Tag Archive | random acts of kindness

Defining Outstanding

Once in awhile, you meet someone who you just KNOW is going to be a star.  There’s just something dazzling that radiates from them.  They are THAT stunning, THAT talented, THAT well spoken, THAT inspiring.  They are simply OUTSTANDING.

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MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2014 MORGAN HOLEN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

This is my 4th blog post I’ve written about Morgan.  I’m not a creeper (at least in this case), she’s just that incredible.  Beauty inspiring nationally renowned photographer Jenn Cady to invite Morgan to South Carolina for a premiere fashion show and photo shoot.  Talent and a gift for dance that earned Morgan a state championship this year with Elkhorn South High, the dance award at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, and acceptance and scholarship into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and Dance Program.

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Sheer kindness and love for life.. rooted deeply within her family and now woven across our entire state.

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What an outstanding young lady.  Like so many in the Miss Nebraska Organization, I first met Morgan through her mom, Jodi, who was Miss Nebraska 1988.

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Jodi, also a former Miss Omaha, was hands down one of the most welcoming, kindest people I met the night I was crowned Miss Douglas County and unknowingly entered this new and overwhelming world.  At her side, and then at MY side asking for pictures, were two sweet, little girls.

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Me and the Holen girls, shortly after the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant, Fall 2001

Morgan has been attending the Miss Nebraska pageant with her mom for as long as she can remember.  She decided to compete in this new version of Miss America for teenagers, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, her freshman year of high school.  (Click here to read about Morgan’s time as Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen!) One year later, just weeks (if not days!) after completing her sophomore year at Elkhorn South, Morgan was crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014.

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Morgan’s crowning moment one year ago.  CLICK HERE to read more.

Immediately, Morgan began preparations for Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, knowing Nebraska had never cracked the Top 12 at the national level.  Morgan did.

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“I am extremely honored and humbled!” said Morgan.  “Then my competition mode just kicked in and I didn’t realize really what happened until it was over.  I competed in the first area, fitness, and made the cut to the Top 10 where I was able to perform my talent one more time.”

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As Morgan told me last summer, (click here to read more!), her talent was a self-choreographed tribute to her longtime dance instructor ‘Miss Kitty’ Dahlberg.  Dahlberg passed away the summer before Morgan won Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen.  Among those in the crowd was Dahlberg’s daughter and another of Morgan’s instructors, Diane Hansen.  This dance, dedicated to Morgan’s friend and mentor, was nothing short of breathtaking.  Watching the webcast from home, I was in tears.  Someone in the audience tweeted ‘Morgan Holen just set a new standard for talent.’

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“Then, after the evening gown competition, I was thrilled (and stunned) to be called out in the Top 5,” said Morgan.  “Outside of Teresa Scanlan, who has been a role model, no other Miss Nebraska or Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen had ever placed that high, so to be standing there representing my state was in incredible honor and an indescribable experience.”

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KETV: Omaha Teen Crowned Among Best In Country

Morgan finished 4th runner up, surrounded by a huge fan club who traveled to Orlando to support her, and the new friends she made while there.

“The friendships last long after the pageant,” said Morgan.  “My roommate Page Mackenzie (Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen) and I have visited each other in our home states.  We bonded over the fact that by the time we left our hotel room, our feet could stick to the bathroom floor due to hairspray (pageant girl problems.)  We remain very good friends today and talk at least once a week.”

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“I also was very blessed to have the third or fourth largest crowd of supporters,” said Morgan.  “My parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, dance teacher, local and state directors, and Megan were all there to support me and of course, they were easy to spot since they help up big red Husker N’s.  There really is no way to represent Nebraska without the Huskers!  Other contestants even commented about it and were a little jealous.”

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As for the last 10 months.. Morgan has simply been on the go NONSTOP.  She’s on Elkhorn South’s state champion dance team, in addition to dancing competitively for Omaha’s Kitty Lee Dance; she’s also on the award-winning Elkhorn South competitive show choir squad.

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Still, she’s been out across the state as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, not only taking part in EVERY local pageant this year, but volunteering and making appearances for various events.  Morgan cares deeply about her platform Random Acts of Kindness, promoting good deeds and service to others, big and small.  Last January, Morgan even created a ‘kindness calendar’ and shared it across social media, suggesting something different every day of the month you could do to pass on a random act of kindness.

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Morgan volunteering with her big sister and best friend, Brittany Holen

“My one regret is that there aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week!” said Morgan.  “As a teen, you are obviously still in high school and the girls who compete for and win these state titles are involved in many activities inside and outside of school.  I only wish I had been able to do more as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because there are many opportunities the title affords you, however, you still have to go to school and honor your other commitments.”

That’s part of the advice Morgan has for whoever she’ll crown in just five short days, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015.

“To the next MNOT I would say do everything you can, but understand that some days there are just not enough hours in the day and that is okay,” said Morgan.  “I would also tell her to enjoy every minute because the year flies by and you will never have these moments back.  It will be an awesome experience!”

And still, Morgan shows me even now how exceptional she truly is.  As part of that message to her future MNOT sister, a reminder, and a sign of this young woman’s maturity, sense of self, and state of mind.

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(Photo courtesy of The Mullers)

“Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen did not make me who I am,” said Morgan.  “Lots of people have invested in me over my 17 years: parents, sister, family, friends, teachers, coaches, over the years shaped me into the person I am and for that I am grateful.”

Morgan asked me to note her gratitude to her local director Kelsey Joseph and her state directors Rachel Daly and Kayla Jacox, not only for what they have done for her, but for the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Program.

Morgan, I thank YOU.  Thank you for being KIND.  For sharing your incredible gift of dance.  For filling me with hope thinking of the young people that will soon be the adults in our world.  For showcasing our state and this program to people everywhere, and making them do double takes.  You are simply outstanding.

And I think Morgan’s own words confirm that:

“I hope that I have represented all of you in a way that made you proud.”

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(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

Click here for a special feature on Morgan on the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Facebook page!

Click here for a special interview with Morgan by the nationally popular Pageant Junkies team!

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Merrilee Prill

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson

To read more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

Kill ‘Em With Kindness

“On Christmas night of 2009, Nebraska was in the middle of a severe snow storm.  My grandpa and hero suffered his sixth heart attack.”

Imagine the terror this young woman and her family faced that night.  Trapped in their homes, isolated from the help they desperately needed.

“The ambulance used chains to drive through the streets safely.  Though my family and I were very anxious and scared, relief came knowing the emergency workers were moving quickly to assess the situation and stabilize him.”

Morgan Holen will never forget that night, or the sacrifice made by those emergency crews, working on Christmas and ultimately, saving her grandfather because of it.

“The following year my family started a Christmas Eve tradition in honor of these wonderful people by buying dozens of donuts and delivering them to fire stations, emergency rooms and pharmacies, thanking them for working and serving others on Christmas.”

To Morgan, this is simply a random act of kindness.  Later this month, it’s a mission she will share with the country as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teenager.

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(Thank you to photographer Jenn Cady for the photo!)

What the heck is Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen?!? Think of a younger Miss America.  Teenagers from across the country compete under the same guidelines as the “Miss” contestants do, only these titleholders are 13-17 years old. (Check out my previous blog post about this year’s Miss Nebraska ‘Teen’ contestants and what the program is all about.) Morgan, who was crowned Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen in October, won the state title the same day as Miss Nebraska Megan Swanson.

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(Photo courtesy of the Miss NE’s Outstanding Teen organization)

 “Hearing my name was one of the best feelings ever,” Morgan told me recently.  “It showed me that all the hours of preparing talent, checking current events, and maintaining a balanced diet and exercise was completely worth it!”

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The Elkhorn South student says she’s happiest when she is busy, already active in honors classes, SADD, Pep club, show choir, dance team and student council (whew!) Morgan certainly added to her workload with this new honor; she’ll head to Orlando in just weeks to compete for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen (the ‘little sister’ to Miss America.)

You could say Morgan has royal blood in her veins; her mom, Jodi Miller-Holen, was Miss Nebraska 1988.

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Morgan is following in her mother’s footsteps in more ways than one; she is also an award-winning dancer, trained under the same woman who taught Jodi, ‘Miss Kitty’ Dahlberg.  Dahlberg passed away last July after teaching thousands of Omaha dancers in a career spanning 50 years.  Morgan dedicated her talent performance at Miss Nebraska’s OT, a lyrical dance to ‘You Raise Me Up’, to Miss Kitty.

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Morgan competing in 2012. 

Want to see more? Check out this performance by Morgan and her fellow KLD team members at the Spotlight Dance Cup in May–AMAZING!

“I have been dancing for 13 years and I have performed on many stages,” said Morgan.  “I have to say I feel the most comfortable on a stage performing.  I am excited to show America a talent I have been working on for so long!”

Morgan may have a few celebrity fans rooting for her as well; she’s taken classes from multiple ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ contestants and choreographers, including Stephen ‘Twitch’ Boss.

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(Complete disclosure: I FREAKED OUT when Morgan sent me this!! I die!!!)

Morgan hopes to make ALL of her fans proud and says she is focusing her energy on preparation to represent Nebraska on this national stage.  When Morgan wakes up August 3, she says she will continue to spread awareness of her personal platform, Random Acts of Kindness, whether it’s just in Nebraska or across the entire country as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.

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“Throughout my year of service I want to go to schools and other places to promote kindness through my actions and words,” said Morgan.  “People do not always remember what you do or say, but they do remember the way you make them feel.  Anyone, no matter what age, can perform a random act of kindness.  It does not take a certain amount of money or time, it can easily be part of our daily life.  It will be my mission to try and spread this message and encourage people to participate.”

 If you’re asking WHY, Brandi, WHY are you profiling another pageant girl?!?!?  Because this young lady is LEGIT–she is the epitome of who I wish more young people, scratch that, MORE PEOPLE OF ANY AGE, were like.  She is smart, hard working, gifted, beautiful inside and out, and KIND.  These are the people who deserve the headlines.

Following Morgan on Twitter and Facebook since she was crowned in October, I’ve never seen a mean ‘tweet’ or status update about other kids, or a questionable, immature post about herself.  The pictures she shares show a young woman unafraid to try new things or to work hard to achieve what she wants.  And as I wrote in this post after Miss Nebraska, Morgan truly has a gift when it comes to dance; just as she hopes to spread kindness as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, she transmits sheer joy every time she steps onto a stage to dance.  She is the whole package.

“I want people to know how much I love the state of Nebraska and that I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to represent our state,” said Morgan.

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I venture to guess the guy who inspired it all, Morgan’s grandpa, couldn’t be more proud of the young woman his granddaughter has become.

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Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place in Orlando, Florida July 27-August 2.

NEW THIS YEAR:  The Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organization is pleased to announce that the 2014 Competition Finals will be broadcast LIVE for first time! For a $10 donation, you can watch as the field of 53 is narrowed to only one, MAOTeen 2015!

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To follow Morgan’s journey and to learn more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program, follow on Facebook and on Twitter, or check out the program’s website. You can also follow Morgan on Instagram.

To request Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Morgan Holen for appearances and events, contact Director Rachel Daly at racheldaly.rx@gmail.com.