Tag Archive | Nebraska

Weathering The Storm

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

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

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

SUMMER 2004.  HALLAM, NEBRASKA

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Photo courtesy HarkPhoto.com

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

“Percy!”

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy Russtana Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ***

Click each link to follow Miss Kearney 2016 Stacy Pospisil

on Facebook and on Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

Divergent

CHOOSE.

Throughout life, we face choices.  Sometimes we battle the internal struggle of Cherry Nibs versus Peanut Butter Krispie at the vending machine.  Other times, the decisions are serious, with enormous implications.

At 14 years old, Shaniah Freeseman decided to essentially, start over.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“[When I was 5] I moved to Aurora, Colorado with my mom and lived there for about 10 years.  Towards the end of my 8th grade year, I decided I wanted to live with my dad in Gordon, Nebraska,” Shaniah told me recently.  “I moved to Gordon and was ready for one of the biggest changes of my life.”

Aurora is Colorado’s third largest city with an estimated population of 325,000.  Gordon’s estimated population is 1,500.. with less than 200 students at Gordon Rushville High.

“I dropped everything, the school I was going to, my friends, and the memories I had made the 10 years I lived in Colorado with my mom,” said Shaniah.  “But I did what I knew was going to make me happy, and even though it was hard, I got through it by keeping God close to my heart and my family by my side.”

And with these cuties behind her every step of the way, Shaniah hit the ground running in her new home… literally!

“Throughout my three years of high school I’ve been involved in multiple sports including volleyball, basketball and track,” said Shaniah.  “I’m also involved in multiple groups including Life of an Athlete, Medical Explorers Club, Turner Youth Foundation, FFA, my church youth group, National Honor Society and my school’s Spring play.  I wouldn’t change my busy schedule for anything because I know I’m taking advantage of the amazing opportunities high school offers.”

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Shaniah also looked ahead to the future, fueling her love for volleyball year after year.  This year as a junior,  when the scouts start looking and the college visits start taking place, Shaniah says she attended several college volleyball games, looking up to those six players on each court.

Then.. THIS happened.

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“Halfway through my junior year, I thought my volleyball career was over,” said Shaniah.  “I dislocated my patella in a basketball game, and it took me to my lowest point.  I had to take a deep look at who was in control.”

Once again, Shaniah made a choice, turning to her faith with trust and determination.  As she recovered, she channeled her feelings through her other passion, singing, and any activity that would allow her to perform more.

“Whether it’s on my church worship team, or in the car with my friends, singing is my go-to thing,” said Shaniah.  “I love the way God works through music to get to people, he has amazing ways of doing things.  I share my love for Christ by singing solos at church, talent shows, at the Sandhills Alive Music Festival, as well as singing with my family and friends.  God is such an important aspect of my life, and singing is just one more way for me to express my love for Him.”

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Shaniah also focused on her immediate future, preparing to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in June as Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen.

“I’ve already benefited from this program and I’ve only been involved in it for three short years,” said Shaniah.  “Although I love being on stage, singing and competing with all the other contestants, my favorite part of competition is what happens backstage.  I love getting to know everyone and making true friendships with amazing girls that I never would have met if it wasn’t for pageants.  From the constant laughs and jokes, to all the stories we share with each other, so many great memories are made.”

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Shaniah credits the Miss Nebraska Organization for helping her discover herself, in the midst of her challenges.  Now, she hopes to take her own stories of challenge and choices across the state, sharing her personal platform, ‘Overcoming Adversity In Order To Be Your Best.’

“I’ve had to learn to be mature at a very young age.  I also grew up the peacemaker of things and I had to learn the hard way that nothing goes perfectly,” said Shaniah.  “Life is tough, but it’s tough for a reason.”

We all make choices.. on the easiest of days, and in the darkest of moments.  One of my favorite quotes is from the movie Where The Heart Is.. ‘Our lives can change with every breath we take.’

Shaniah Freeseman has made many decisions just in the last few years.  Now, she’s ready to inhale, stand tall, and let a panel of incredible judges decide what path she will turn down next.  Before they do, she has a message.. CHOOSE ME.

“I should be Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because I would use my story of struggle and strife to show others what a true role model is,” said Shaniah.  “I’ve found out who I am.  [God] made me the way I am for a reason, and with the right people around me influence me, I’ve found out who I am.  I would show others it’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to make a change for the better.”

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CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Shaniah Freeseman

on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SHANIAH?

2015 * Nebraska’s Top Model

For more information about the Miss Alliance’s OT/Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s OT/Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Melinda Cullan by phone at 308-710-5593, or by email at maot.alliance@gmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Gering 2016 LaRissa McKean!

NEXT.. Miss Twin Rivers 2016 Jenni Wahonick!

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!

Talking To The Walls

I had four words listed on the back of my high school letter jacket.

DRAMA CHOIR SPEECH ACADEMICS

I had friends who shook their heads and cried NERD.  They were probably right.. I mean, who does that!?!  But you know what? I was PROUD.. and I’m still proud today.

<Pardon me while I climb onto my high horse.>

I’m a 3-time high school state champion in Nebraska with two individual titles in Persuasive Speaking and a team title for Mock Trial.

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My weekends from October to May were spent like this.. waiting for food with my team at any local Valentino’s or Village Inn we could find after a long day of competition.  We worked for weeks prior fine tuning our speeches, our interpretations of plays and poetry, and our research and knowledge of current events.  I think those days served us pretty well.. the two people in this picture are still my friends almost 20 years later.  Cassie is a respected pharmacist, wife and mom on the east coast, John was my fellow KETV reporter and meteorologist before joining the private sector and raising three boys (one a foster kiddo) with his wife in Texas.  We ALL use public speaking in our jobs, and we are all better in our careers and beyond because of those long days and quick years at speech tournaments. To those who didn’t compete with us,  we were likely just the weirdos they saw talking to walls.  To everyone in our circle, the more you practiced to that audience of brick, the more often you’d see your name on those ‘finals’ lists, and the more trophies you brought home at the end of each weekend.

Times may have changed since my high school years (if you need proof, look at my hair again..) but that unspoken thread connecting speech kids is still strong.  Now though, as I’ve learned from Scottsbluff High School’s Ashlynn Haun, we’re called ‘speechletes’.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I am a Varsity memeber of the SHS Speech team and love every minute of it!’ Ashlynn told me recently.  “It has helped develop my speaking skills and meeting other speechletes is a blast!’

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Ashlynn was a contender and winner at several high school meets this season, making district finals in two separate events.  That alone is impressive, let alone considering Ashlynn was also busy with golf, 4-H, dance and her school’s musical (click here to listen to Ashlynn sing!)

“My family, friends and the members of my community all play important roles in my life,” said Ashlynn.  “My family has always supported me through all of my endeavors.  My friends and community members help each other in so many unknown ways, it truly amazes me.  These people are important to me because they are uplifting and kind, and I hope they view me in the same light.”

That devotion to her community and those in it led Ashlynn to several service projects, often with 4-H Junior Leaders.  She wanted to become more involved and meet more people.. and found the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program.  Ashlynn was crowned Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen last fall.

sister after crowning

“By being involved in the program I have been able to improve my leadership and interview skills,” said Ashlynn.  “The Miss America Organization is a wonderful scholarship program for young women everywhere.  This experience isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about meeting interesting new people and giving back to our communities.”

Ashlynn does that both through philanthropy and emotion.  She often gives back through dance, sharing her gift with audiences as both Miss Gering’s OT and as a teaching assistant at Tabor Dance Academy.

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“I LOVE being on stage!” said Ashlynn.  “Performing gives me such a thrill and has always been fairly easy for me.  I love being able to entertain others while doing something I’m passionate about.”

Ashlynn is also focused on her personal platform, ‘We Are All Survivors’, advocating for cancer survivors and their families.

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Ashlynn on Facebook: ‘Had a blast talking about my platform and participating in the Boxer Rebellion 5K today!😊This great event brings awareness to colon cancer and raises money for Festival of Hope.’

“Almost everyone knows someone affected by cancer in some way, whether it be a family member, a friend, or a friend’s family member,” said Ashlynn.  “My platform is centered around supporting not only the patient, but also those who care for them.  I know personally that seeing someone you love hurt and struggle is terrible.  Often people don’t know how they can help, so I want to spread creative ways that will be most beneficial to these families.”

Here’s a young lady who not only has big ideas, she’s using her words and abilities to bring those visions to life.  She also admires those same traits; when I asked her who her role model is, she didn’t name a celebrity or high-profile stranger.

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“Someone who is a role model for me is my fellow dancer, speechlete and schoolmate Emily Ostdiek,” said Ashlynn.  “She inspires me because she is extremely kind, talented and is always smiling.”

THAT inspires me.

Speech kids RULE.  Speech kids who are also pageant girls are AWESOME.  These women aren’t just talking to walls or waving manicured hands, they are promoting causes and showing everyone around them the power of grace, intelligence and positivity.  Ashlynn Haun wants to represent all of that.. along with her school, her hometown, and speech kids everywhere.

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“I should be Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because I have pride in my community, county and state,” said Ashlynn.  “I would use my leadership, desire to serve others, and poise to represent them in a very positive light.  I would also take the opportunity to support cancer patients and their families in a more public format to bring awareness to my platform.  I love being part of and promoting the Miss America Organization and would enjoy becoming a bigger part of it.”

***

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashlynn Haun on Facebook.  You can also contact Ashlynn for appearances and events by emailing ashlynnhaun@gmail.com.

For more information about the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Kyla Ansley at 308-631-0938 or by email at kyla_ansley@hotmail.com.  You can also email thirtyone.hayes@yahoo.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

***

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska State Fair 2016 Payton Merritt!

NEXT.. Miss Gering 2016 LaRissa McKean!

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!

Highlighting History

This week, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts unveiled the state’s new license plate to be produced in 2017, just in time for Nebraska’s 150th Birthday!

CLICK HERE to see the new plate, and to read the background on the new license plate!

What an incredible time to be a Nebraskan.  We have produced gold medal winning Olympians, legendary performers, a President, an astronaut, and yes, a Miss America!  Every village, town, and city in our state has a unique and fascinating history.  For example, Chadron, Nebraska was founded in 1884 and originally named O’Linn, Nebraska.  When the railroad was built six miles away, the ENTIRE TOWN picked up and shifted to that branch site and renamed the community after Louis Chartran, a french fur trapper who built a trading post there in 1841.  To this day, Chadron’s Museum of the Fur Trade is the largest of its kind in the United States, attracting thousands of visitors. Now, the city has enlisted two young women to share their tradition statewide.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Brooklyn Stack is one of them; she’s Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen 2016.

“I am in Chadron High School’s Cardinal Singers, on dance team, Student Council, Future Business Leaders of America, in the musical and in speech,” Brooklyn told me recently.  “I strive to be the best person I can be and I commit to what I saw I will do.”

Brooklyn IS Chadron, involved in just about every facet of her community as a high school sophomore can be.  She and Miss Fur Trade Days 2016 Alex O’Connor will represent the far northwest corner of the state in the upcoming Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageants, along with Miss Chadron 2016 Tyler Rambali and Miss Chadron’s OT Emma Wilkinson.

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 “I have gained so many friendships and communication skills already from being in the pageant circuit,” said Brooklyn.  Those connections are one of the reasons Brooklyn decided to compete in a pageant in the first place.. she saw her older sister, Kiya, form the same bonds while competing for Miss Nebraska.

with kiya

“My role model is my sister, Kiya, because she is such a strong and amazing individual,” said Brooklyn.  “She is so kind and helps out whenever she can.  Kiya has competed before and the relationships she gained influenced me to participate.”

And just as her big sister chose a personal mission as a local titleholder, so has Brooklyn, focusing on stereotype awareness.

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“I was bullied severely when I was younger and I do not want other kids to go through what I went through,” said Brooklyn.  “My platform is U-B-U Stereotype Awareness.  This program has helped me highlight my skills and has helped me get involved in schools to talk about my platform.”

One of the ideas Brooklyn’s brought to classrooms is to join everyone in a circle, hold hands, and discuss what everyone has in common rather than leaving someone out because of their differences.  She posted on Facebook: “We are all connected by our interests, our religion, our race, our personalities. There is no reason to outcast someone because they are ‘different.’ We are all unique in our own ways. #U_BU#Classroomvisit.”

Brooklyn has also created a website, described as a medium to empower youth by stopping stereotypes.  (Click here to see it!)

It’s times like these Brooklyn isn’t just representing her hometown or the historic tradition emblazoned on her sash, she’s the face of our program and what it represents.  She hopes people remember the positive influences and active change all titleholders in the Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen organizations are aiming for.

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“I would tell people who criticize pageants that this program helps shape young women to be strong individuals who strive to be the best they can be,” said Brooklyn.  “If they don’t care much about the program, I can’t make them change their minds, but I can explain to them that this organization helps to create women who want to change the world with their footprint through the program.”

Brooklyn Stack wants to take her message of confidence and acceptance statewide. She wants to sing to a crowd and share one of the talents she embraces.  And she wants to be Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen to add her name to Chadron’s history books, and to the list of Nebraska greats.

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“I bring something different to the table,” said Brooklyn.  “I am a strong individual who is not afraid to stand up for what I believe in.  Even though I am new to the program, I want to make a change.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen 2016 Brooklyn Stack ON FACEBOOK.  You can also CLICK HERE to learn more about her platfrom U-B-U Stereotype Awareness.

For information on becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit the Miss Chadron/Northwest/Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook.  You can also contact Director Amanda Vogel by phone at 308-665-5595 or by email at maoteenchadron@gmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Heartland 2016 Tosha Skinner!

NEXT.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest 2016 Claire Holsinger!

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!

Everyday America

Omaha, Nebraska.

This isn’t just where I work, it’s the area where I grew up. I’m officially a Papillion girl.. I rode my bike to Papio Pool, sled on the ‘big hill’ at 72nd and Hwy 370 before the apartments went up, and I graduated from PLHS back when there was only one high school.. #Old.  The first home I remember was near Central Park in La Vista. I played softball as a little girl in Glenwood.  I’ve spent countless family road trips heading west to Seward and east to Atlantic.  This area is all I know–it’s HOME. (And I think these were the original lyrics to Sugarland’s Everyday America.. #TheMoreYouKnow)

North Platte, Nebraska is synonymous with the Miss Nebraska Pageant.  For more than three decades, this city has crowned the women who have gone on to compete at Miss America.  So when North Platte is YOUR home, I suppose it’s destiny that someday YOU will be competing for the historic honor.

Courtney Pelland was been immersed in the Miss Nebraska Pageant for years, and one of the key descriptors of the accompanying Teen program, ‘Outstanding’, could be her middle name.  I think they call this fate.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“My mom has taken me to every state pageant since I was 5,” Courtney told me recently.  “I’m involved in dancing at the Dance Factory with Becky Smith-Wagner, Miss Nebraska 1999. I was involved in the Little Sisters Program in 2008 to Brittany Jeffers, Miss Nebraska 2009.  We are Miss Heartland 2016 Tosha Skinner’s host family.  The girls in this program are welcoming and open to who any one girl is as a person.”

While it may have taken Courtney awhile to come out of her shell and compete on her own, there was never a question as to what her platform of service would be.. she wanted to share her personal story.

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“My platform is called ‘Knowing Your Body, Taking A Step Back’.  I decided on this platform after being hospitalized in January 2015,” said Courtney.  “My hemoglobin was at 6.6 (normal is 12) and I had no iron or iron storage left in my body; I was ghost white.”

Courtney received two blood transfusions and iron that day, and had to visit North Platte’s cancer center once a week for the next two months.  In October, doctors diagnosed Courtney with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune condition preventing the body from absorbing needed nutrients (like iron).  In addition, she underwent a hip labrum repair in June, an injury that had caused Courtney pain for at least two years.

“This whole experience has taught me to pay attention to your body and know when something is wrong,” said Courtney.  “That’s the message I want to get out and tell kids about.”

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So in November, when Courtney won her first title as Miss Sugar Valley’s Outstanding Teen, she set out on a mission to spread that message to as many people as possible.

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Multiple times every week, Courtney updates both her personal and Miss Western Nebraska Facebook pages with photos and recaps of schools she’s visiting, events she’s speaking at, and where she’s volunteering.  The North Platte High School newspaper, the Bulldogger, even featured Courtney in a recent article (click here to read more!)

“I have gone around volunteering for the Salvation Army this past Christmas, volunteering at my old elementary school, Osgood, at Fun Night, {in addition to Sutherland and Stapleton}, and served at the homeless shelter here in North Platte,” said Courtney.  “My favorite thing about holding a title this year has been going out to schools and talking to them about my platform.”

Courtney is also an All-State choir member, plays the tenor saxophone, is involved with National Honor Society and volunteers at her local hospital for the JV Ambassador’s Program.  Her home away from home is the Dance Factory, where she assists with pre-school and kindergarten classes at the Dance Factory, in addition to training in dance herself.

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Photo courtesy Irish Eye Photography

“My favorite part of the competition is talent because I get to show my skills, release and express my emotions and entertain the crowd,” said Courtney.  “Through this program I have become more confident in who I am as a person and more comfortable with my body.  I have learned to love myself for who I am.  I overcame my shyness and learned more about myself.  This organization is not based on beauty.  It is based on intelligence and builds confidence in girls and women.”

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Now, with the support of her mother (who Courtney calls her role model and best friend), and the rest of her family (“I don’t know what I would do without them”), Courtney wants to become one of the women she learned from and admired all these years in North Platte, and continue the sisterhood of role models crowned in this great city and sent out across the state.

‘That’s how it goes in everyday America, A little town and a great big life.’ — Sugarland

“My parents always tease me about being the social one,” said Courtney.  “I enjoy being with people and talking to children.  I should be the next Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because I have a passion to share my experience with others.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Sugar Valley’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Courtney Pelland

ON FACEBOOK and ON INSTAGRAM.  You can also follow Courtney on the Miss Western Nebraska Pageant Facebook page.

For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Kyla Ansley by phone at 308-631-0938 or by email at kyla_ansley@hotmail.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival 2016 Kara Kriha!

NEXT.. Miss Chadron 2016 Tyler Rambali!

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!

Special Feature: Miss Nebraska USA 2016 Sarah Hollins

THIS.

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First, can I get a ‘heck ya!’ for my fellow Shania Twain fans out there?!?!

A few weeks ago, I heard ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’ on the radio, and I proceeded to have a full-out car concert on my drive in to work.  It’s probably been years since I heard it, and I still remember ever word, I still sing it with sass and attitude, I still LOVE it.

Maybe it’s one of the reasons I love Miss Nebraska week so much.. for a few blissful days in June, I’m surrounded by smart, funny, talented, powerful, BEAUTIFUL women.  We get glammed up, we laugh, we hug and take pictures, we enjoy the show and that history-making final moment.  Man, we feel like women!

THIS moment got me even more jazzed up for Miss Nebraska week..

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.. the crowning of Miss Nebraska USA 2016 Sarah Hollins just a few weeks ago.

“Since winning Miss Nebraska Teen USA 2009, becoming Miss Nebraska has been the real dream.  I have thought about it at least once a day since taking off my crown,” Sarah told me recently.  “I stood on that stage as a Top 5 finalist but walked away without the crown twice.  It was rough.  I worked to the bone this year to become the person I knew I needed to be to win in what is now a very competitive state!  I was the lucky girl that walked away with the title.”

For pageant newbies reading this.. yes, there is a difference between Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska USA.  All of the local titleholders I’ve been profiling throughout this series go on to compete for Miss Nebraska to qualify for the Miss America Pageant; Sarah will compete for the title of Miss USA .

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Photo courtesy Laurel Austin Photography

“Both are the best of the best when it comes to pageantry,” explained Sarah.  “I would say both America and USA systems are working for the same bottom line, creating leaders.  The Miss America Organization puts more of an emphasis on academics and a talent portion.  This is not to say that the Miss USA contestants aren’t some of the most talented and brilliant women I’ve met.  The USA system concentrates on modelling and being a brand ambassador.  We are like-minded organizations creating and cultivating strong women who are future doctors, political leaders, teachers and so much more.”

Sarah is an Omaha native and Burke High School graduate.  She also attended Creighton University and the New York Film Academy before earning her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism (though she is quick to note: ” I never switched to the dark side.. GO BIG RED.”)

In addition to preparing for the Miss USA Pageant, Sarah will spend her year advocating for fitness and self-worth, a cause she is passionate about, drawing from her own personal experiences.

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Sarah posted this photo to Facebook the day after she was crowned Miss Nebraska USA.  “Lights out, back in the gym! I didn’t bring home a title belt.. but I did bring home a shiny crown and banner!!”

“I am working with organizations like FitGirls Inc to spread a message of self love to our young generations,” said Sarah.  “7 out of 10 girls are not satisfied with their bodies and would change something about themselves.  I used to be one of these girls.”

UMMM, WHAT?!?! I see these pictures of Sarah, on stage and in the gym, and have a hard time believing this woman could EVER find a flaw in her body!  So what’s her secret!?! How did she reach this point, and more importantly, how did she find confidence in herself?  Sarah’s answers are also the same response she would give to anyone who criticizes the swimsuit portion of both the Miss USA and Miss America competition.

“To be as candid as possible, I have gone through periods of hating my body.  Because of pageantry, I grew a love for fitness and pushing myself to my physical limits.  It’s changed my life,” said Sarah (describing these photos as ‘strong is the new skinny’).  “There is something about a woman confident enough to put on a swimsuit and say ‘look at the work I’ve done,’ that is incredibly powerful.  To feel strong is to feel beautiful and to feel beautiful comes with great power.  The motivation and drive I cultivated in the gym transcends all areas of my life.  Life really is mind over matter and anything is possible.”

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No matter what she wears, Sarah is preparing to step into the national spotlight.. again.  Many in the pageant world may recognize Sarah’s name and face from the reality television series Obsessed With The Dress, centered on Omaha’s Winning Crown Boutique.

“So many people take what they see on television and think they know exactly who you are,” said Sarah.  “You can’t control how editing works and let’s face it, none of us would watch reality television without a little spice.  Were there moments I watched myself and cringed? OH YES.  But I was so proud to be a part of something so big for our city, a reality show based in Omaha and about pageants, two things I love.  I thought it would give me and the cast an opportunity to show people how progressive and wonderful Nebraska is and shatter the many stereotypes about pageantry.  I hope those who may not have liked a comment I made or something I did will let go of whatever they saw and get a chance to really know me.”

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Who is Sarah Hollins?  She is a fierce competitor who spent much of her first social media post as Miss Nebraska USA thanking her fellow contestants, including 2nd Runner Up Sarah Summers, also a former Miss Nebraska Teen USA. “She is the definition of graceful.  She is godly, beautiful, and I have no doubt in my mind she will be Miss USA someday.”

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Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography

 She is a businesswoman, landing a gig hosting a soon-to-be-released game show, while securing numerous corporate sponsors during her reign as Miss Nebraska USA.. including her now former ‘boss’ at the Winning Crown, Michele Strom.

“They are an absolute stand up business and I wouldn’t be here without their coaching, impeccable taste in design and selfless persistence,” said Sarah.  “My mentor and friend Michele always tells me ‘you ARE Miss USA until someone tells you otherwise.'”

She is a volunteer, just as eager to cook tacos at the Ronald McDonald House as she is to model thousand dollar gowns.  And she is a confident woman, proudly posting selfies without makeup to show her 4:30am wakeup calls, the non-stop travel without stops or sleep, and sweaty gym sessions she’s putting on her calendar to represent our state.

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From an airport bathroom in Chicago.. “You have to always remember to be thankful and grateful for what you have while working for what you want.”

Sarah Hollins wants to be YOUR Miss Nebraska USA, because man, she feels like a woman and is darn proud to show EVERYTHING that represents.

“I can’t take this wonderful gift lightly.  I am so proud of our state and the people,” said Sarah.  “I want to connect with them, tell my story, and encourage people to never give up on themselves.  If you have something going on, an event, a cause you care so much about, a dream, or just need an ear, I want to hear it!  I am here to serve the state and that’s what I hope to do.  But most importantly, if you learn anything from me it should be NEVER give up on yourself.  You could be so close to your dreams.”

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Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography

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CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Nebraska USA Sarah Hollins

on FACEBOOK, on TWITTER, on INSTAGRAM

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashly Helfrich!

NEXT.. Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016 Chelsea Arnold!

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!

Signing Day

Does football season every really end in Nebraska?

No.  No it does not.

There may be lulls in the action.. times that are quieter than other.. but there is ALWAYS something going on in Husker nation.  Practices, Spring Game preparation and of course, RECRUITING.  Tomorrow is National Signing Day and we’ll find out who will soon join the iconic Big Red.

It wasn’t so long ago a straight-A student at Lincoln East High School was counting down to this very day, ready to announce his intentions to stay in his hometown and play college football for the University of Nebraska.

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#56 Rob Zatechka, Nebraska Offensive Tackle 1990-1994 (Photo courtesy Nebraska Athletics)

When you think of Nebraska Football in the 90’s, you think DYNASTY.  DOMINATION.  But when Zatechka came aboard as an 18-year old young man, perhaps the state of the team wasn’t all that different from today.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KETV’S THROWBACK THURSDAY FEATURE ON DR. ROB ZATECHKA!

“At that time (in 1991), we hadn’t won a conference championship in three seasons,” Zatechka told me last fall.  “In that era, it was considered abysmal.  It was hot seat material for a coach at that time.”

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Photo courtesy HuskerNsider.com

Zatechka was a red-shirt freshman that year, but played in almost all games, including Nebraska’s victory against Oklahoma.  It was Zatechka who blocked the Sooners late in the game, clearing the way for Calvin Jones to get a first down, then a touchdown on the next play to win.

“It was one of those things you think about growing up as a kid in Nebraska, or growing up in Lincoln, for what you think about as classic Nebraska football,” said Zatechka.  “Conference title on the line, playing Oklahoma, it was in a freezing rain, the weather was horrible.  Come from behind, win the game, we won the Big 8 title and went to the Orange Bowl.”

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Photo courtesy Brendan Stai Golf Classic

Perhaps that was the beginning, a sign of what WOULD be for this powerhouse group that has become legendary in the history of Nebraska Football.  Dubbed ‘the Pipeline’, Nebraska’s 1994 starting offensive line produced some of the best players Nebraska has ever had.  (CLICK HERE to read more in my interview with longtime Offensive Line Coach Milt Tenopir.)

“You had Joel Wilks and myself over at left guard and left tackle,” said Zatechka.  “Aaron Graham was very business-like as a center.  Over on the right side of the line you had Zach Wiegert at right tackle; guy was a three time All-Conference, three time All-American, Outland winner.  You had Brendan Stai, another All-American, and prior to Brendan you had Will Shields, again, another All-American and Outland Winner (CLICK HERE to read my interview with Shields earlier this season.).”

These guys were SO GOOD, they probably could’ve whispered their game plan to the opposing team and STILL won.

WAIT… THEY DID.

“About every third play of every single game they would line up and tell the defensive linemen what the play was, where the ball was going,” said Zatechka.  “Again, you’ve got a couple Outland Trophy winners there, how are you going to stop it? Will Shields, Brendan Stai, Zach Wiegert; those guys were so good, the defensive players could know exactly where the ball was going and there really wasn’t anything they could do to stop them.”

A humble guy, Zatechka used the word ‘them’ throughout our interview, though he was a standout leader in that powerhouse group on and off the field.  By 1994, Zatechka was named Team Captain and led Nebraska to the Huskers’ first national championship since 1971.  The same season he racked up award after award for his athletic performance, he also nabbed nearly every academic honor available, including Nebraska’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year 1994-1995 and more than $50,000 in postgraduate scholarships.  Zatechka actually graduated BEFORE his senior season on the football field with a biological sciences degree, becoming the first student athlete in University of Nebraska history to win the Student Leader of the Year award.  He was also Coach Tom Osborne’s first graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Medicine

Zatechka played for the New York Giants from 1995 to 1998, a way to continue his love for the game and pay for his venture onto a new playing field.. to become a doctor.

“I always waned to do medicine, I always had a strong interest in science, a big interest in biology,” said Zatechka.  “It’s a great way to help people and work with people.”

Now as an anesthesiologist in the Omaha area, Zatechka and his wife Jennifer are also active philanthropists, volunteering their time and donating money to numerous causes including the Aksarben Coronation Ball, MemoriesForKids.Org, Omaha Performing Arts and the Rimington Trophy Award benefiting the Boomer Esiason Foundation.

And in his ‘spare’ time, Zatechka still talks football, stepping up to the mic every week with longtime Omaha sportscaster and friend Travis Justice.

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The Husker Doc Talk podcast at HuskerMax.com draws in as many as 75,000 listeners a week, many tuning in to hear ‘Dr. Rob’s’ insight in today’s Huskers and what he envisions for their future (CLICK HERE for a complete list of the team’s podcasts.)  Some of those same fans may argue Nebraska will NEVER have a team like the 1994 or 1995 Huskers.

(Travis: “What do you call the ’95 Huskers, Rob?”  Dr. Rob: ” ’94’s backups!”)

Ironically, the guy who looks at that ’91 win over Oklahoma as his favorite Husker moment, points to this year’s upset win over Michigan State as a landmark moment.

“That was probably one of the best offensive performances we’ve seen out of Nebraska this year, especially in terms of offensive line production,” said Zatechka.  “I love what I’ve seen from Coach Cavanaugh (Offensive Line Coach).  You’ve got to have hope, especially with a new staff.  I’m one of those guys where I’ve said, historically, you gotta give a new guy at least three to five years.”

HOPE.  A great word on the eve of National Signing Day. Tonight, as he does most days of the year, football season or not, Dr. Rob is online fielding tweets and messages about this year’s prospects and NEXT year’s possibilities.  And to the Recruit Class of 2016 and current Huskers, a message from Dr. Rob Zatechka, member of the Nebraska Recruit Class of 1990 and one of the best to ever play at Memorial Stadium..

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” said Zatechka.  “You’ve just got to find that spark a little more consistently and I think those guys will.”

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Photo courtesy Nebraska Medicine

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PREVIOUS POST.. Class of 2012, Rex Burkhead!

For a FULL LIST of 2015 Throwback Thursday Huskers, CLICK HERE!