Tag Archive | miss nebraska state fair

Persistence

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

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

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

Neither did Courtney Pelland.

IMG_4245

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

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

 

 

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

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

IMG_4259

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

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

IMG_4236

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

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

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

26961753_10215223764809445_2038620431367128336_o

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

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

Tina

Photo courtesy Ben Fogletto for Press of Atlantic City

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

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

IMG_4234

Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

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

***

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

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT COURTNEY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * College Ready

CLICK HERE * 2016 * Everyday America

***

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 Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen Jade Vak

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

Meet The Fosters

When I was a green, giggly young reporter at KETV, I was blessed with an incredible opportunity to fill in anchor for our weekday morning show.  I was so nervous.. anchoring for 2 hours straight everyday?  Would people like me?  Would I screw up the energy and chemistry that was already in place?  Little did I know, I would get to work 3am РNoon everyday with some phenomenal people.

mornings

I guess when you work¬†completely whackadoodle hours your form a deeper bond than most. ¬†And those concerns I had? ¬†They all evaporated on an early morning reading a story about the Beatles, when I accidentally said ‘Sir Rob McCartney’ instead of Paul.. and my co-anchor John Oakey stepped INTO camera view to say ‘um, excuse me.. he makes you call him SIR Rob McCartney?!?! I usually just call him Rob..’

John is one of the most phenomenal people I’ve ever met. ¬†He’s HILARIOUS, talented, and incredibly devoted to his family, church and community. ¬†I will always remember seeing the interaction between John and his wife, Kristi, and how in love they still are after 25+ years of marriage. ¬†That love expanded 4-fold a few years ago.

Oakey

John and Kristi were the proud parents of two teenagers, but had been told many years ago they were unable to have anymore children. ¬†For years, they considered adoption but from where? How? They began the long process of background checks and referrals from family and friends, and one day, received a phone call: a 9-month old baby girl needed a home. ¬†They welcomed Trinity with open arms. ¬†A few months later.. another call.. Trinity’s biological mom was pregnant again. ¬†Hoping to keep the sisters together, the Oakeys welcomed Alivia, and began caring for two children 16 months or younger. ¬†This happened twice more.. and each time the Oakeys welcomed another child, first Kaleb and then Kinley. ¬†Here’s what John wrote about getting that call (again!) that Baby Kinley needed a home, too.

“Here‚Äôs the thing. How do you say No? There were countless reasons not to take her. Life was already crazy and hectic. Adding a fourth? Wow. But I was struck with the image of this girl, 18 years later, finding me and asking why I took her three siblings and not her. I did not have an answer. Except the overwhelming confirmation that we have been blessed. We are able to provide for our family. The Lord has looked after us. Now it was our time to look after this baby girl.”

This process was agonizing for the Oakey family; the fight to formally adopt was long and hard, and at one point, they were forced to return their children to their biological mother’s custody. ¬†All four are now officially OAKEYS, enrolled in school and THRIVING thanks to the incredible parents who opened their hearts and homes to them. ¬†(I encourage you to read more of the Oakey’s story on John’s fantastic blog Young Dad, Old Dad. CLICK HERE!)

Right now in Nebraska, several hundred children are waiting to be adopted.  Countless more are in need of foster homes.  A young woman from Gering, Nebraska is already planning her future foster family.. and encouraging others in her community to learn more.

Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Haylee Umble

“I have grown up around little kids; I LOVE kids,” Haylee told me recently. ¬†“My aunts and uncles used to have foster kids in their homes. ¬†I remember most of them very vividly. ¬†They are part of the family.”

Hayley attended Community Christian School and enrolled at Gering High School last fall. As she mentally prepared for both high school and the public school setting, she wanted to find a way to become active in her community and meet the friends she would go to class with everyday. ¬†She found those opportunities¬†in a local pageant that also qualified her to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April.

“I love getting out in my community,” said Haylee. ¬†“I had never really volunteered in my community much until I got my title, and I am quite sad I didn’t start earlier, yet very glad I am realizing now what an influence I can have. ¬†The girls and strong women involved in the pageant, whether they are competing, mentoring or organizing are and will always be a blessing. ¬†Getting to know them has been amazing!”

“I’ve never been shy, but I’ve never really thought that I could do very much in our community at a young age,” said Haylee. ¬†“The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant has shown me otherwise. ¬†I have the power of making an impact on kids, which are the future of our community. ¬†Being a good influence goes farther than I ever could have imagined.”

From schools to events to superhero fundraisers, Haylee has been all over Scotts Bluff County making the most of her title, hoping to show everyone she meets they are represented by a thoughtful, charismatic and fun-loving young woman who wants to build others up and help them succeed.

FB_IMG_1486184237595

“I love people,” said Haylee. ¬†“I always strive to see the best in them and then bring it out so others can see it, too. ¬†Pageants are a way for girl to build confidence in who they are and what they are capable of. ¬†The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant is very focused on giving out as many scholarships as they can, which helps us girls have a better opportunity at a great college education and therefore a great future in which we can contribute to the world.”

Haylee is also channelling that impact into the family atmosphere that helped shape the young woman she is today.

“My platform is Fostering The Future,” said Haylee. ¬†“It focuses on the need to support our local foster care families, foster care children, and the great people who work with these families and children at our Department of Health and Human Services. ¬†I want kids in foster care to be part of a family, too. ¬†I want my community to support our foster care families so the families can focus on loving the foster children in their homes.”

Families like the Oakeys, who are now raising three, little princesses who I hope grow up watching Miss America and maybe someday, walk across the Miss Nebraska stage with their proud parents in the crowd.

Oakey girls

John, if your little girls need a royal role model, Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Haylee Umble is your gal.

0203171223a

“My main goal at the pageant is not necessarily to win, but to do my very best,” said Haylee. ¬†“I want to build lasting friendships with all the girls as well. ¬†In the future, I wish to impact children as a teacher. ¬†I want to make the lasting statement on them that they matter, are special and are loved.”

***

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Haylee Umble on Facebook!

For more information about the Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant or how you can become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their website, or¬†CLICK HERE to follow on Facebook!¬† You can also email Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by emailing cengelhaupt@fnbnp.com.

***

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

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

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick

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

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!

Takin’ Care Of Business

To all of the readers who have followed my blog for awhile now, THANK YOU. ¬†And perhaps you have noticed something different here at Anchor’s Away… sponsors! ¬†I’m not in the blogging business to strike it rich, but now topping 328,000 views and counting (what?!?!), ad revenue is something I’ve aimed to explore for quite some time now. ¬†This is a new venture for me… and I’ve learned a) it’s really hard to ask someone for money and b) it’s really easy to say NO. ¬†I am so very grateful to my friends and Omaha area business owners supporting me through advertising on my blog, and I ask you to take a few moments to check out their amazing services and products on the righthand side of your screen!

This world is certainly an art to be mastered. ¬†Fiscal support is often¬†imperative to our goals and objectives in business, life…¬†and even¬†in the quest to become Miss Nebraska. ¬†Every dollar invested in our program through scholarships, cash sponsorships and donations directly benefits the young women taking part across our state. ¬†It’s a message a Papillion woman is delivering directly to as many people as¬†she can.

Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick

“My goal as a titleholder in this organization is to meet as many people as I can and to help change the stigma that comes with ‘pageantry’,” Jenni told me recently. ¬†“I strive to be kind, intelligent and passionate about serving. ¬†I hope the people I meet are left feeling that the Miss America Organization is much more than just women in swimsuits. ¬†It is also my goal to use the credibility of my crown to help in every way I am able – whether this is educating, giving my time, or just putting a smile on someone’s face.”

For this young woman, pageants are not just something that take place every few months to win a tiara for the trophy case. ¬†This is Jenni’s second Miss Nebraska local title, meaning for 13 months and counting,¬†she’s been on-the-go nonstop speaking, serving and advocating for the causes important to her.

She spent her Valentine’s Day delivering surprises to veterans. ¬†She’s delivered food to those in need on the holidays. ¬†She’s helped Shriners raise money. ¬†When I interviewed Jenni last year (click here to read more!) she told me she’d volunteered for more than 40 organizations in about four years time. ¬†Jenni did all of this while attending¬†the University of Central Missouri with a 4.0 cumulative GPA.

“The Miss America Organization has been an excellent networking tool for me but I think the biggest thing I have gained is a sense of purpose,” said Jenni. ¬†“I have a better understanding of how my words and actions influence others, which makes me more deliberate in what I say and do. ¬†I have always participated in service work, and viewed myself as a leader in my community. ¬†However, being a titleholder gives me more credibility and I feel I am able to make more of an impact.”

From the beginning, Jenni has connected with and focused on two groups in particular.. children and people with special needs.

Jenni reading

Jenni reading¬†at Autism Action Partnership’s night at the Omaha Children’s Museum. ¬†Click here to learn more!

“My platform, ‘Celebrating Abilities in the Differently Abled’ is a product of my experiences working with the special needs community for the past 10 years,” said Jenni. ¬†“I began helping the special education classroom in 8th grade as a way of getting out of PE. ¬†That class ended up being my favorite part of the day. ¬†I loved how I could escape my own worries and focus all my attention and love on someone else. ¬†Whether I’ve been a teacher, a camp counselor or working at a group home, I’ve noticed there is an emphasis on what a person with a disability can’t do. ¬†Instead, I’ve found it to be more productive to focus on their strengths. ¬†Everyone has abilities and everyone has disabilities. ¬†It makes more sense to simply appreciate a person for who they are.”

Jenni The Word day

And when it comes to kids, Jenni adores every little nugget she comes in contact with, often as her alter ego, Cinderella.

Jenni princess

“I feel that I have a unique outlook on what it really means to wear a crown because of my experience as a princess character at the Omaha Children’s Museum,” said Jenni. ¬†“When I am in a ball gown and tiara, children hang on to every word I say. ¬†One day, a mother of one of my regular visitors at the museum pulled me aside to thank me for complimenting her child’s glasses. ¬†She said at first her daughter hated the glasses, but after hearing me compliment them a few times, she thought they were great. ¬†That is when I realized how much power I had to influence a child’s life. ¬†An opportunity like this should never be wasted. ¬†I she a responsibility to use this power to teach children and make them feel special.”

Jenni will combine those passions in her chosen career; she graduated top of her class in December with a degree in Special Education.  That field has also inspired her talent for the Miss Nebraska stage, a slam poetry performance summarizing her passion for teaching.

“I am a teacher because I made a choice to be and I have a high GPA because I’m passionate about that choice so I work hard,” said Jenni. ¬†“When I present my talent, it never fails that someone comes up to me after to let me know hat my words resonated with them. ¬†People will tell me that they are a teacher too, or that their mom was a teacher for 40 years and would have loved to hear it. ¬†Performing a talent with meaning is empowering and I love how it feels to make a difference.”

It’s all about connection.. and that is where Miss Nebraska State Fair Jenni Wahonick truly shines.

Jenni Alpha Sigma Alpha

For every appearance she’s made,¬†Jenni has taken the opportunity and extended that exposure tenfold through social media, spreading her messages about inclusion, education and the value of community service and encouraging others to do the same.

Jenni veterans

Those Valentines Jenni delivered to veterans? ¬†They were supplied¬†by a local business.. one of countless¬†donations and sponsors Jenni has secured through marketing her title. ¬†Asking for help is never easy, but this gal is a flesh and blood¬†kickstarter campaign proving that when you support a Miss Nebraska contestant you’re not enabling¬†a beauty queen, you’re investing in a young woman’s¬†impact on the world.

“This organization makes me a better person. ¬†Every aspect of competition makes me a more well-rounded, healthy individual,” said Jenni. ¬†“I make healthier decisions and appreciate my body for what it can do. ¬†I take time every day to educate myself about what is going on in the world around me. ¬†I am more aware and confident of who I am, and I am better able to articulate that in a professional setting. ¬†I am excited to wake up and make a difference every day.”

In 2016, Miss Nebraska contestants were awarded $39,700 in cash awards, more than $25,000 in college scholarships offered, and more than $25,000 in gifts and services. ¬†That’s in addition to what is offered at the local level, and what Miss Nebraska is eligible for at Miss America. ¬†All of that happens thanks to incredible businesses and donors across Nebraska, selfless volunteers who bring them into our world, and incredible women like Jenni Wahonick who give them something (and someone) to believe in. ¬†She may not have an MBA (and darn proud of her Education major!) but this girl is taking care of business in her final push before taking the Miss Nebraska stage.

Jenni final

Photo courtesy Rachel Evans

“When asked which point of the Miss America Crown is my favorite, I have a really hard time deciding between service and scholarship,” Jenni wrote on Facebook last week. ¬†“As a special education teacher, I have found the most value in my life helping others. I also think scholarship is so important though. Not just getting good grades, but loving the process of learning and growth. We are so blessed to live in a country where we are provided an education. We are able to explore ideas like philosophy, art and psychology. How incredible is that? I’m so grateful for my education and the opportunities I’ve had to help others.”

***

To follow Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JENNI?

CLICK HERE * 2016 * #MonarchsForLife

For more information about the Miss Nebraska State Fair/Miss Heartland Pageant or to become a contestant, email Directors Chelsey Jungck at cjungck@statefair.org or Shelley Penner at sa_penner@hotmail.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¬†Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Haylee Umble

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!

 

True Colors

This blog comes you to from 36,000 feet up in the air.

Photojournalist Ashley Nodgaard and I left Omaha Wednesday on a bleary-eyed 5:30am flight bound for La Paz, Mexico!  Through the months of May and June, we’ll show you the mission that’s been weeks in the making for us and months, if not YEARS in the making for an Omaha team.

13010596_10156798173120023_9032004970138378647_n

CLICK HERE to see a preview of Operation: Open Hearts on KETV!

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Ashley and me to tell incredible stories.  Truly, THAT is why we both got into this business in the first place.  I think to some extent there’s an assumption about people in TV News, that we do this because we want to see ourselves on television.  I admit, the first time I reported on camera.. the first time I sat in the anchor chair for a broadcast.. those moments were exhilarating.  BUT.. that sheen wears off in time, and for MANY years now, my adrenaline rushes have come from knowing we are sharing powerful stories of things going on in our city, state, and in our world, and seeing the difference that can come from that.

I have a feeling my friend Payton Merritt is reading this, thinking ‚ÄėPreach!!‚Äô¬† She‚Äôs not a journalist, but she is a young woman trying to prove that her mission isn‚Äôt about big hair and glitter, it‚Äôs about making a difference with a powerful tool she‚Äôs been given.

12829488_10204106065610755_4274371804905662113_o

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

‚ÄúThe world is filled with need‚ÄĒI want to use the gifts that God has blessed me with to positively impact my small window of the world,‚ÄĚ Payton told me recently.¬† ‚ÄúIt was within the Miss Nebraska Organization that I found this window, and my desire to be a leader and role model for my state brought my greatest dream full circle.‚ÄĚ

12038043_10203428438870510_6339962773211720165_n

Payton will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska this June, currently Miss Nebraska State Fair 2016.¬† Complete disclosure‚Ķ I kinda love her.¬† I first met Payton when serving as a judge and then volunteer for the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant‚ÄĒPayton was our teen titleholder, then years later, crowned Miss Omaha.¬† She‚Äôs this teeny, petite, blonde, but when she sings, her voice is anything BUT petite; it‚Äôs soulful, deep.. it makes you utter ‚Äėdang!‚Äô from your seat in the audience.¬† Singing was Payton‚Äôs initial tie to the Miss America Organization, an added element to what was already a magnetic draw for a child watching on TV from home.

‚ÄúFor as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of becoming Miss America,‚ÄĚ said Payton.¬† ‚ÄúI would stand on the coffee table at our house and pretend to be on stage, waving at the audience, and singing ‚ÄėLittle Red Wagon‚Äô at the top of my lungs. (My mom says I wasn‚Äôt quite as in tune as I am today.)¬† Initially, it was about me and the pursuit of my dream.‚ÄĚ

10455922_10152456986992419_4424741347575843623_n

Payton also focused on her studies, graduating from high school a semester early and earning a nearly full-ride academic scholarship to Creighton University.  On the Miss Nebraska stage, Payton showed hundreds intelligence and confidence.  That became part of her goal this year.. to show pageant critics the depth of character and abilities so many of these titleholders represent.  (It’s worth noting the Miss America Organization has awarded tens of thousands of dollars in cash scholarships to young women focusing on STEM; science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)

‚ÄúI would tell them to look and listen far beyond the two hours of national television coverage.¬† We are a force of young women devoted and determined to make an impact within our communities,‚ÄĚ said Payton.¬† ‚ÄúThe phases of competition are representative of things beyond the surface‚ÄĒultimately our poise, discipline, intellect and depth show that we can walk the walk, talk the talk, and then put it all to music!‚ÄĚ

Payton also notes that she and the rest of the Miss Nebraska Class of 2016 are constantly seeking out ways to be visible, positive role models.  Payton and several other local titleholders recently joined Miss Nebraska Alyssa Howell to make Alyssa’s signature Miracle Bags for patients at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center; the girls then hand delivered them to those kids.

Payton, a devoted big sister to several admirers at home, has also connected to children in classrooms during school presentations, talking about her personal platform, ‚ÄėThe Political Workout: Exercising Your Right To Vote.‚Äô

993551_548937701955482_3430257197733811150_n

‚ÄúI am passionate about empowering people to utilize our most sacred right,‚ÄĚ said Payton.¬† ‚ÄúBecause of the sacrifices of many, we have been given a life of opportunity and choice.¬† I see other countries, and their battles and oppression, and know countless people would risk life and limb to live in a country in which they have the power to choose.¬† We Americans who do maintain that right, don‚Äôt exercise our greatest freedom in choosing who represents us, those who ultimately speak for us.‚ÄĚ:

Payton often shares messages and quotes on her Miss Nebraska State Fair Facebook page, encouraging people of the power and importance behind the vote.  For Payton, it’s an issue she plans to pursue long after this often divisive 2016 Presidential Election; she’s pursuing Political Science and Economics degrees at Creighton with plans to attend law school.

12743679_545980968917822_8050931973169633897_n

‚ÄúI think in part [voter apathy] can be traced back to a lack of understanding and education about our political process,‚ÄĚ said Payton.¬† ‚ÄúI want to do my part to show others how important exercising your right to vote is within a democracy.‚ÄĚ

UNDERSTANDING AND EDUCATION.¬† We at KETV have a motto‚ÄĒmore complete coverage.¬† It‚Äôs not just our catch phrase, it‚Äôs something I remind myself of when I‚Äôm tired and want to wrap up a story and move on.. is there more I could or SHOULD include?¬† Is there another angle to this?¬† At the end of the newscast, as complimentary (and sometimes not..) as it is to hear about my hair or my dress or the color of my lipstick, I want people to remember MY STORIES.. YOUR stories.¬† I want our viewers and readers to learn something new about a disease or a law or a PERSON.¬† Every time Payton Merritt performs the national anthem for the Creighton basketball or baseball games (click here to listen!), every time she dons her sparkling crown to visit a child or speak to a group, she wants to open new eyes to everything she stands for.

12473776_527630107419575_7097157825095300323_o

Photo courtesy Brown Harano Photography

‚ÄúI see the role of Miss Nebraska as one of service,‚ÄĚ Payton said.¬† ‚ÄúUltimately, I have a cause that I am dedicated to speaking to, one that is not only timely now, but maintains longevity for the democracy of our country.¬† I aim to serve God, my state, and hopefully my nation through my ability to relate to others, and through a commitment to impacting those who I encounter.¬† I am humbled by the opportunities I am blessed with, and though I am seeking a very public role, I am not seeking a personal place in the spotlight, but an opportunity to make an impact.”

***

Follow Miss Nebraska State Fair 2016 Payton Merritt

on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.  You can also contact Payton for appearances and events by emailing paytonmerritt@hotmail.com.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT PAYTON?

CLICK HERE * 2014 * Omaha! Omaha!

For more information about the Miss Heartland/Miss Nebraska State Fair Pageant, visit their WEBSITE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Chelsey Jungck at 308-382-1710 or by email at cjungck@statefair.org, or contact Director Shelly Penner at 308-520-0416 or by email at sa_penner@hotmail.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¬†Kearney’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Shelbe Stroh!

NEXT..¬†Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashlynn Haun!

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!

Cap And (Evening) Gown

We are deep into graduation season!! My dayplanner is jam-packed with party invites, cards for graduates, and gift cards. Every spare spot on my calendar is covered in scribbles with names, dates and places. ¬†I’m really not that popular.. just have lots of awesome cousins and my husband is blessed to coach some great graduating seniors. (Go Mustangs!)

High school came easy to me. ¬†I kept my head down, got good grades, and stayed CRAZY busy. (Emphasis on the crazy.) ¬†College was a completely different ball game. ¬†I flatter myself to think I’m pretty smart; doesn’t matter at that next level. ¬†You WORK for what you want. ¬†At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I experienced my first all-nighter (several of them) studying and completing projects. ¬†I spent lots of quality alone time in the basement of UNL’s Pound Hall cramming for finals all day. ¬†To this day, I still have nightmares about getting notices from university officials that there was an error and I’m short a few science credits. ¬†In reality, the¬†day came when I donned a cap and gown and walked across the stage, feeling TRULY accomplished and proud of what I’d achieved, a college degree.

Imagine the pride you’d feel, and that of your parents, if you were the FIRST in your family to experience all of this; that is what fuels¬†this young woman.

10942499_10155159624690442_2295849848379542461_n

MISS CHADRON 2015 TOSHA SKINNER

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“In August, I will be the first college graduate in my family,” said Tosha, a senior Management major, minoring in Marketing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. ¬†“I could not have done [this] without the support of my parents and the Miss America System!”

I first met Tosha last year when she was competing for Miss Nebraska as Miss Sugar Valley. ¬†(Click here to see her 2014 profile!)¬† She was EXTREMELY busy then, and still is today as a member of Delta Delta Delta (previously serving as Vice-President of Public Relations), President of Students for St. Jude, a family representative for Dance Marathon (raising money for Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center), and a member of Phi Beta Lambda.

11021093_10155235505690442_7871043454785182700_n 10425360_10155259237450442_4639240136428298455_n 1780799_10155166523630442_2988476389337464912_n

Still, Tosha made time between classes, studying, volunteering and activities to be part of our KETV Chronicle special showcasing the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014.  She was down-to-earth, conversational and well spoken. (CLICK HERE to see for yourself!)  While arguably all of those contestants and the women competing this year want to show their inner beauty, Tosha also wants to affect change on outer beauty, or at least how we all define it.

11107719_10155422312095442_2898779220299812574_n 10959452_10155150064045442_9030102535213148629_n 10689456_10155485226370442_2128136458175678531_n

“I am very fortunate to be able to promote my platform, ‘BEAUTY: Redefining the Ideal’, which focuses on the importance of a healthy body image,” said Tosha. ¬†“My goal is to never have someone struggle the way I have struggled all my life.”

Reading this caught me off guard for a moment, to think there was such sadness hiding behind this gorgeous smile. Little did I know, Tosha says her battle with depression began around the same time we met last Spring, leading to the first stages of an eating disorder.

“At the time I was preparing for Miss Nebraska, which is a terrible combination,” Tosha told me recently. ¬†“Lucky for me, my platform gave me an outlet to learn more about body image disorder and it helped with the recovery process.”

11034190_10155260093580442_4591438918908226738_n 11226924_10155556709995442_5087449711006696818_n

Tosha with Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen and Miss Gering 2015 Kaylee Carlberg & Tosha with Allison and Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen Merrilee Prill

Tosha, a¬†vocal¬†supporter of the Miss America Organization, has also been active in all facets of the program, including raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network and earning her Duke of Edinburg Award by trading her crown¬†for camping gear and a fishing pole.

“I can truly say I am a better person today because of competing in the Miss America system,” said Tosha. ¬†“I feel that as young women especially, it is hard to find your voice, and the Miss America system has given me mine. ¬†It gives all of us opportunities to work towards things we are passionate about and tell our stories to others.”

11219333_10155540695205442_4342882026561604928_n 1463015_10155451154920442_6772018514376998782_n

Tosha on Facebook: ¬†“These are the moments that make it all worth it. I remember being that little girl and wanting one day to be exactly like the “princesses”. I hope I can inspire at least one little girl, the way they inspired me.#misschadron #mao

Tosha’s story: role model, fighter, trail blazer.

11041514_10155506300455442_4959659242991162961_n

We all take different paths in life. Every now and then,¬†those roads converge at places like graduation. ¬†In just months, Tosha Skinner will stand side by side with thousands of other UNL students receiving their diplomas, but no story is quite like hers. ¬†Similarly, when this beauty walks across the Miss Nebraska stage, she may be next to 12 other incredible young women, yet they’ll all be independent and unique.

Neither journey is easy, and in the end, neither marks the end of the road. ¬†They call graduation ceremonies ‘commencement’ for a reason.. these moments mark the beginning of new paths, and new journeys out into the world. ¬†Tosha Skinner is keeping her eyes open for two signs, hopefully marking her one new journey; the college graduate embarking on her new adventure as Miss Nebraska.

10426214_10155272414365442_6727598195949138347_n

Follow Miss Chadron 2015 Tosha Skinner

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

and contact her for appearances and events on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and 

on her blog: ‘BEAUTY: Redefining The Ideal’.

For more information about the Miss Chadron pageant, click here to visit their Facebook page.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Marleta Hastings at 308-432-3847 or Director Renae Noble at 308-432-5129.  You can also email misscnwdirectors@gmail.com.

***

The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska State Fair 2015 Marie Allison

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Emma Keifer

To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‚ÄėThere She Is‚Äô link at the top of the page.

Home Of The Brave

Our national anthem is arguably, one of the toughest songs for an artist to perform.  So much range, pressure to make it your own without offending traditionalists, and most of the time, acapella.  Easy to veer off the rails, tough to swerve back on.

Lately, Miss America veterans have been REPRESENTING the stars and stripes.

Both Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson and Miss South Dakota 2008 Alex Hoffman (now KETV’s morning anchor) were selected as finalists to audition to sing at the College World Series.

CLICK HERE to listen to Megan, who will perform before the 7pm game on June 15.

CLICK HERE¬†to listen to Alex, chosen as an alternate (the same night she’ll be performing the anthem at the Miss South Dakota pageant!)

And if you’re bored (GULP!) CLICK HERE to hear MY rendition before the Nebraska & Creighton baseball game back in April… if there’s an alternate game Saturday June 20th at the¬†CWS, I get to sing, too!

The list continues.. Miss Nebraska 2011 Kayla Batt-Jacox sang in front of thousands at Werner Park this spring before the Nebraska & UNO baseball game. ¬†Miss Omaha 2014 Payton Merritt will sing at TD Ameritrade Park this weekend during the Big East baseball tournament. ¬†Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev sang before the Washington Nationals & Miami Marlins game on May 7th. ¬†We’re everywhere!

And this last weekend, a huge honor for one of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants, chosen to sing the anthem in front of thousands at her own college graduation from Creighton University.

10407866_10205819622919417_8348536873210760676_n

MISS NEBRASKA STATE FAIR 2015 MARIE ALLISON

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“Blessed to have been fortunate enough to graduate from Creighton with degrees in Philosophy and Music, summa cum laude, and to have sung the national anthem for the graduating classes of 2015,”¬†Marie posted on Facebook.¬† “It is humbling to realize the massive investment of time, the support of my wonderful family and friends, and the connections with faculty and fellow scholars that I have made throughout my Creighton experience. I may not be certain of what I desire to be in my future, but I know I am well primed to realize that truth as a process that will happen. Thank you to the people who always believe in me.”

These thoughts, showing appreciation and reflection, mirror the messages Marie sent me recently regarding the Miss America program.

“I never, EVER thought I would be a girl who competed in pageants,” Marie told me recently. ¬†“This decision changed the trajectory of my life dramatically because I learned how pageants challenge you to grow.”

11194444_10206484869110156_6623476987630311449_o 10580071_10205721231259687_58426832201999056_n 1467229_10202586803300947_1974205568_n

Marie’s first pageant exposure came through her love of horses; she was a rodeo queen. ¬†She is also a passionate equestrienne, behind the training of two national caliber show horses, and a volunteer at the Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy. ¬†Those roles, however, didn’t always put Marie in the spotlight.

“As I am an introvert, appearances were very challenging to me,” said Marie. ¬†“I was pushed outside my comfort zone to become equal to the take of being a good representative of my program.”

10494391_10204104638405876_2818029728657172735_o

Marie herself had what she calls personal stigmas about pageantry, something she confronted directly when she competed for Miss Colorado last summer.

“I became involved in the Miss America program when I realized I could be impacting real change in my community and earning scholarships to fund my education,” said Marie. ¬†“This program has made me consider what I value deeply, and the issues I feel need to be adequately addressed by our society as a whole. ¬†I have come to profoundly respect my fellow contestants as outstanding individuals and community servants. ¬†They are authentic leaders with humble confidence that lights up the world around them, providing examples that empower all youth and particularly young women.”

10362371_10206205460085105_2600182052566807589_n 11061721_10206095639939670_293343998856847904_n 11203151_10206482225284062_7964180661076838076_n

Marie¬†is a true example of that. ¬†She¬†spends time doing crafts with patients at¬†Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, she’s active with Omaha’s Urban Abbey Methodist Church and Coffee Shop, and she’s a volunteer with the Stephens Center for the homeless. ¬†Marie does all of this not because she has to, but driven by her own background.

“I chose my platform (‘Communication: Proactive Prevention’) because I would not have attended college, nor would I be the person I am today if I did not have a strong social network and people believing in me,” said Marie. ¬†“Given my personal experience with socioeconomic stress and homelessness, and how difficult these experiences were, I now that I would not have survived or thrived without the help of the communities I was involved in. ¬†It is my goal to help build meaningful relationships and communities to help others the same way people have helped me to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances.”

11156137_10206422716556381_4684683027335833731_n

Homeless.  To college.  To singing at her own graduation from Creighton University.

The words of the Star Spangled Banner are etched into every American’s heart and soul.

What so proudly we hailed..

Through the perilous fight..

O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Courage when things are tough.  Standing tall and persevering.  Being a beacon for those who may come after you.

11150425_10206550580632903_4594386478476206340_n

May 18, 2015, standing in front of her fellow Creighton University graduates, singing those words. ¬†What a special moment for a young woman who has lived her own version of the Star Spangled Banner. ¬†And the journey for Marie Allison isn’t over yet; next stop, Miss Nebraska.

1912535_10203107531798834_1052275303_n

Follow Miss Nebraska State Fair Marie Allison and contact her for appearances and events on Facebook.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Chelsey Jungck at 308-382-1710 or by email at cjungck@statefair.org.

***

The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County 2015 Alyssa Howell

NEXT.. Miss Chadron 2015 Tosha Skinner

To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‚ÄėThere She Is‚Äô link at the top of the page.