Tag Archive | norfolk

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!”

31508230_10215750440855744_2392048741071459648_n

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.

Jesus

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.

31369325_10215735262276289_5601104217482799121_n

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

***

To follow Miss Heartland Brooke Lodl, click here.

***

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

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long

NEXT.. Miss Panhandle 2018 Emily Curtis

All The World’s A Stage

I am currently experiencing a CRAZY sense of deja vu..

This week, I’m back on stage at Papillion-La Vista High School for the first time in 17 years, as a special guest in Monarch Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde the Musical.

Cdr6zevUIAAfLwm

The choir room in this picture.. the theater filled with maroon seats.. the green room where the cast gets ready each night.. it’s all SACRED GROUND to me.  It was my home away from home while I was in high school, where I took part in plays and performances, formed my dearest friendships, and created art that I was so very proud to showcase to our community.  There was something intoxicating about theater to me.. the thrill of seeing your name on a casting sheet, the adrenaline rush when the curtain goes up, the sheer GLEE of hearing the audience applaud at the end.

Many of my fellow ‘drama nerds’ channeled that love into our current careers: my friend Joe Rohacik now teaches at PLHS, where he is also the PA announcer for the entire district.  My friend David Wenzel is now a motivational speaker booked around the country for events (CLICK HERE to read his incredible story!)  My ‘green room’ is now the KETV newsroom, and my stage is 7 Burlington Station.

For others.. performing is simply what they were destined to do.  My fellow classmates Audrey Billings and Leanne Hill-Carlson are now professional actresses in Chicago and here in Omaha.  Monarch alumni Merle Dandridge and Abbie Cobb are now on national TV, starring in shows ranging from HBO to ABC.

Tyler Rambali is somewhere in between.. constantly learning new skills to teach future performers, while fine-tuning her own talents and seeking out opportunities to perform.

12832359_478418515692561_6744862319749783981_n

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I love to sing and act!” Tyler told me recently, and backed that up with an impressive resume of work, including awards with her trio, Major minor 3.

10511188_10202740610372783_6197113504755640072_n

“[We] competed in the Galaxy of Stars competition this last summer and the summer before,” said Tyler (CLICK HERE to link up to Major minor 3’s Facebook page to watch and listen to them sing!).  The group won a slew of honors their first year and the Megastar Award last summer, earning a recording session as their prize.  Tyler walked away with an additional bonus.

“That is where I met Chelsea Arnold (Miss Kool-Aid Days) and her mother, Paige, who first talked to me about competing in the Miss America system,” said Tyler.

12088555_433536043514142_6547427479322324694_n

Tyler was crowned Miss Chadron last fall, opening up the doors for more performance opportunities across the state… not that she needs them.  She’s starred in Annie Get Your Gun, Nunsense, Lettice and Lovageas, Defying Gravity, and currently, she’s the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Tyler takes on these roles in addition to classes at McCook Community College where she is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Phi Beta Lambda, the National Association for Music Educators and Not Your Average Theatre Group.  Now as Miss Chadron, she’s also making appearances and often, trying to promote change with her personal platform ‘Reach Out and Read’.

  “Reading has become one of the least important things to my generation,” said Tyler.  “Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by integrating children’s books and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud [during] well-child visits.  I am trying to expand on this by connecting it to Children’s Miracle Network: reading to the children there, giving them books and teaching them the importance as well.  I also want to start a Reach Out and Read site in my hometown of McCook!”

It’s the part of pageants that doesn’t end up on reality TV, the service and networking opportunities that open up for these titleholders.  THAT is part of what Tyler, a pageant newcomer, hopes to show with her new title.

12507613_458372867697126_7538336578204517203_n

Tyler painted this to symbolize her new adventure competing for Miss Nebraska.

“I wanted to try something new, and on top of that, I had a chance to make my voice heard, make a difference, and be apart of something really special,” said Tyler.  “Miss America celebrates women and empowers them and their abilities and accomplishments.  It’s purpose is to serve others, show your personal style and what you can bring to the table, provide scholarships, and help you to be successful, and that is what it has done for me!”

12310587_10205308430286676_5603783307536721988_n

Tyler also stresses the friendships she’s already made, adding to circle of loved ones she describes as the most important in her life.

“I have a huge family (over 20 first cousins on one side!),” said Tyler.  “Both of my parents served in the US Army (Dad for 20 and Mom for 7) and my brother leaves for basic training in the Navy in May, but I am so proud of him and his endeavors to be a Navy Air Rescue swimmer.  My faith in God is the BIGGEST thing in my life, and it is the only way I will be able to let my brother go off to the military.”

12079446_10205065023681663_546934502975760452_n

Tyler adds that her mother is also one of her role models, teaching her at home from Kindergarten through her senior year.. a tie Tyler compares to ANOTHER of her role models, Miss Nebraska and then Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan.

“She has so much in common with me,” said Tyler.  “She loves to sing and act and she was home schooled.  It gives me encouragement and I know that I can do anything I can set my mind to.”

For anyone at a Nebraska high school right now, dreaming of someday being on a big time stage or on that screen in front of millions.. just LOOK at the incredible talent coming out of our state.  Omaha native Gabrielle Union.  North Bend native Marg Helgenberger.  Norfolk native Johnny Carson.

Tyler Rambali not only wants to follow their lead, she wants to be CAST as the lead in this incredible production called ‘life’.. and she’s ready to call Act I: ‘Becoming Miss Nebraska.’

“I feel that I am an extremely diverse person who can relate to so many people because I have so many different backgrounds: I am biracial, military, city girl, country girl, stage-fright-girl-turned-performer, and so much more!” said Tyler.  “I have been placed where I am, in the position I am for a reason, and I will do my very best to not squander the opportunities that God has given me to be a light for HIM.”

11223689_10204274986051216_8003804126834410799_n

Photo courtesy Chris Swasta

***

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Chadron 2016 Tyler Rambali on FACEBOOK

For more information about the Miss Chadron/Miss Northwest/Miss Fur Trade Days Pageant, visit their FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Directors Caitlin Rodiek and Sara Smith by email at misscnwdirectors@gmail.com.  You can also contact Caitlin Rodiek by phone at 308-207-0336.

***

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

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Sugar Valley’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Courtney Pelland!

NEXT.. Miss Heartland 2016 Tosha Skinner!

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

Cover Girl

Maybe you’ve seen her on TV.  Maybe you’ve seen her face while checking out at the grocery store.  Maybe you saw her story here on KETV.

ashley-graham-600x800

Photo courtesy People Magazine

Lincoln native Ashley Graham made history earlier this month, named as Sports Illustrated’s first size 16 model on the cover of the annual swimsuit edition.

CLICK HERE to see the cover, and read KETV’s story about Graham!

I LOVE this story.  Ashley is simply jaw dropping STUNNING, and this cover is absolutely beautiful.  I believe God made us in all shapes and sizes, and as long as you are healthy and happy, rock on!!  In addition, Ashley is NEBRASKA; she grew up here, went to high school here, still has family here.  She was ‘discovered’ by an Omaha photographer while shopping at Omaha’s Oakview Mall.  She’s also appeared in Vogue, Elle, on The Ellen Show, and has modeled for Jennifer Lopez.  It always excites me to see OUR people make it REALLY big in their chosen fields.. it proves to anyone else dreaming big that YES, it can happen to you, too!

I’m not sure if runways in New York or photo shoots in Belize are on THIS young woman’s radar..

12733408_1548973515431023_2420124239632333821_n

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

..but if they are, Savannah Rave is on the right path.  The 19-year old is the current Miss Douglas County 2016, and she’s been modeling for years, appearing everywhere from the cover of Omaha magazine to national TV.

Untitled-11-960x640

Photo courtesy Bill Sitzmann for Omaha Magazine; CLICK HERE to read the article!

You may notice Savannah’s props in this cover shoot.. the Miss Nebraska Teen USA sash and crown she won in 2014.

“I fell in love with everything the pageant world has to offer during my reign,” Savannah told me recently.  “I got involved with Miss Nebraska because I value that it is  a scholarship pageant that shines a light on education of women and their ability to do so much good with their title.  I am excited to be involved with Miss Nebraska because I enjoy the opportunity of being able to have my voice heard at not only a state level, but also a national level.”

It’s not uncommon for young women to compete in both the Miss America and Miss USA organizations (CLICK HERE to read more about the differences between both, from the current Miss Nebraska USA Sarah Hollins)..especially for young women like Savannah who also love to perform.

“I sing,” said Savannah, who held starring roles while attending Elkhorn South High School.  “For the Miss Nebraska Pageant I will be performing a musical theatre vocal.”

Want a preview?  Click here to watch and listen to Savannah singing, a link she provided on the Miss Douglas County 2016 Facebook page!

Still, Savannah’s favorite part of the competition is the phase that spans both systems, Interview.

“I enjoy getting the chance to be face to face with the judges and informing them on my beliefs and ambitions,” said Savannah.  One of those priorities is her personal platform as Miss Douglas County, ‘Spread The Word To End The Word.’

6880_1522333544761687_6731391599313723333_n

“My platform focuses on stopping the derogatory use of the R-word and creating a more respectful environment for people of all abilities,” said Savannah.  “I chose my platform because of a connection I made with a young boy with down syndrome during my high school years.  I believe it is important for people to be politically correct in the terms that they use each day.  I believe in inclusion and in all abilities and want to spread the word in order to create a chain reaction in which people all over begin to monitor what they say, pledge to end the word, and become allies for those with intellectual and physical disabilities.”

12717211_1546197805708594_922947894005985334_n

Savannah on Facebook: ‘I spent my evening at Night to Shine which is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation and was hosted at Harvest Church in Norfolk, Nebraska! I had a blast with my prom buddy, Debbi, and we danced the night away. I admire the goal of this foundation and event and its ability to bring people together in such an uplifting way.’

  Savannah is also a passionate advocate for kids, volunteering with the Children’s Miracle Network (partner of the Miss America Organization), Nebraska Students for Young Children, the UNL Children’s Center and the Friendship Home.  She’s majoring in Inclusive Early-Childhood Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she’s VP Recruitment Chair of Alpha Chi Omega.

Savannah on Facebook: ‘I am feeling so blessed to be a part of two amazing organizations. This morning I visited the Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha which is a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, and delivered handmade valentines that I put together with some of my compassionate Alpha Chi Omega Xi Chapter sisters! ‘

But above all of these connections and friends is Savannah’s commitment to her family and faith.  She’s the youngest of seven children and says her mom, Brenda Rave, is her role model.

12662428_1539920779669630_5700889274187962544_n

“I admire my mother’s selflessness and willingness to do anything and everything for her children,” said Savannah.  “My mother is a breast cancer survivor and a true definition of a fighter and a woman of faith.  I look up to my mother for so many reasons: her strength, her independence, loving heart, wild side, and her incredible cooking.”

THIS is what keeps Savannah grounded through magazine covers and photo shoots and crowning moments, and the message she wants to relay to you as to why she’d be a great Miss Nebraska.

“I know I don’t need this title to make a difference or to be content with my life, because I already do, and I already am,” said Savannah.  “To me, the title of Miss Nebraska is more than a crown and sash, it is a job.  I should be Miss Nebraska because I am ready for the responsibility, ready to make a difference, and I am prepared for a busy year filled with appearances, community service and lots of amazing memories.”

ellie

Design courtesy Ellie Illustrations

Countless local girls may now be looking at model Ashley Graham, hoping and dreaming because if a Nebraska native can hit it big, maybe they can, too! HECK YES, THEY CAN!  And Miss Douglas County Savannah Rave hopes she and the other models, ROLE models she competes with, will inspire just as many future cover girls.

“The women in the Miss America system are educated, goal-oriented and ambitious,” said Savannah.  “Each woman stands for something she believes in and is not afraid to have her voice heard, which is something that should be respected.  The women in these pageants are role models I would want my daughter to look up to someday.”

savannah

Photo courtesy Katie Meeks

***

CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Douglas County 2016 Savannah Rave

on FACEBOOK, on TWITTER, on INSTAGRAM

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SAVANNAH?

CLICK HERE * Miss Nebraska Teen USA 2014

For more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Pageant, visit THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Executive Director Marianne Grubaugh at ggrubaugh@cox.net or by phone at 402-330-8033.

***

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

***

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

NEXT.. Miss Alliance 2016 Kate Lynne Duncan!

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!