Tag Archive | miss nebraska

Edge Of Glory

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

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

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SHELBY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Just The Way You Are

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

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

PREVIOUS.. Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen Jadyn Wetherington

Little Girls With Big Dreams

You can tell a lot about a person by scrolling through their Facebook feed. Mine is filled with pics of my kids, a shout out for Autism Awareness, a screen grab about baseball, and a #ThrowbackThursday pic to my bff and fellow TV-retiree John Campbell. I’m a woman who loves her babies, promoting causes close to my heart, I am obsessed with baseball and I LOVE looking back at memories that still make me laugh.

Yes, I get that social media can be dangerous and scary.. but it can also be inspiring and encouraging. Like it or not, it’s something our current generation has grown up with and the question is not whether or not they’ll use it, it’s HOW can we ensure they use to wisely and positively.

Example: a teenager in Hastings is already painting a beautiful portrait of herself through snapshots and posts. No questionable images or shake-your-head moments.. but moments showcasing her achievements, service, and friends. She is a young woman who, for years, has been looking up to Nebraska’s best and brightest, who all happened to wear crowns.

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That’s Olivia Terwey on the left. When this photo was taken, she was in the 3rd grade, and Little Sister to Miss Northwest Megan Dimmitt at the 2013 Miss Nebraska Pageant.

“[Megan] is my role model,” Olivia told me recently. “She’s such a ray of sunshine no matter how stormy the weather. She’s genuine and hard working. She’s generous and kind. She’s successful and works so hard for what she wants. I want to be just like her.”

Megan may be the Queen of Olivia’s heart, but she’s got a full court.

Olivia’s Facebook albums are filled with photos of Miss Nebraska titleholders, all of whom have inspired her in different ways over the years, as a little girl who grew up following the program.

“I attended my first pageant at 5 months old and my mom says I was so in awe of Brittany Jeffers. (Still am!)!!” said Olivia. “When I was in 3rd grade, I was Megan’s Little Sister, and she is still the best Big! The year before that, my cousin was a Little Sister. Mariah Cook was my aunt’s ‘host daughter’, and my cousin was her Little Sister and she won! Lianna Prill was also my aunt’s ‘host daughter’. I’ve just been so inspired by such phenomenal women who I’ve wanted to emulate my entire life! I used to say to my mom, ‘when I’m big enough to wear a crown and a sash, I can’t wait to wear it to Applebee’s!'”

Now, it’s Olivia’s turn.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

In February, this first year she was eligible to compete, Olivia was crowned Miss Sandhills Outstanding Teen. (“I’m the baby of MNOT this year!”) No word if there was a trip to Applebee’s after, but there has been plenty of excitement – and service, just like the role models who came before her.

“Service is definitely the most important to me!” said Olivia. “It’s about giving. My mom always shares the quote, ‘for it is in giving we receive,’ and I believe that is so true. Be the change you wish to see in the world. I get so much more out of giving than the ones I’m helping. Serving others puts life in perspective, it keeps you thankful!”

 

 

“[My platform is] Get Up and Dance, providing free dance classes to under-privileged youth,” said Olivia. “My mom teaches at a school that’s 93% poverty. It made me so sad to know some of her kids could barely afford shoes, let alone extras like dance. Dance is my passion! It helps me not only stay in shape, but it’s my outlet. I doesn’t matter what I feel, I can dance it out and leave it all on the floor. I want all kids to have the opportunities I have been so fortunate enough to experience. Whether it’s teaching a class every Friday afternoon at Lincoln Elementary, library, or visiting a preschool, I love watching their faces light up when they begin to dance and the excitement we all feel as they improve. It’s incredible.”

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Olivia hopes to someday have a career in dance, and notes the poise, confidence, and public speaking skills she’s already improving by being a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen titleholder. She’ll compete for the state title in just two weeks, representing Hastings Middle School in Omaha. She’ll be partnered with a Princess, just like the Little Sister program she was once a part of.

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“The best part is seeing a little girl’s face light up when she sees you,” said Olivia. “I had a little cutie pie at an event hug me goodbye and say ‘have fun in your castle!’ It was so precious.”

Regardless of the outcome, Olivia’s goals are clear… she wants to have the same impact that all of her heroes had on her, creating a new generation of little girls who feel special and empowered to take on the world.

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“I want to be the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen that left a legacy of being warm and friendly,” said Olivia. “I want to inspire others to get involved in community service and spread kindness! These are women who are strong and successful, all working toward the greater good of our state and country.”

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To follow Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey on Facebook, click here.

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

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen Rachel Young

NEXT.. Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford

Enjoying Life’s Journey

I LOVE to travel!!! Every time my family explores a new place, we put a pushpin in that city or country on our big, world map. Every place is unique, with its own defining traits and memories.

 

The Dominican Republic, always on ‘island’ time. South Dakota, the ease and simplicity of good friends and campsites. Hawaii, a place so beautiful I think God himself used it as a personal canvas. Phoenix, home of Spring Training, aka sheer happiness: BASEBALL. My paradise: Cancun, water so blue it captivates you.. you can’t look away, and you never want to.

I want to see it all. I want to walk the same fields in England Queen Elizabeth did in 1560. I want to climb Skellig Michael, the iconic Irish island Rey visits in Star Wars. I want to see South Africa, New Zealand, Denmark, Tahiti… and Harry Potter World in Orlando.

Travel is expensive. I miss my kids every single moment we’re apart if they don’t join us. But the moment I land after an adventure, I’m ready to choose a new destination and do it again. There are 7.6 billion people on our planet. Our globe includes endless oceans, 195 countries, nearly 7,000 different languages. In the United States alone, every city has it’s own sound, feel, people, food and pace. This isn’t the stuff of fairy tales or movies.. this is REAL. This is our world. We each only have one life… I want to fill it with as many experiences as possible.

At just 14 years old.. Rachel Young also has her passport ready.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I believe a problem facing our youth today is the lack of experiences they get,” Rachel told me. “Most kids don’t get to travel the world or see many interesting places. It’s so important that the youth of today see other cultures and learn about the history of the world.”

Rachel’s had great inspiration, encouraging her mindset through example. She was a Little Sister to Miss Nebraska finalist Steffani Jiroux, who has spent time dancing and modeling in cities across the world including Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Rome.

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“When I was a Little Sister for the Miss Nebraska Organization, I got the opportunity to take a deeper look into what being Miss Nebraska really meant,” said Rachel. “I became inspired by all the contestants, including my Big Sister Steffani, to follow in their footprints. I’ve always wanted little girls to look up to me in a positive way, as I did to my Big Sister and the rest of the contestants. They really ignited my passion for performing and competing in these pageants.”

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Rachel was crowned Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen 2018 in February. Just as she saw her mentors share their talents at Miss Nebraska, Rachel was provided more opportunities to sing, a passion she’s been fine-tuning for several years.

“When I graduate in 2022, I really want to go to Juilliard in New York City and be on Broadway,” said Rachel, currently  student at Adams Middle School in North Platte. “I get to perform in front of people that will help me ready my goal of getting on Broadway. I can also get scholarship money from these pageants to be able to afford to go to Juilliard.”

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Rachel is also using her title to encourage her peers to find their passions, whatever they may be.

“My platform is ‘Express Yourself, The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities’,” said Rachel. “I talk about joining activities and how you can benefit from them to kids of all ages. I talk to different groups and try to get kids involved in school. With high schoolers, they can get scholarships and go to college through these activities. I post things on my social media and try to talk to as many people as I can about it.”

Ask Rachel and she’ll tell you service is key for any Miss Nebraska titleholder.

 

“You should put others before yourself, especially when you have something to offer others to benefit them,” said Rachel. “Most [titleholders] don’t serve because they are required to. Most girls love to serve their communities and help others, this just gives them more chances to inspire people and help out.”

 

 

Even at this young age, Rachel knows she can lead others. People like her vocal coach, Nikki Schmidt, (“She is one of the most reassuring people in my life; she is busy, but somehow she always has room to help me learn and grow”), and the Miss Nebraska contestants she met as a little girl taught her that someone is always watching.. and it’s up to you what you show them.

“My favorite part has been the reaction of kids and how their faces light up when I come and talk to them and visit them,” said Rachel. “Little kids think it’s the coolest thing in the world when young ladies with crowns and sashes come take an interest in them. You are being an inspiration to these kids and it reminds you why you were chosen to have the title you do.”

Rachel will take that reminder on her next adventure.. to Omaha later this month, where she’ll compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. Her current cover photo on Facebook perfectly describes her outlook, one that translates to this journey and most others we may all embark on throughout our lives.

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“My goal is to have fun, meet as many people I can that will help me benefit in the future, meet new friends, and do the very best I can,” said Rachel. “I am a very empathetic person and I care about everyone. I love volunteering and meeting new people. If you have fun, that’s a win right there. I can’t wait to see what this year will bring me.”

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To follow Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen Rachel Young on Facebook, click here.

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

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska State Fair Courtney Pelland

NEXT.. Miss Sandhills Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey

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 🙂

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

Neither did Courtney Pelland.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy Ben Fogletto for Press of Atlantic City

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

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

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

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

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

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT COURTNEY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * College Ready

CLICK HERE * 2016 * Everyday America

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

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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

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

Heroes With Heart

I am WEAK… when it comes to blood, needles, shots.. BARF. When I was 19, I passed out in the doctor’s office while getting my blood drawn. While covering a story in pre-op before a patient’s surgery, I saw the needle and had to kneel on the ground before I dropped (which the doc thought was HILARIOUS.. click here for the story.) Even having my own babies in the hospital, getting IV’s put in made me lose my lunch.

Still, when I learned Westside High School was hosting a blood drive, I decided I was going to suck it up and DO IT. Every blood donation saves up to three lives; I could certainly withstand a little queasiness to do my part.

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I was so proud of myself – ROCK STAR STATUS! I squeezed that little ball and laid back and relaxed… until they took the needle out. WHOOOOOSSSSH!! The tech immediately jumped to my side and called for help…

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… and Gabby Henderson came to my rescue. Gabby is a student at Westside High (featured in this photo on the far left), and she has a special talent for taking care of people. I met Gabby a few months ago, when the Nebraska Medical Center brought the Stop The Bleed program to Westside’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies. Westside High students interested in Nursing and Medicine learned how to triage patients and save lives after an accident or tragedy. Gabby was also one of the student volunteers helping run the blood drive that day at WHS.. she helped fan me off, talk me off my ‘pass out’ ledge, and then sent me on my way with a smile and without any judgement the the Director of Communications for her district almost lost her cookies over a little bit of blood. You can guess how delighted I was to hear last month that Gabby was part of the state championship HOSA team (Health Occupation Students of America) who will now compete at the International Conference in June!

People like Gabby truly have a gift; they see beyond blood or sickness, and only feel compassion and a compulsion to help others. About 4 hours west of Omaha, Jade Vak knows the same calling.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I have always wanted to go into the medical field,” Jade told me recently. “While volunteering, I have discovered my career ambition of becoming an Emergency Doctor.”

 

 

Jade is well on her way, excelling in her studies at North Platte High School, practicing hard work and dedication as a member of the dance team, and further improving her ‘bedside manner’ and people skills through volunteer work across her community.

That last trait is part of what compelled Jade to try something new this year; she’s competing for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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“I wanted to further my communication skills and gain more self-confidence,” said Jade. “It is my passion to help as many people as I possibly can within my life. One of the amazing things about the MNOT program is that it gives you such an opportunity to help those in need.”

Crowned Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen in November, Jade has embraced every service opportunity offered to her.

“My platform is Volun-Teen. It is about promoting teenagers to volunteer so when they get older, it is just a way of life,” said Jade. “I visit patient’s rooms to provide comfort services, I serve food for those in need, and I ring bells for the Salvation Army. You name it, I have done it! I also talk to volunteering organizations about my platform. At elementary schools, I read a story and then we talk about how we can help others, or volunteer, just like the main characters.”

To Jade, volunteering not only makes the world a better place, it is a potential cure for the ills impacting her peers and beyond.

“I believe the greatest issue for my generation would perhaps be technology,” said Jade. “We need to learn how to balance it with the real world. Technology is an amazing tool and has done great things for the world, but we struggle on the line of the technology world and reality. I suggest volunteering! It forces us (in a good way, of course) to look up and get out!”

And as Jade hits the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen stage in Omaha, hoping to win the chance to spread that message statewide, she’ll be cheered on by the woman who’s inspired her to help others throughout her life, crown or not.

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“My female role model is my incredible mom,” said Jade. “She supports me with everything and always tries to make my dreams come true, even if it means sacrifices. I think that is beautiful and I hope I can do that for someone else someday.”

Ironically, Gabby’s biggest cheerleader is also HER mom. Christine Henderson works with me here at Westside, and literally glows with pride every time her hero makes a difference in someone’s life.

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For both Gabby and Jade, that difference may very well be saving lives within a few years. Today, it’s simply making a child smile.. and sending out a smiling adult, grateful for the girl who helped her survive a weak moment.

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To follow Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen Jade Vak, click here.

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

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

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

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska State Fair Courtney Pelland

 

See Jane Soar

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

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

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Photo courtesy the Jane Goodall Institute

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy Sherlyn Edwards Photography & Boutique

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

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

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

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

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALEXANDRIA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Finding Fate

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

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

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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

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

When I Grow Up

January 15, 2011.

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

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

All photos courtesy Getty Images

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

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

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

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

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

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

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

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOPE?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Nebraska Nice

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

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County Krista Hinrichs

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