL of this year’s contestants, Miss and Teen.  She was also Contestant #1 in the competition, a tough draw; you set the bar for the judges, you are the first contestant both that panel and the audience will see.  Shelby rose to the challenge, nailing her song in talent, and impressing the hell out of me during her on stage question.  Shelby was asked a very tough question, whether LGBTQ issues should be discussed at school in the classroom or in group/activity settings, or if those topics are best left for family and group discussion outside of school.  Without hesitation, tiny Shelby answered confidently and quickly, sharing her opinions without pause.  That’s a tough issue for politicians and public leaders to address, and often we see adults avoiding giving a clear answer.  This young woman tackled the issue head on, and agree with her or not, it was refreshing to see such a young person stand tall and share her opinion.

11430274_473278932835534_4847251336903548559_n

I was also SO very impressed with Allison Baird, Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  For the second year in a row, Allison was named 1st Runner Up in the teen competition.  I’ve touched on this before.. as exhilarating as it is to hear your name called as a new titleholder.. it is incredibly disappointing when all of that work does not result in that win.  Allison’s now been through that twice.. coming ever so close both times.  BUT.. the moment that curtain closed after Steffany was crowned, when the spotlights were off and no one was watching her (except me, the nosy emcee/reporter backstage), Allison was the first one to smile and hug Steffany.  She was also the first to hug Morgan last year–and not just the cordial ‘arm around her, pat pat pat’ hug.. but a genuine embrace, wishing a friend well.  It’s the moments you think no one is looking when your true character is revealed.  Allison Baird is an exceptional young lady.  A gorgeous voice.  Mature and smart.  Beautiful.  And in those moments, when I can only imagine how her heart was breaking, she showed class and selflessness, to celebrate Steffany’s moment.  That’s something you don’t often see in adults, let alone a young woman just entering her senior year of high school.  Again, these competitions are not about choosing ‘who is the best’, but who is right for the position at that exact moment in time.  YOU ARE A WINNER, ALLISON.. your future is so very bright.

CGxl43RUIAAeJ48

So did you pick up on that ’emcee/reporter’ note?  I had the GREAT honor of co-emceeing this year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant with this beauty, my final Awesomeness Award Winner, Jessica States!  A) She can sing REALLY well  B) She’s a born leader, holding a respected position with Junior Achievement of Lincoln  C) She was THE FIRST Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2005!

AND, she was SUCH A GREAT co-host!!!  We had such a terrific time, and I hope the audience did, too!  (And thank you to Joe Bohac and the Black Swan Dress Boutique for providing our gorgeous gowns for the evening!)

11130398_784217616105_8809027466563427599_o

#MNOT2015.  Trending.

***

What a terrific, empowering week of incredible women and the people who support them.

14370_10153389106457442_1405902180609126356_n  11350596_10155648181705072_5453830911084697279_n 11390214_871831592878799_7220766397161898872_n 11390269_473277769502317_7521392733432612489_n 1521734_654873567947978_8042578823242700993_n 11391113_10204532537456338_9024392395364646660_n 11391412_871831712878787_506003047851296077_n 11391535_1155331577825913_5638123017206844563_n 11406806_880200825351734_3424976498725734520_n CGx6qeBUgAArn0M

I enjoyed every single moment, and CAN’T WAIT until next year to do it all over again!  AND, I NEED to mention what these girls took away from Miss Nebraska (in addition to their own memories..)

MORE THAN $42,800 IN CASH AWARDS

AND MORE THAN $400,455 IN OFFERED COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS.

But hey, it’s just a silly scholarship pageant, right?

***

One final message to wrap up this post, and this year’s 2015 Miss Nebraska series..

11393003_871831689545456_9214018070855425117_n

I was SO very honored and humbled to receive this year’s Miss Nebraska Volunteer of the Year Award.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all of you who have read these blogs and offered your congratulations.  I’m still mystified and elated that so many people check in to read my work, and to receive such an incredible honor for it is just a thrill.  THANK YOU.

To all 24 of the young ladies who competed in North Platte, YOU EMPOWER ME. You are the future of our state, and our country, and that makes me so very proud.  CONGRATULATIONS Alyssa, Steffany, and every young woman taking a chance to set an example, be a role model, and to just SPARKLE.

No matter what you do next, crown or not, go out into the world and continue to ROAR.

***

 Click here to learn more about the Miss Nebraska Organization, and the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.  You can also visit Miss Nebraska on Facebook, follow the pageant on Twitter, and follow the pageant on Instagram.

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