Tag Archive | Stomping The Stigma

Contestant #16

‘Mental health is as important as physical health. Please reach out to someone if you need help. You are not alone and you are worth so much ❤’ 

Posted by Kaelia Nelson, August 17, 2017.

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Right now, 15 young women are taking part in rehearsals at North Platte High School, hoping to be crowned the next Miss Nebraska. An important piece is missing from the Class of 2018.

Kaelia

Her name: Kaelia Nelson, crowned Miss Chadron 2018 on September 9.

“Extremely excited for the year ahead as your Miss Chadron 2018,” she shared just days after she won the title. Just weeks later, Kaelia began classes at Peru State College and jumped right into her active scheduled as a collegiate cheerleader and local Miss Nebraska titleholder.

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“Last weekend I had the opportunity to perform a dance in honor of all the men and women who have risked their lives for us to live in this amazing country,” said Kaelia. “I feel absolutely honored to have been in the same room as so many of these wonderful and brave individuals. Thank you for your service. ❤️💙🇺🇸”

October 15, Kaelia got all dolled up for a photo shoot, courtesy of a new sponsor for the Miss Chadron program.

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“Thank you so much to the wonderful Heidi Barnes for donating a photo shoot for us title holders,” said Kaelia. “I can’t wait to see how they turned out!”

Two weeks after Kaelia posted this, she took her own life.

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In the days that immediately followed Kaelia’s death, I reached out to her mom to offer our condolences and any support the Miss Nebraska Organization could provide. Her mother said to me that day ‘we really thought that someday she was going to be Miss Nebraska.’

For good reason. Kaelia was 1st Runner Up to Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2012. She was named Nebraska’s Homecoming Queen, finishing 3rd in the country in 2015. She had a natural gift for dance and performance, a Gold Rush Dance Team member at Nebraska Wesleyan before transferring to Peru State, where she was a cheer squad flyer. She was a caring advocate for children, setting the 2017 Miss Nebraska record for fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and she planned to become a teacher. She was kind, charismatic, talented and driven.

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Behind the smile, the light that seemed to impact everyone she touched, Kaelia also battled darkness in the form of mental illness. Ironically, this was the very cause she so passionately spread awareness of as a Miss Nebraska titleholder: Stomping The Stigma.

“I live with anxiety, depression, bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” Kaelia told me last Spring. “People are afraid to step forward and admit to having a mental illness because society has made it such a taboo thing to the point where people are afraid to even talk about it.”

Kaelia school

Kaelia took her message everywhere: to elementary schools, across college campuses and organizations, and to local media. She opened herself up to connect with others, sharing personal details about her own battle and even revealing she had attempted to commit suicide in June 2016.

“I felt extremely alone and hopeless in the battle against my own illnesses,” Kaelia told me. “Individuals are scared of what people may think of them and therefore, do not seek treatment.  The consequences can be life threatening.  I never want anyone else to feel alone or ashamed like I did, especially not for something they cannot control.  This is why I have made it my mission to speak out and share my story in hopes that people will see and understand that it can happen to anyone and it definitely not something to be ashamed of.”

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YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Here is proof, through Kaelia herself.

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More than 107,000 people impacted in some way by news of Kaelia’s death. 435 people shared this, most using Kaelia’s message #StompingTheStigma. More than 1,100 people who GRIEVED, who are hurting, who suffered because of this loss.

YOU MATTER.

YOU ARE LOVED.

YOU MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR SOMEONE ELSE IN THIS WORLD.

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Girls with Kaelia

This week, the Miss Nebraska Organization will honor the life of Kaelia Nelson, and the impact she had on others through her powerful message of mental health awareness. All contestants are wearing #StompingTheStigma shirts during rehearsals and sharing across their social media. For the first time, we will present a Kaelia Nelson Memorial Spirit Award. News outlets across the state have shared her story to compel others to seek help for themselves or their loved ones. CLICK HERE to watch KETV’s special feature on Kaelia; CLICK HERE to read the special feature in the North Platte Telegraph.

Kaelia should be up on that stage rehearsing. She should be preparing to share her talent in front of a roaring crowd, ready to walk across the stage with her radiant smile, waving to her mom and family.

Kaelia dance

To anyone reading this, remember Kaelia. Remember her message. Think of her family, her friends, and all who loved her – and then think of everyone who loves YOU. Help us keep #StompingTheStigma.

“I would absolutely love to win Miss Nebraska and get to represent this amazing state, but my main goal isn’t about the crown on my head,” Kaelia told me.  “Instead, it’s the message I have to share and the people I get to meet because of it. It’s what you set your mind and heart to that will count in the long run.”

kaelia nelson - miss alliance

Kaelia, we miss you, and we pray you have found peace.

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Click here to read more from Kaelia herself.

The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Always listening, never judging, confidential. Text CONNECT to 741741.

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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 Scotts Bluff County Brianna Little

COMING SOON.. Miss Nebraska 2017 Allison Tietjen

Your Best Yes

Choose your best yes.

I was blessed this week to be part of a Gallup summit thanks to my great employer, Westside Community Schools. In this day long learning event, we discussed our own personal strengths, and how we can say yes to everything… but in doing that, there’s no way we can be GREAT at anything. Choose your best YES – what are the things you should say yes to, to bring out your best traits and therefore, have the best impact upon others and the world around us?

This is the year Kodi Baumann said her best yes was to work to become Miss Nebraska.

Kodi Baumann - Miss Alliance

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Kodi is 23, a Chadron, Nebraska native currently serving as Miss Alliance 2018. She started competing in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen program at just 13 years old, and has already competed twice at the Miss Nebraska Pageant. As Miss Chadron 2014, she thought she was done.

“That year, I experienced so much and made so many friends,” said Kodi. “Unfortunately, I realized that I was not at a place in my life that I could give attention to the title it deserved. Fast forward three years later and I know my heart and determination are in the right place to do the title of Miss Nebraska justice.”

 

 

Flashback to November 2017. I, along with many others, had been hoping to convince Kodi to once again, compete for a Miss Nebraska local title. Her voice is breathtaking, her smile is unforgettable, her spirit is infectious. Still, Kodi herself had her doubts, memories she now uses as fuel for her fire.

Kodi Rugby

“I have always struggled with body image, but this year, I am not looking at it as an obstacle,” said Kodi, pictured above after playing competitive rugby with her teammates. “I am taking this on as a challenge to better myself. I am not allowing the scale to define my success. I am focused on becoming stronger.”

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HELL YES, KODI, HELL YES.

Between November and February, Kodi lost an astonishing 25 pounds by taking part in boot camp classes. ‘Strong is the new skinny’, she posted. And PS – that mentality and drive will serve Kodi, and ALL of us, very well. She’s a recent Criminal Justice graduate at Chadron State College, planning on a career in law enforcement. AKA – all that muscle will come in VERY handy taking down bad guys.

Tell me again ‘what type’ of girls compete in pageants.

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“Service lines up with my interest in Law Enforcement,” said Kodi. “Just look at the side of any police car. Protect and Serve. I have always enjoyed giving of myself; it doesn’t matter if it is collecting warm winter clothing, supplies for Doves recipients, raising awareness of our servicemen and women, or sharing my passion for seatbelt use to keep my community safe.”

That final mission is Kodi’s platform of service as Miss Alliance, one that she’s advocated for for several years now, is ‘Fasten Your Seat Belt! Cross Your Heart, Not Your Fingers.’

Kodi platform

“I founded my platform nine years ago after my brother’s accident where he almost lost his life,” said Kodi. “I wanted to share the importance of buckling up and stress that your choice to wear a seatbelt not only affects you, but your loved ones. I wanted to make sure my platform was something I would continue to advocate for once I was done competing in pageants. By choosing a platform so closely related to law enforcement, I know I will continue to spread awareness throughout my lifetime.”

Kodi’s best yes was to amplify her message for an important cause. That yes also opened doors to connect with others, personally confronting one of the biggest issues Kodi feels is facing her generation and more; a lack of face to face interaction, networking and productive communication.

“I’m gaining confidence; I’ll walk into an interview with five judges and am gaining the qualities employers are looking for,” said Kodi. “Successful people are goal oriented. This organizations helps set goals and work to achieve them. I’m also a team player. The sisterhood that this organization creates can be so strong. Many of support one another at events, building our ability of networking and creating lifelong friendships.”

THAT is what ultimately convinced Kodi to say yes one more time: friendships, a very special one in particular.

Kodi & Kaelia

“I decided to compete because the Miss Alliance Pageant was being held in honor of my friend, Kaelia Shae Nelson, the reigning Miss Alliance 2017 and current Miss Chadron 2018,” said Kodi. “Kaelia was struggling with depression and took her own life. The loss of such a talented and passionate individual made me realize how fleeting life really is and I decided I would embrace her motto, Stomping the Stigma, and enter despite all my own internal battles with not being what society holds as pageant material. I wanted to honor our friendship and her memory.”

Kaelia crowned

Choose your best yes. Kodi said ‘yes’ in 2014, and will be the first to tell you it wasn’t her BEST yes. Now, her yes honors a friend. Her yes is highlighting, strengthening her talents and gifts.  Her yes brings her closer to achieving her goals in both her community and for her future career.

Kodi Baumann knows THIS is her best yes, and she’s ready to compete for  the title of Miss Nebraska.

Kodi Final

‘As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.’ Audrey Hepburn,” said Kodi. “My ultimate goal is to walk away with the title and serve my state for a year, sharing my platform and advocating for Children’s Miracle Network. I know that I am prepared to the best of my ability and will put my best foot forward. I feel blessed to represent the Panhandle of Nebraska, where I call home, and will do everything I can to make them proud.”

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To follow Miss Alliance Kodi Lee Baumann, click here

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KODI?

CLICK HERE * 2014* If Nebraska Had An Ocean

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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 Old West Balloon Fest Makinzie Gregory

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County Brianna Little

From The Heart & Mind

I have a book called ‘What’s In a Name?’  I picked it up at the Afternoon about 10 years ago, and literally got chills as I read my description.. ‘creativity’, ‘future in speaking or singing in front of people’, ‘like to feel appreciated.’  Yeah, I bought that book.

How much of who we become is based on our decisions and the influence around us, and how much is driven by the first gift our parents’ gave us.. our names?

Madonna once said: “I sometimes think I was born to live up to my name. How could I be anything else but what I am having been named Madonna? I would either have ended up a nun or this.”

Kaelia Nelson was born with a mother and grandmother deeply invested in the Miss Nebraska Organization, so it seems fate that 20 years later, the girl with the name that means fortune, health and spirituality will compete for that title.

Miss Alliance 2017 Kaelia Nelson

“I have attended every Miss Nebraska Pageant since I was born,” Kaelia told me recently.  “My mom was the director of the Miss Alliance Pageant for many years and would have the state titleholder come to our town and speak at schools.  I was lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time with them.”

Kaelia admired each young woman through the years, in particular, Miss Nebraska 2001 Tina Foehlinger.

“I connected with her,” said Kaelia.  “I looked up to her so much and realized I wanted to have the opportunity to have that impact on young girls and be a positive role model in their lives.”

So Kaelia set out to follow the same path; she served as  Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2012, and represented Nebraska at the America’s Homecoming Queen competition in 2015.  Just as Tina traveled the state with a message, Kaelia also used her titles to make a difference about a topic that is extremely personal.

Kaelia shirts

“‘Stomping the Stigma: Creating Conversations about Mental Illness.’  I live with anxiety, depression, bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),” said Kaelia.  “People are afraid to step forward and admit to having a mental illness because society has made it such a taboo thing to the point where people are afraid to even talk about it.”

Kaelia has produced and distributed shirts, she’s spoken to classrooms all over her area about mental illness, and she’s caught the attention of local news agencies who have helped her spread her message.

Click here to read the Alliance Times-Herald’s story on Kaelia!

With each visit, there are smiles and laughs, but there is also a serious story.

“On June 5, 2016, I tried to take my own life,” said Kaelia.  “I felt extremely alone and hopeless in the battle against my own illnesses.  Individuals are scared of what people may think of them and therefore, do not seek treatment.  The consequences can be life threatening.  I never want anyone else to feel alone or ashamed like I did, especially not for something they cannot control.  This is why I have made it my mission to speak out and share my story in hopes that people will see and understand that it can happen to anyone and it definitely not something to be ashamed of.”

Kaelia shares the stats: that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with 90% of individuals facing mental illness.  She shares what works: treatment, medication, and focusing on passions.  For Kaelia, that’s dance.

“I have been dancing since I was three years old,” said Kaelia.  “The feeling I get when I’m on stage dancing and hear the crowd cheering is something so amazing and thrilling for me.”

Kaelia dances at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where she’s a member of Delta Zeta- Beta Tau.  She also works at CEDARS in Lincoln, a facility dedicated to helping children in crisis.  She’s surrounded herself by support, and reciprocates by offering that same guidance and compassion whether she’s volunteering as Miss Alliance, or working and studying as simply, Kaelia.

“I used to be very shy and absolutely hated talking in front of people,” said Kaelia.  “Due to bullying I faced throughout growing up I was very self-conscious and thought that I wasn’t as good as others because of things that made me ‘different’, but thanks to be involved in pageants I became very confident in myself and what I am capable of.  I know exactly who I am and that my differences, along with everyone’s differences, are what truly make us all unique and special in our own ways.  In fact, the world would be quite boring if we were all the same.”

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So who is Kaelia?  A self-motivated dynamo packed into a 5-foot frame.  A determined student and volunteer from Hemingford, Nebraska inspired by the same young women she’ll be competing against in just a few short months at Miss Nebraska.  A smart, confident woman admired by the same little girls she was once like not so long ago.

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Back to Madonna.  She’s now in her fourth decade as one of music’s biggest stars.  She’s sold millions of records and performed around the world.  She once said, “I have the same goal I’ve had ever since I was a girl. I want to rule the world.”

Each of us given a name.  Perhaps we take from those book definitions the things we see within ourselves, or want to see.  Another meaning behind the name Kaelia: victory.  THIS Kaelia’s definition of that word comes from what she sees in every person she meets along life’s journey.

Kaelia Nebraska

“I would absolutely love to win Miss Nebraska and get to represent this amazing state, but my main goal isn’t about the crown on my head,” said Kaelia.  “Instead, the message I have to share and the people I get to meet because of it.  It’s what you set your mind and heart to that will count in the long run.”

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Click here to follow Miss Alliance 2017 Kaelia Nelson on Facebook.

For more information about the Miss Alliance Pageant/Miss Harvest Moon Festival Pageant or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook. You can also email Director Riki Cornish Hunter at riki.hunter@farmcoop.com or miss.alliance.pageant@gmail.com or call 308-430-4355.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more detailsHERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Makenzie Davies

NEXT.. Miss Twin Rivers Outstanding Teen 2017 Katy Greene

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!