Tag Archive | miss nebraska

Priceless

I just shared a jaw-dropping stat across social media:

This year, we will award a record-breaking $70,000 in cash, gifts and services to Miss Nebraska contestants, PLUS we will offer more than $1.4 MILLION in college scholarships!!!

That’s not a typo. $70,000. $1.4 million.

There are so many great things about participating in this program, that huge scholarship and prize haul being one of them! But more often than not, when new young women try a Miss Nebraska local pageant, we learn it’s the intangibles that drew them to compete.

Hayden Richardson was inspired by a friend and sorority sister, leading by example.

Hayden Richardson - Miss Twin Rivers

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I had seen how Allie Tietjen had thrived in the system,” Hayden told me. “She is my role model because she is the most positive and compassionate woman I have ever met. As a sister in Alpha Phi as well as a dear friend of mine, I have seen all sides of her and her bubbly personality is so authentic, whether she in in pajamas or in crown and sash, she is true to herself.”

At 19 years old, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student decided to give this pageant thing a go, too.. and won the title of Miss Twin Rivers on her first try. Her friend, Allison, aka Miss Nebraska 2017, was at her side to crown her.

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“I could not think of a better way to improve as an individual than to partake in something that has made Allie the strong woman she is.”

Allison won the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award in 2017. Hayden immediately followed suit, setting a goal to hit the ground running with a platform targeting a crisis spreading throughout Nebraska and beyond.”My platform is based on child trafficking in the state of Nebraska,” said Hayden. “I am focused on raising awareness of the issue, educating school faculty, and creating positive self image with our students. I have partnered with the Nebraska Coalition Against Human Trafficking, in which I have been able to speak to differing groups, from schools to girl scout troupes, advocating for each different aspect.”

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“Service is absolutely the most important part of the Miss America crown to me,” said Hayden. “My goal as Miss Nebraska is to have 10,000 children and community members hear my message. In spreading awareness of human trafficking and helping to reduce the risk factors, my goal is to change the lives of children that may have fallen victim.”

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Hayden’s goals are not exclusive to winning that Miss Nebraska crown. The self described ‘political science geek’ plans to someday become a lawyer.

“I want to pursue a life rooted in the advancement of human rights laws on the nonprofit side,” said Hayden, who is currently working for Nebraska State Senator Kate Bolz. “Later down the road, I wish to run for the House of Representatives to advance my message and serve my state and country. The Miss Nebraska Organization is allowing me the opportunity to begin my work now as a freshman in college to advance the knowledge of human trafficking here in Nebraska, as well as giving me the life skills necessary to work in an adverse field.”

And like so many other contestants this year and for years prior, this outlet is also an opportunity for Hayden to showcase her other talents and improve every aspect of herself creatively, mentally and physically. As a national-level competitive cheerleader and dancer, Hayden has found new stages to perform. As a 2012 Nebraska Gymnastics Championships competitor, she’s found new reasons to continue a focus on physical health and wellness.

“Miss Nebraska is essential to the state because it provides the role models for young girls across Nebraska,” said Hayden. “As a public servant, Miss Nebraska educates and inspires our youth to be the best they can be. It is so important to continue that.”

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Just as Miss Nebraska Allison Tietjen inspired Hayden, she now hopes to inspire others. Little girls in her hometown of Bennington are now watching not only Hayden, but newly crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Kelsie Therkildsen. And early next month, just one day before she leaves for her own state competition, Hayden will invite many those children to join her and directly make a difference in the lives of other Omaha kids.

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In the end, that’s what so many women like Hayden, and Allison, and myself, recall most about being part of the Miss Nebraska Organization. The money is AWESOME to help pay for school. The opportunities to perform and shine are empowering. But the impact you can have on your community and world around you thanks to a little extra notoriety in a ‘Miss So and So’ title…. those memories are priceless.

“The best part of this has been interacting with my community,” said Hayden. “I have made so many more connections than I would have ever been able to without the Miss Nebraska system. This  It gives us a way to voice who we are as women, and further develops our sense of self.”

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To follow Miss Twin Rivers Hayden Richardson, click here.

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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 Panhandle 2018 Emily Curtis

NEXT.. Miss Star City 2018 Allison Baird

 

Breaking Out Of The Box

I wrote a few months ago about the STEM explosion here at Westside Community Schools, particularly with our female students. Led by a cadre of phenomenal female educators, girls at Westside Middle School and Westside High School continue to crush anything coding/engineering/robotics related. AND I LOVE IT.

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I love seeing people crush stereotypes. If you’re good at one thing, that must be it, you must fit into this box.

Um, no.

One of the young women starring in this story of students slaying science is Ramya Iyer, a freshman at Westside High School. She’s been to UNO Code Crush. She’s the 2018 regional NCWIT Award winner for Aspirations in Computing. She just won her FIRST state championship as a freshman in photo illustration. AND… just this week, we announced she also won first place out of 5,000 international submissions in a student video contest.

Ramya

Scientist. Student. Techie. Producer.

There ain’t a box big enough for what this girl is capable of.

Same goes for 23-year old Emily Curtis, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the University of Nebraska, who also happens to be competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.

Emily Curtis - Miss Panhandle

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Mechanical Engineer.. AND a pageant queen? Could it be?

Hell yes.

Emily’s kind of a genius when it comes to ‘figuring things out’; solving puzzles using a scientific approach is her career and her passion.

 

“I was part of the Husker Racing Baja SAE Team, a student organization at UNL that got to design, build and race an off-road vehicle,” said Emily. “At the Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium in August of 2017, I was able to present my research in Austin, Texas to other students and researchers in the 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing fields. Ultimately, I want to work as a research engineer, focusing on sustainable manufacturing with 3D printing.”

<Editor’s note… here’s me just reading that.>

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So why pageants? Why Miss Nebraska?

“I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain,” said Emily. “I have about five more years left of school and two more degrees to earn, so the scholarship money provided by the organization is a huge help, allowing me to remain debt free throughout my higher education. Along with that, the performance aspect, and preparing to present myself on stage has made me more comfortable with presenting my research and approaching others in the field, two things that are necessary for researchers.”

 

 

Any scientist knows there is trial and error before success. The same holds true for Emily in this latest experiment. She competed several times, over several years, before winning a local title.

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“Finally earning that title with overall interview and overall talent awards, after so many years, and numerous local pageants, really validated the hard work I had put into my platform and this program,” said Emily. “I was just so happy, ecstatic, delighted and ready for this to happen.”

She seized the opportunity to take her platform to the next level; a message for all little girls and women called ‘Empowering Women in STEM.’

 

“I advocate for a network of support and opportunity for women and girls interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Emily. “It starts with highlighting strong feminine role models within STEM, and then continues by providing women opportunities to connect with each other and the means to achieve their goals.”

Emily’s own networking circle has expanded to include the same women she’ll compete with next month.

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 “[My favorite part of this] is the sisterhood,” said Emily. “Before this, I have never felt a more instant connection than I did with each of the titleholders in this year’s Miss Nebraska class. We all want to see each other succeed, and I can honestly say that I feel that I have made 14 new lifelong friends.”

“The foundation of this organization is a sisterhood, and the concept that women support women,” said Emily. “This organization celebrates the strength of women, not only a individuals, but as a collective group as well. I personally have never met a more dedicated, selfless, and passionate group of people (people, not just women) than the contestants, directors, volunteers and parents I have met while competing in the Miss Nebraska Organization.”

How’s this for a hypothesis: perhaps, engineering, and computer science, and video production, and being a beautiful human being, aren’t as dissimilar as some would assume them to be. Perhaps you CAN be a ‘pageant girl’ and brilliant all at once. Maybe, just maybe, YOU and only you, can define yourself and determine what you want to become.

Both KMTV and KETV are sharing Ramya’s success across Omaha TV this week. (Oh yeah, she’s also EXTREMELY well spoken, nailing every interview I threw at her.) Simultaneously, Emily posted this on social media.

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‘I am so thankful for the opportunity to receive an education, and still thankful for the Miss America Organization for providing scholarship dollars to women like me to further their education. Next stop, Grad School!’

The message at Westside High School, within the Miss Nebraska Organization, and from incredible young women like Ramya and Emily is simple and clear: BREAK OUT OF THE BOX. Find what you love – all of what you love – and DO IT.

“I look up to women like Katherine Jackson, Jane Goodall, and Sally Ride, who broke barriers and showed us all how strong, tough and determined women can be,” said Emily. “With my local title, I have become a role model and strong female voice, and I know have a bigger platform to reach out to my community and show women of all ages what possibilities and potential they have.”

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To follow Miss Panhandle Emily Curtis, click here.

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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 Heartland 2018 Brooke Lodl

NEXT.. Miss Twin Rivers 2018 Hayden Richardson

What Is Your Gift?

I sat down with my husband, who asked our daily, evening question: ‘how was your day?’

“GREAT.” I responded.

“Wow, great?” he said. And reasonably so; usually my response (and his) is the standard, ‘it was fine.’

No, this day was truly great. I explained to him why; the sun was shining, it was a glorious 80-degrees, I got a ton of work done heading into the weekend, a neighbor told me ‘have you lost weight?’, I was looking forward to softball with our team of friends, and I picked up two happy boys who, while my husband and I enjoyed a peaceful dinner together, were happily playing with the other little boys on our street.

“And,” I added, “we have a GREAT story airing Sunday on KETV!”

That final element was how I ended my work day, and it had me nothing short of giddy.

We have an extraordinary little boy at Westbrook Elementary. He is able to take what he sees in his mind, sheer joy through color and character, and share that with the world through crayons and paper. Everyone, from his fellow students to his teachers, are in awe of what Jesus can create. Jesus also has autism; he doesn’t have many words, but he’s very clear that if his work is not perfect, it belongs in the trash can. All year long, a wonderful Educational Assistant who works with Jesus has saved all of his art, often taping it back together, flattening it out, and laminating it, to save for his parents.

This story is simply beautiful; there are no other words for it. Both in Jesus’s incredible talent, and what he brings out in others. I was in tears as Jesus’s mother, Anaceli, told KETV’s Camila Orti, ‘I am thankful God has given Jesus these gifts.’ And through Jesus, we also see the gift of utter thoughtfulness in his teacher, the gift of compassion and eternal support from his principal… the list goes on.

Author R.J. Palicio writes in his book ‘Wonder’: “No one is great at everything, but everyone is great at something.” It’s a belief at the very core of a young woman from Scribner, Nebraska, graduating today from Wayne State College with a degree in Special Education.

Brooke Lodl - Miss Heartland

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“We can all achieve whatever we put our minds to, but we all have different paths in getting there,” said Brooke Lodl. “One of my nephews suffered a traumatic brain injury at 7 years old and was just recently diagnosed with Autism. Once you label a child with something (Autism, Down Syndrome, Emotional Disturbance, etc.), the world decides to look at them as though they are broken. I fight everyday to make sure my nephew lives the fullest life he can and that the world sees him for his abilities, not his disabilities.”

 

 

Brooke, who will begin her teaching career in the fall as a Special Education teacher in Norfolk, is spreading that same message as Miss Heartland 2018. As she prepares to compete next month to become Miss Nebraska, she is also advocating for children and adults with special needs, dubbing her platform ‘Taking the (Dis) Out of (Dis)Ability.’

“The whole reason I started this pageantry journey was to make a difference, and by serving the special abilities community I am shining a spotlight onto this world and holding the microphone for all of their stories,” said Brooke. “Giving back to a community that has been marginalized and oppressed throughout history is the greatest feeling I have ever felt and I’m hoping to set an example for [others] to do the same.”

“I am promoting this platform and idea by volunteering at various events that highlight the exceptional abilities of these individuals, speaking about kindness at elementary schools, and teaching students how to embrace being an advocate,” said Brooke. “The root cause of continually seeing someone as ‘disabled’ is not seeing the person, only the label they have. By teaching about kindness and to embrace our own unique qualities, hopefully we can push past the labels and see each other for who we are.”

Brooke has also volunteered throughout her community of Lindsay, Nebraska and beyond, raising money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and other local causes, even hosting a fundraising princess party, allowing little girls to connect with the women making such a profound difference in our state.

“We live in a world where we need outstanding leaders, advocates, and strong women to raise up a generation to reach their full potential,” said Brooke. “The State of Nebraska cultivates the morals of these extraordinary individuals and the Miss Nebraska Organization gives them a platform to showcase these qualities. It is also fun seeing [little girls’] eyes get so wide when they see the crown, or when I put it on their heads! Who knows, maybe I am crowning the future Miss Nebraska 2030!”

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And if Brooke is crowned Miss Nebraska 2018, she’s got big plans for her year of service. Her goals include sharing stories of people like Temple Grandin, a pioneer for anyone touched by Autism, showing that ANYONE can do ANYTHING. Brooke also aims to make sure everyone, especially our elected leaders at the state and national level, are listening.

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When I told my husband about Jesus and his story, I realized that part of why I am so excited for people to see this is because it’s bigger than this little boy, or his school or our district. It’s about teaching people that we all have a gift within us. Think about it – what do you hope is the first thing people say about you when your name is mentioned? I’m thoroughly flattered and humbled when people comment on my speaking, writing, or singing.. and I’m eternally grateful God gave me a voice. That is what I want to be known for – the things I think make me special.

I would argue Jesus and his family, and any person facing a challenge in life, doesn’t want to be known for that diagnosis. And I hope when people see Camila’s story, they won’t be talking about ‘that boy with autism’, but the kid at Westbrook with an INCREDIBLE gift, and the people around him with exceptional gifts of their own.

Brooke Lodl is working for that every day. And as much as I’m sure she would love to be known as Miss Nebraska, I would argue she wants even more to be remembered as a woman who made a difference for both people with special needs, and that mission to improve how we all view each other.

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“This is such a blessing,” said Brooke. “I want to remember every moment and use it as another opportunity to advocate for my platform.”

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To follow Miss Heartland Brooke Lodl, click here.

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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 Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long

NEXT.. Miss Panhandle 2018 Emily Curtis

Dreaming Big

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marissa

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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

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

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

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

PREVIOUS.. Miss Elkhorn’s Outstading Teen Rachel Greufe

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

The Greatest Love Of All

I woke up this weekend to a notification on my phone: ‘It’s Aleah’s birthday!’ Aleah, as in Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters. I knew immediately what I wanted to share to wish her the best and hopefully make her smile.

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Photo courtesy Kim Therkildsen Photography

This photo was taken at Aleah’s send-off party for Miss America in the summer of 2016. My boys were IN HEAVEN. This look on Easton’s face is one of my all-time favorites.

A lot of people like kids. Some people were simply MEANT to work with children. You see the proof in photos like this, and how they continue to focus on kids long after their pageant days are done.

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The same day Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell turned 23, she announced that she will be teaching 3rd grade at Elkhorn’s Manchester Elementary next year. Part of the legacy she wanted to leave as Miss Nebraska was that she had an impact on children; my feature article on her in 2014 was entitled ‘The Kid Whisperer.’

Another young lady in Elkhorn hopes to follow both Alyssa and Aleah’s lead.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“As a child, any girl with a crown and a purpose just reminded me how much I wanted to make a difference when I got older,” said Rachel Greufe, Miss Elkhorn’s Outstanding Teen. Both of her sisters competed in pageants, and Rachel’s family has long-promoted community service. They’ll be by her side as she competes to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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They’ve been cheering her on for years now; Rachel is a state champion cheerleader at Elkhorn South, where she is also president of the Student Council, president of Junior Class Board, and part of the Storm’s award-winning varsity show choir.

So why add one more activity to the list?

“Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen teaches young women to be poised, cordial, and giving,” said Rachel. In a local title, Rachel also found a high-profile opportunity raise awareness about a very personal fight against skin cancer.

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“My platform is Loving The Skin You’re In,” said Rachel. “This platform was inspired by my parents and the struggles they have gone through. My mom had colon cancer and my dad had skin cancer. But, my family was fortunate enough to come out of it stronger than before. Although both experiences were scary at the time, my dad’s cancer allowed me to see the sun in a new light (pun intended). I know now that there are many issues regarding its strength and how teenagers and people of all ages underestimate it. I encourage men and women to “love the skin they’re in” instead of ruining it at a young age. My dad’s experiences have shaped mine and have reminded me to always wear protection when going out in the sun, NEVER tan in a tanning bed, and truly love the skin I was given.”

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And while that mission has taken her to some wonderful places, including meeting Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Rachel is focused on the children and teenagers she connects with, especially the other young women she’ll compete alongside for a state title later this week.

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“My goal at the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant is to bond with the wonderful girls from all across Nebraska,” said Rachel. “I can’t wait to meet them and learn about all the good each girl has done. I can’t wait!”

 

 

The common thread between so many Miss Nebraska’s is children. As Alyssa Howell decorates her new classroom this fall, so too will teachers and former Miss Nebraska’s Mariah Cook (2012) and Jill Pennington (2000). Miss Nebraska 2011 Kayla Batt-Jacox is currently planning a piano recital for all of the kids she teaches every day. Miss Nebraska 1999 Becky Smith inspires and mentors hundreds of little girls as the owner and teacher of The Dance Factory in North Platte and Ogallala.

Rachel wants to be an orthodontist, opening up her own practice in her home state to continue working with kids. She hopes she doesn’t have to wait that long to simply inspire children.

“[Making a difference] is exactly what I am trying to do now,” said Rachel. “Making a difference and inspiring younger girls is my purpose and favorite part of being a titleholder.”

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To follow Miss Elkhorn’s Outstanding Teen Rachel Greufe, click here.

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

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

PREVIOUS.. Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen Kelsie Therkildsen

NEXT.. Miss Millard’s Outstanding Teen Marissa Messick

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