Tag Archive | STEM

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.

Girls

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.

Emily Curtis

“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

See Jane Soar

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

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

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Photo courtesy the Jane Goodall Institute

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy Sherlyn Edwards Photography & Boutique

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

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

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

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

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALEXANDRIA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Finding Fate

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

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

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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

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

Girls Rule The World

This week at Westside, I got to do one of the things I love most at work.

We put these incredible Westside High School students on TV, to recognize them for their achievements and talents. Ramya Iyer, Victoria Chin, Raeanne Sando and Emma Carlson have all been honored with NCWIT Awards in the field of computer science. As each of them talked to KMTV’s Emily Szink, they shared how they want to pursue coding and STEM in their careers… and how one teacher mentored and inspired all of them to explore this field and stick with it.

SHABRAM

Kristeen Shabram is a Business and Technology Teacher at Westside Middle School. She’s also the leader of the Computer Programmer’s Club, organizes Family Code Nights across the district, participates in CodeCrush at UNO and Nebraska GenCyber Camp. Her students were Nebraska’s winner in the 2017 Verizon App Challenge, scoring free technology and $5000. Mrs. Shabram was named the 2016 Tech Educator of the Year by AIM, and takes part in conferences across Nebraska, working with other STEM teachers.

Shabram and Teachers

Through Mrs. Shabram, students learn the value of learning this complex and valuable field. Employment of health information technicians alone, which is what Emma Carlson wants to do, is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all other occupations. And at a time when the number of girls interested in STEM plummets as they grow older, Mrs. Shabram is a much needed female expert in this field. She inspires everyone around her, especially Westside’s female students, to learn MORE. (Click here to see for yourself, by following Mrs. Shabram on Twitter!)

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We can spread a message through our words. We can tell lecture kids and young people to do something or say something.. but how often do those same kids grow up wanting to be something because of what a role model DID. You never know who is watching you, thinking ‘I want to be just like her when I grow up.’

Morgan Baird is proof of that.

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“My sister has gone through the [Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen] and [Miss Nebraska] programs and I’ve seen the positive impact it has had on her and other girls,” Morgan told me recently. “I wanted to have the opportunity to develop the life skills and confidence she had and also have the chance to serve my community.”

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This year, Morgan was crowned Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2018. After admiring her mom Krista and her sister Allison for nearly all of her life, it’s now her turn to inspire.

Morgan has helped with fundraisers to support Special Olympics and Children’s Miracle Network. She also visits schools, talking to younger students about her personal platform, ‘Be Here Now’.

 

 

“It’s about putting away the distractions and experiencing life to the fullest with the people around you,” said Morgan. “I am promoting it by being the example. I try my best to not be on my phone excessively in public or when I’m with family and friends.”

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Many of those friends are fellow titleholders from across Nebraska who are sharing their passions through service and performance, just like Morgan. They will compete against one another in April, for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, but this year more than ever, these young women use phrases like ‘competing with’, instead focusing on the benefits of organizations that bring together women of all ages to support and inspire each other.

“That’s what the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organization is all about: The sisterhood,” said Morgan. “Besides my mom, my female role model is Emma Watson. Her advocacy for feminism is what I love to see. She believes that all women have a voice and should be sharing their opinions and beliefs. I strive to be like her.”

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

Girls rule the world.  We can dance and be still, speak and listen, be beautiful and be bold.

SHABRAM W: STUDENTS

Women are pioneers and mentors. Teachers and computer scientists. Nurturers and bad-ass experts in coding and technology. We can do ANYTHING we want to do, and we inspire others when our passion shines through our own actions.

 I would argue that neither of the kids in the above photo went to Nebraska GenCyber Camp because they felt like they HAD to – they wanted to because they enjoy it, and especially for the girls who took part, Mrs. Shabram has showed them THEY CAN. Morgan Baird is competing for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because she WANTS to, and has seen through the women around her that we can choose any path that brings us joy.

Meryl Streep once said, “I think the best role models for women are people who are fruitfully and confidently themselves, who bring light into the world.”

Thank you, Mrs. Shabram, for being a lighthouse for girls everywhere. Morgan Baird hopes someday, she can say the same.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

 “My favorite part about being a titleholder is getting to meet all the little girls who tell me they want to be just like me when they grow up,” said Morgan. “I know it’s because of the sparkly crown on my head, and who doesn’t want to be a princess when they get older?, but it makes my heart feel so full when I hear those words come out of their sweet, little mouths. I am there to help in whatever way I can.”

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To follow Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Morgan Baird 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 Kool-Aid Days Nikki Catrina Anderson

NEXT.. Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Gabriella Wagner

 

Love, Learn, Kindergarten

This is a tough time to be an educator.

I’ve always had deep respect for teachers; mine throughout the years at Papio had a profound impact on my life. Ms. Blase, Mr. McCaw, Mrs. Gess… and the high school teachers who were also my mentors and now, friends: Mrs. Ruff, ‘Nien’, Ms. Kollars, and Mr. Johnston.

To be a teacher is to believe in someone, to make them feel like they are something special and that you want to take the time to help them do everything they want and more in this world.

My friend Matt, a phenomenal educator now at Creighton Prep, told me once, ‘anytime you get discouraged, just go to a school.’ Best. Advice. Ever. When I walk into the doors of any of Westside’s 13 schools, I see hope. I see joy in learning. I see happiness.

Perfect example: Mr. Carlson’s Kindergarten class at Rockbrook Elementary.

 

Every time I walk into Dustin’s classroom, he is on the floor or at a table with his students. They are engaged and laughing. On the day I stopped by last week, Mr. Carlson and his students were making robots – he is a leader in STEM and coding, making this ever-important skill FUN for kids as young as 5 and 6 years old. He is teaching them educational and life skills, things that become the building blocks for a lifetime of learning… but to these children, Mr. Carlson is their buddy and a guy they look forward to seeing and spending time with everyday. Click here to check out Mr. Carlson’s Kindergarten website, and click here to follow Mr. Carlson’s Kindergarten class on Twitter!

From his principal (another incredible educator) Garret Higginbotham: “Mr. Carlson is a teacher often remembered by his former students and visited years later as well.  He keeps the caring and character that has made Kindergarten such a special place while infusing skills such as coding and robotics.  Few Kindergarten students are concerned with their teacher’s professional credentials, though his include being an Apple Distinguished Educator and a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, but students have certainly benefited from his professional commitment.  More importantly, Mr. Carlson does what makes our most memorable teachers so… well… memorable.  They know their students, they care about them, and they make learning an adventure.  The love of teaching shines through in a love of learning and in the commitment to see each and every child grow, learn, and succeed.”

A commitment to children. Making a difference in young people’s lives. Those are the same things that are pulling a young, future teacher to this wonderful world of Kindergarten education.

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“To me, service is most important,” says Kiera Rhodes, Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2018. “Being able to go out and help others can also teach you many valuable lessons.”

 

 

Kiera, a 17-year old from North Platte, has wanted to positively influence lives since she was impacted as a little girl, a Little Sister in the Miss Nebraska Organization and mentored by Miss Douglas County Mindy Schreiber (click here to read more!). That desire to lead and teach was reinforced again last year, when Kiera herself  was a titleholder in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program.

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“Last year I was Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s OT, and my ‘big sister’ was Lianna Prill,” said Kiera. “She has become a huge role model to me; she’s so selfless and genuine and she taught me so many things this past year.”

Kiera wants to pay it forward, hoping to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April. Already, she’s visiting children’s groups and elementary schools with a message: Turning Setbacks Into Comebacks.

 

“[I] focus on doing just that, turning the challenges we face into something positive,” said Kiera. “I make it known that there are always people to talk to about your challenges. I love going to classrooms. I want to teach Kindergarten and I think this is absolutely helping me. Through this organization I’ve learned how to talk to people in a way that all people can understand.”

 

Look at those smiles.. a clear measure of the impact one person can have on the world and the people in it.

“I think that if we really push that being yourself is ‘the thing’ to do, then more people would just be happy with who they are, which is how it should be!’ said Kiera.

The average life span of an American is 79 years. Think of everything we do in those eight decades. At just five years old, Kindergarten often becomes the foundation for it all.

“Kindergarten is a magical moment in the life of a child,” said Garret Higginbotham. “For many children, it is the first full day experience they have with school. Countless memories are made and nearly all of us can recall the name of our own Kindergarten teacher.”

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Hundreds of children will remember Mr. Carlson. Dozens more educators are inspired by his work, hoping to follow in his footsteps.

Kiera Rhodes hopes to make a difference, too – as an educator, and possibly, as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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To follow Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen Kiera Rhodes on Facebook, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KIERA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * It Takes A Village

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 Fur Trade Days Tristen Wecker

NEXT.. Miss Kool-Aid Days Nikki Catrina Anderson

The Perfect 10

I have this little thing I do when I got to a pageant. I keep score. It’s kinda like keeping book at a baseball game, except I keep my own numbers for each phase of competition as if I were on the judging panel myself.

Last month, for the first time I gave a contestant a perfect 10 in every, single, category.

Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long

Charismatic. Goosebumps. Articulate. OUTSTANDING.

Sticking with the baseball theme, I’m stepping up to the plate and calling the homerun now: Carsyn Long will be your next Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.

This girl was sensational from start to finish. Her poise and carriage on stage were what you hope to see in every young woman in America. She had the performance of her life, singing a rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ from the musical Annie. In a display of fitness, no ‘girlie’ pushups from Carsyn; she dipped all the way to the ground and back up, displaying the hard work and strength she’d built up pursuing a healthy lifestyle. And what I loved most: Graciousness. Humility. Gratitude. When it comes to pageants, so often a woman’s true character is revealed in how they are thought of by others. In Carsyn’s case, here’s a sample:

Carsyn Long congratulations on becoming Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017. You make an excellent Queen. I remember meeting you at crowns and gowns and thinking you were such a nice and beautiful girl. You have an amazing personality so there’s no wonder the judges adored you, and they will at nationals too! I wish you all the best on your year! If you ever need “a real queen to fix your crown” or gown, just know that I’m behind you knowing you’ll have no problem being the best you can be to represent our state! – Alexandria Warneke, Miss York County’s Outstanding Teen 2017

You did it!! Congrats honey bear!! With your fun loving attitude and the love and direction God has given you, you will do great things!!! You enjoy your year babe! Make the difference I know you can make!!! If you ever need something, Hit Me Up girl!!! Wishing you also safe travels from place to place!! Love ya girl!!! – Haylee Umble, Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017

To Carsyn Long, our new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. Congratulations — you really deserved that crown! You truly owned that stage, and I can’t wait to see you at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant. Your platform is Real Queens Fix Each Other’s Crowns, and I think we can all say that you are truly a ‘real queen.’ Warmest regards from your fellow titleholder — I know that you’re going to be an amazing representative for Nebraska. #mneoteen – Jamie Chen, Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017

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What an absolutely phenomenal group of young women. The Class of 2017 was truly a showcase of intelligence, talent, sisterhood and service. Following in Anchor’s Away form, here are MY 2017 MNOT awards, based on that ever important secret score sheet.

The ‘Holy Crap! How old are you?!?’ Awards

Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen Jamie Chen was barely old enough to compete in this year’s state pageant, but her maturity and exceptional talent blew me away. Jamie was asked to perform piano years ago at the Miss Nebraska Pageant, so I knew she had a gift. I wasn’t expecting the musical masterpiece and artistry she displayed for us, especially at such a young age. Jamie was then asked on stage about her recent award working on a real-life challenge involving STEM studies, and she not only explained the project but how opportunities like it allow students to explore how subjects like math and science can be applied outside of a classroom. Jamie was simply magnificent..

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..and I’d argue no one was prouder than her mom and dad. I cannot wait to see more of this young lady in our programs!

As a public speaker and writer, I always look forward to the on stage questions, and usually that’s the make or break moment for me regarding a contestant. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Haylee Umble was tops for me after her moment on stage, fielding a question about transgender issues in public schools. Guys, these questions are HARD. The teens who competed in this year’s event were 13-17 years old, responding to issues from date rape to President Trump’s policies and more. Haylee articulately answered the question, offering both her personal views as a Christian and her feelings about what public policy should include. She accomplished the golden unicorn of controversial issues: providing her own, honest feelings and yet still offering a respectful, researched and thought out response. I challenge you to find an adult who can do that.

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Haylee won the People’s Choice Award and tied for Miss Congeniality, voted on by her fellow MNOT sisters.

The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Best Dressed Awards

I stress… this isn’t about who paid the most money for their gown. When I won Miss Douglas County, I wore my high school prom dress I got for $89 at the mall. Still… OH, HOW I LOVE SEEING ALL THE GOWNS! Or as my BFF Camilla would say, ‘SO MANY BOO-TIFUL DWESSES!’

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As always, I LOVED seeing such variety in color and styles at this year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant.

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I definitely had a gasping moment when Miss Elkhorn’s Outstanding Teen Emily Lenser walked out on stage (seen above on the far right in purple.) Her Ritzee Originals gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique was GLORIOUS!

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I also loved Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen Makenzie Davies canary yellow gown, a Sherri Hill from the Winning Crown Dress Boutique. Yellow is a TOUGH color to pull off, but Makenzie made a perfect choice, and radiated happiness and sunshine on stage.

Sheridan Hirschfelds

Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen Sheridan Blanco wore one of the most memorable gowns of the night, a Jovani from Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe. It was SO DIFFERENT than what anyone else had, or what we had ever seen before, and it was a perfect fit for this wonderful young lady!

Whitney Hirschfelds

My showstopper of the night… Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Whitney Miller and her custom Rachel Allen gown from Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe. Hirschfeld’s owner Abbie Pack took the gown and hand-beaded the lining with a dazzling pop of pink. THIS. WAS. AMAZING.

Finally, not competing but equally as dazzling, was Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2013 Samantha Washington, the current Miss Nebraska Teen USA.

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Samantha just has that IT factor, and was a supermodel in this amazing bling-meets-pants Vienna Prom combo from Black Swan Dress Boutique. LOVE!

The Hostess with the Mostest Awards

Wow. Pretty much broke every grammar rule in the book with this one.

Nicole

Miss America’s Outstanding teen Nicole Jia was a special guest and host for this year’s state pageant, and she was a JOY. It’s easy to see why and how this young woman was named Miss America’s Outstanding Teen; she is articulate, funny, and incredibly warm and caring to everyone around her.

I was especially touched by this moment: Nicole, not only congratulating our new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, but connecting with her in a way only a select few can, because they are the girls who’ve accomplished this incredible feat. Nicole attends school and travels to another state and crowning nearly EVERY WEEKEND, and we are so blessed and grateful she chose Nebraska!

Helping Nicole throughout the night and ensuring the production was nearly flawless was a woman very familiar to so much of our Miss Nebraska and MNOT family..

TWU Alyssa and Jessica

Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell volunteered her time to direct the pageant from backstage. This former MNOT contestant and Top 12 semi-finalist at Miss America dedicated her whole day to rehearsals and worked in the dark behind the scenes to put the best light possible on this year’s 18 contestants. She is one of the most giving, genuine people I have ever met, qualities she continues to prove through her willingness to give back to our programs.

We use the word OUTSTANDING for a reason. These young women are everything you hope your daughters are as they grow up. They remind those of us who are older of the energy, light, and beauty we all still have inside us. They represent the very best our state has to offer now and in the future.

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Here’s proof. Miss Nebraska 2011 Kayla Jacox, who was also Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2007. Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters, a Top 5 finalist at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. Rachel Daly, the second Executive Director of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Organization, who along with Peggy Fox and Kayla, formed the foundation of a new legacy and countless opportunities for future Miss Nebraska’s. And me, just a gal incredibly inspired by this year’s 18 contestants, the friends at my side, and the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long.

TWU Carsyn official

Sweet girl, we are so, so proud of you and cannot WAIT to watch you represent all of Nebraska’s teenagers on America’s stage. You are truly OUTSTANDING.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2017 MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN AWARD WINNERS!

Carsyn Long, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen: Overall Awards for Interview, Talent and Evening Gown/On Stage Question

1st Runner Up: Jamie Chen (also Overall Scholastic Achievement Award)

2nd Runner Up: Cherokee Purviance (also Spirit Award, tie for Miss Congeniality)

3rd Runner Up: Alex Nervig

4th Runner Up: Emily Lenser

Top 8 Semi-finalists: Alexandria Warneke (also 2nd Place Community Service Award), Whitney MillerNaomi Turner

Additional honors: Brianna Little, Overall Community Service Award; Katy Greene, Non-Finalist Talent Award; Phoenix Stanford, Non-Finalist Interview Award & Non-Finalist Evening Gown/On Stage Question Award

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CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.  For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Western Nebraska 2017 Devin Owens

NEXT.. Miss Chadron 2017 Shaniah Freeseman

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

 

Finding Fate

This year, the night before a new Miss Nebraska is crowned, generations of our royal family and their fans will gather to celebrate 80 years of the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program.  Our first recorded Miss Nebraska, Ruth Lenore Jones, was crowned in 1937.  Each year, we have not only sent an incredible state representative to compete at the Miss America Pageant, we have united and celebrated a class of extraordinary women from all corners of Nebraska.

LJS Miss Nebraska 1968

A clip from the Lincoln Journal Star, June 30, 1968.

As Miss Nebraska 1968 Diane Boldt was crowned, 1st Runner Up Charlene Warneke applauded alongside the rest of the Class of ’68.  That year’s Miss North Platte continued to be involved in our program for years after, eventually passing on that passion to her granddaughter Alexandria.

Miss York County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alexandria Warneke

This weekend, 50 years after her grandmother finished as 1st Runner Up, Alexandria Warneke will compete to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“I am passionate, committed, and will work hard to convey a positive image of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen while promoting science education to girls,” said Alexandria.  The 17-year old is a junior at York High School, who hopes to one day become an environmental attorney.  That passion for science led Alexandria to focus her year as Miss York County’s OT on her platform, ‘Where a Beautiful Brain Can STEM From.’  Click here to read the York News-Times story on Alexandria!

“As a [female] student interested in science, I find myself in a minority at school,” said Alexandria.  “Fortunately, I am lucky to have many female science teachers to look up to and parents who have helped me thrive in a world where girls are outnumbered.  I strive to be a role model for young girls to show them how much fun they could have exploring new things in the world.”

Alexandria has visited science fairs and classrooms across her area to share her platform.  She talks about Margaret Hamilton, who wrote the coding and invented the software in the 1960’s that helped get Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon.  She talks about the 66% of girls in fourth grade who say they are interested in science and math, and the less than 18% who end up majoring in engineering, or the 0.4% (yes, less than 1%) that major in computer science.  She also shares her own achievements in STEM fields; Alexandria has received the President’s Award for Educational Excellence, she’s a member of the state champion Science Olympiad team, and she’s currently taking four college-level courses at York High School.

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“Currently, the world needs a lot of help from all of us to keep its natural resources and put a halt to further damage we cause,” said Alexandria.  “As Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, I will be able to be a role model for many more young girls, and together, women can do amazing things to allow the world a brighter future.”

Alexandria notes she wants all girls to hear they can be brilliant AND beautiful, something she’s demonstrating to everyone who’s followed her journey.

Alexandria was chosen as a Prom Ambassador for the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln, modeling designer gowns for the business’s annual showcase.  She is also an award-winning dancer who has performed for the Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company.  At school, Alexandria also participates in FBLA, Mock Trial, Show Choir, York Dukes Dance, Musical and Speech.

“I am beautiful, I am smart, I am outstanding,” said Alexandria.

Agreed.  And I guarantee one of the proud women who would echo all of this and be one of Alexandria Warneke’s biggest cheerleaders… her grandma, Charlene, who paved the way for this fateful journey 50 years ago.  Charlene Warneke died in North Platte in 2010, but last weekend, her granddaughter took a few minutes to take in all of her grandma’s accomplishments, and reflect on what’s to come in her own future.

Alex April 16

“I had an emotional talk with my family over Easter lunch, about my grandma Charlene Warneke,” Alexandria posted on Facebook.  “I’m so proud to be following her footsteps by competing for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen next week! The Miss America system is in my blood, so Grandma, I will have you in my heart and mind during this amazing experience.”

Alexandria final

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.  For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Fur Trade Days 2017 Courtney Pelland

NEXT.. Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Whitney Miller

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

When Quality Meets Quantity

Every year as a little girl, I watched the Miss America Pageant.  I loved seeing these sensational women on that big stage on TV, showcasing their talents and exuding sheer joy when their names were called.  I also remember my disappointment when it seemed Nebraska was ‘never’ called. Not exactly true.. our incredible titleholders won a slew of awards in the 80’s and 90’s, but we faced a 17-year semi-finals drought.  We have had phenomenal titleholders in our state, but we are also going up against states like Texas who have 50+ contestants every year in comparison to our 16 or so.  How do we encourage more local girls to try our program?

Two amazing women are working to find the answer.

Kali and Heather

Kali Tripp and Heather Edwards are the Co-Executive Directors of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Program, Miss America’s companion organization for girls ages 13-17.  This year, they’ve helped recruit 18 young women to compete for our state’s teen title, the most EVER in Nebraska.  These busy women have been on a mission to not just ‘sign her up!’; they’ve scouted and invited in the best of the best across our state.  As a result, Nebraska has become a force to be reckoned with on the national stage and across communities everywhere.

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Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Jamie Chen

Heather and Kali ‘discovered’ Jamie Chen a few months ago, a striking young woman who seemingly checks off every quality Nebraska’s Dream Team looks for regarding talent, intelligence and service.  Jamie got her first taste of the program at just 8 years old, when she was asked to perform at the 2012 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.

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“It felt so right to be on that stage,” Jamie told me recently.  “So I promised myself that I’d be back one day, not just as a guest performer, but as one of those ‘queens’.”

Even then, Jamie knew there was a great deal more to this world, and ultimately, her reasons off stage are what compelled her to compete.

“One of the key reasons that I am participating in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program is that it is not the stereotypical beauty contest,” said Jamie.  “Instead, it goes far beyond that image to helping young women empower others.  [This organization] gives us an opportunity to make a true difference in our community, to imprint ourselves and our message on the hearts of children not only in our own community, but all across the state.”

Disproving stereotypes is a mission Jamie seems to have been born with, shunning the rules of boys and girls for as far back as she can remember.

“I have always been drawn to STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics.)  Throughout my journey, I have been consistently supported by my parents and family, along with many of my teachers and peers,” said Jamie. “My story, however, is unfortunately not the norm: it is the exception.  While the battle against misogyny may be a well-known movement today, its influence within the STEM fields has often been passed over.  Girls grow up with toys and movies that value girls because of their appearances and ‘damsel in distress’ status.  The daughters of our nation grow up believing that their true, inherent value lies in how other people, particularly boys, look at them.  Too often, they go into fields that suit societal perceptions, rather than what interests them.  This stigma, put together with workforce bias and the message that boys are receiving from society, ‘go out and conquer, even if that means being sexist and otherwise biased,’ makes for a deadly combination in the numbers of women in STEM.”

Chen

What you just read came from a 12-year old.  A powerful mission statement from a young woman who is dual enrolled at both Scottsbluff High School and Stanford University’s Online High School.  She’s Class President, a Student Ambassador, Captain of the Math Bowl Team, a national qualifier the national MathCounts competition in Washington DC,  and oh, and by the way, she’s already scored a perfect 36 on her ACT and has been offered a full ride to UNL.. at 12 years old.

“I’d describe myself as a leader, confident and humble,” said Jamie.  “Leaders inspire greatness in others and bring out the best around them.  I hope to empower others to reach their full potential.  Confidence is contagious.  By believing in my own inner strength and finding my inner hero, I aspire to influence everyone around me to do incredible things in life.”

Any variety of incredible things.. like music.  Jamie is not only a brilliant young woman (AGAIN, 36 ON HER ACT…), she’s a gifted musician, playing piano since the age of 5 and the french horn since the age of 9.

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“I pride myself on being a well-rounded person who enjoys both academics, extracurriculars and sports,” said Jamie.  “I am always willing to try new things, and I believe that this contributes to a large part of who I am today.”

A young woman who has visited schools all over her hometown of Scottsbluff, hoping to encourage her fellow students and provide them resources to achieve their goals.  She created the Scottsbluff Giving Club for language and math tutoring, she cofounded the Scottsbluff High Science Olympiad program, and she cofounded Erudit, an education start-up offering educational resources for students across the US. Jamie has reached out to national organizations including the National Girls Collaborative Project and the American Association of University Women for ideas.  Locally, she’s also worked with the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library to host STEM Clubs, providing her fellow students hands on activities and discussions to pique their interest in the same fields.

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Article courtesy the Scottsbluff Star Herald

“As a contestant in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant, I have grown all too aware that I am now no longer living for myself, but as a role model to children everywhere,” said Jamie.  “It has been a journey that I have willingly embraced; the organization has truly pushed me to become the best version of myself, to remember that in every action lies an example for everyone out there.  I wake up in the morning thinking ‘how I live and what I do today might influence the way that another young girl looks at the world’.”

Now every year when I watch Miss America on TV, I keep my fingers crossed that ABC will do more to highlight what is outstanding about these women and how this organization rewards those gifts and hard work to develop them.  That the new Miss America will receive $50,000+ to pay for her college education, and three state contestants pursuing STEM careers will each receive $5,000 every year.  I still get nervous and uber excited about hearing ‘Nebraska!’ but now I am as confident in our chances as ever, knowing teens like Jamie Chen are representing our state. Thanks to Kali and Heather, our numbers are certainly growing.. and the quality of character is simply outstanding.

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“It has always been my dream to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, not because of the crown or sash, but because it lends credibility to my work concerning my platform,” said Jamie.  “The Outstanding Teen program focuses on making a difference in our world, and that is exactly what I aim to do.  I hope to cultivate a message of ‘we can and we will’ in girls across the state.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Jamie Chen on Facebook.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook. For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Kool-Aid Days 2017 Krista Hinrichs

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!