Tag Archive | Sues Stepperettes

Dreaming Big

I still remember being a little girl with HUGE glasses, taking field trips to The Rose or to Papillion-La Vista High School to watch theater. I was IN AWE. I idolized the actors and singers and wanted, so badly, to be on that stage just like them.

When I got to high school, Drama classes were a must, and I tried out for PLHS’s production of Oklahoma! I was one of the youngest students cast – I couldn’t even drive home from rehearsals everyday! I was ‘adopted’ by one of the stars of the show, Alyssa Passey.

Alyssa was a senior (guys, A SENIOR!!) who, for whatever amazing reason, befriended me during those months I really didn’t know anyone else. She drove me home everyday in her amazing pink Dodge Neon (which was AWESOME), and just made me feel COOL. I wanted to be JUST. LIKE. HER.

A 13-year old Millard North Middle School student has a very similar story.. except her Alyssa’s literally sparkled before her eyes.


Her name is Marissa Messick. When this photo was taken, she was just 6 years old and IN HEAVEN.

“Everything started when I was a Little Sister for the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Pageant in 2010,” said Marissa. “My Big Sister, Mindy Schreiber, won Miss Douglas County that night and it was so great to be able to go through that experience with her.”

And Marissa met more Queens over the next several years, as a World Champion baton twirler with The Stepperette’s, a team that has included Miss Nebraska 2001 Tina Foehlinger, Miss Nebraska runners up Tami and Rachel Foehlinger, and Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters. Marissa learned more and more about the sash and crown she’d seen so many times as a little girl.


“Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen and Miss Nebraska are great programs,” said Marissa. “They teach you how to find yourself and they help you become more confident. It helps with paying for school. More importantly, it defies a common fear of public speaking. Being able to speak in public is an amazing life skill and this program helps majorly with being more comfortable doing that.”



So this year, Marissa decided to try this whole pageant thing for herself, and was crowned Miss Millard’s Outstanding Teen.


“My favorite part of being a titleholder is being able to meet so many people and have younger kids look up to me,” said Marissa. “It’s amazing to be able to walk into a room and see their faces just light up with a huge smile and say ‘Mom, look, a princess’. Then you can tell them about your platform and they listen with everything they have because they’re talking to a princess. You can light up their day and impact their lives all in one.”

Marissa has used that attention to promote kindness and respect for others, a mission she calls ‘Believe In The Golden Rule.’


“Treat others how you like to be treated,” said Marissa. “So many people judge and bully others on what they look like, what they do, how smart they are, and how much money their families make. I’ve talked to Alternate Curriculum Program students at my school about this; they shouldn’t be treated any differently then we get treated. Also, I wrote a book on the Golden Rule in English class and read it to 2nd graders at Cather Elementary.”

Those speaking opportunities are also benefitting Marissa. She’ll begin classes at Millard North High School next fall, and hopes to someday become a lawyer.

“This is definitely helping me because I have to be able to form opinions on topics. I will have to be ok and comfortable with public speaking,” said Marissa. “Also, I will have to know how to balance my time, and being an 8th grader while getting ready for high school, spending time with friends, doing appearances, twirling and preparing for State definitely teaches me how to healthily balance my time.”

‘State’ is the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen competition, the next step in Marissa’s journey. The same moments she watched as a little girl with a smile on her face and starts in her eyes are now in her path.


Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“My goal isn’t to win, which sounds strange, but my goal is to meet friends and have a good experience,” said Marissa. “It doesn’t matter if you win at state or if you had the best dress, but the changes you made. I think, not just with Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen but with everything you do in life, what you leave behind is most important.”


To follow Miss Millard’s Outstanding Teen Marissa Messick, 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.


The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

PREVIOUS.. Miss Elkhorn’s Outstading Teen Rachel Greufe

NEXT.. Special 3-Part Post! Miss Eastern Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Sofia Drelicharz, Miss Heartland’s Outstanding Teen Aubrie Charter, and Miss North Platte’s Outstanding Teen Aspen Golter

Seasons of Love

525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year? In daylights. In sunsets. In midnights. In cups of coffee.  In inches. In miles. In laughter and strife.

How do you measure a year in the life… when you’re Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen?

Less than 11 months ago, Hannah Miller was named Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2016.  Tomorrow, after trips to Orlando and Atlantic City, performances all over Nebraska, appearances at dozens of events, and connections with countless children, Hannah will pass on her crown.

“I’m not sad that I’m passing on the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. I had my year, and I made the most of it,” Hannah told me recently. “Now it’s time for another lucky young lady to have the same opportunities I had.”

hannah crowning

Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph

Hannah rose to the top of an epic Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen class jam-packed with talent, intelligence, civic leadership and grace.  She was articulate, magnetic and energetic from start to finish.  Immediately after she won the crown, Hannah devoted herself in preparation to compete for Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.

Hannah MAO Teen intro

“I had the shortest amount of time to get ready for nationals than any other Outstanding Teen in Nebraska’s history. So that consumed the majority of the first part of my reign,” said Hannah. “I went into nationals wanting to give it my all and not have any regrets on my performance or my experience and I can honestly say that I did exactly that. I gave everything I had in every part of the national competition and I walked away knowing that I represented Nebraska to the best of my ability. I had the experience of a lifetime and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

For the third year in a row, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen was among the top award winners at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.  Hannah won a preliminary Evening Gown/On Stage Question award, and won a Top 5 Interview Award, her proudest moment in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Hannah came home and accepted the job that was only just beginning at the conclusion of competing at nationals.  Her new mission: find time for commitments as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding teen and for the activities and wishes of an American teenager.  Hannah is also a student at Elkhorn High School and a competitive swimmer.

“Since I’m extremely active with swim and my other school activities, it was hard to find the perfect balance between being Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen and being a student athlete,” said Hannah. “The first few months were rough. But with the help of my manager (aka my mom) I was able to find the perfect balance between my two vastly different worlds.”

Whereas Miss Nebraska attends most events and appearances across the state on her own throughout her year of service, Hannah was often accompanied by her incredibly supportive parents, Jim and Barb Miller.  During one of our program’s biggest weekends, Crowns and Gowns, Jim Miller drove Hannah to North Platte for a photo shoot, back to Omaha for a major swim meet, back to North Platte for a fashion show and autograph signing, and back to Omaha for school (and work!) on Monday.

I’m exhausted just typing that.

Hannah has often focused her speeches and messages on her personal platform, Safe Splashes, promoting water safety. (Click here to learn more!)

“Looking back, I will never forget going to the Olympic Trials, and having the opportunity to talk to children about the importance of water safety,” said Hannah. “I plan on continuing my work with ‘Josh the Otter’ and spreading water safety awareness. As Dory puts it, I’ll ‘Just keep swimming!'”

Hannah’s focus now is con continuing her education, using the thousands in scholarship money she collected through the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program.


“Right now I’m in the process of college planning,” said Hannah. “I plan on swimming in college and studying Elementary Education. To answer the burning question of if I’ll compete for Miss Nebraska someday, right now I’m not sure. I’m focused on college so I won’t be competing anytime soon!”

And this weekend, Hannah is focused not on herself and what she’s accomplished, but the 18 young women who hope to follow in her footsteps.

Hannah at local

“I want this year contestants to know that they have already made a huge impact on their communities and they are doing a terrific job promoting the Outstanding Teen program,” said Hannah. “Only one lucky girl will walk away as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen but you all have the opportunity to continue the great work you are already doing! You don’t need to wear a crown to make an impact!”

525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year?

In smiles. In dancing. In thank you’s. In high school swim meets.

Hannah Final 3

In appearances. DEFINITELY in miles. In friendships and impacting lives.

525,600 minutes.  Thank you, Hannah Miller Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2016, for giving us this year of your life.



CLICK HERE * 2016 * Just Keep Swimming

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


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

NEXT.. Miss Western Nebraska 2017 Devin Owens

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!

It’s A Small World After All

There are 7.4 billion people in the world.  319 million of those live in the United States, and about 1.8 million live in Nebraska.  Any given day, you could come across any number of strangers… or you could bump into familiar faces in the strangest of places.  Last year as my husband and I were traveling to Cancun, we randomly bumped into his cousin at the airport.. a cousin who lives in California.  Then while we were at the resort, 2700 miles away, we literally ran into our good friend, Megan.  Of all the hotels in all the vacation destinations around the world, we chose the exact same spot at the exact same time.  There is some truth to the saying ‘it’s a small world after all.’  So perhaps I shouldn’t have been as surprised to hear, the first time I met the new Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen, “I think you know one of my teachers..”

Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig

Alex Nervig is a proud Millard North Mustang, the high school where my husband has been an assistant baseball coach for 11 years.  Turns out, head coach Dave Cork is one of her teachers this year. Of all the schools and all the teachers in the Omaha metro…

but Millard is getting accustomed to having ‘pageant girls’ walk their halls.  Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson and Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters are both Millard Public Schools grads.  Miss Gering 2016 LaRissa McKean and Miss Western Nebraska 2015 Chrissy Townsend are Millard South alums, and Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashly Helfrich studied at Millard West as she prepared for state competition.

“I decided to compete for my local title because I know a lot of people who have competed in this system and have absolutely loved it!” Alex told me.  “This is also my last eligible year to compete in the teen pageant so I decided even if I don’t win, it will still be a really fun experience.”

Alex crowning

But she did win, and hit the ground running through every door that opened up for her.  Alex has since been spotted volunteering for the Salvation Army, taking part in fundraisers for Children’s Miracle Network and spreading some Irish goodwill in Omaha’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“My goal is to enjoy the journey and make the most of it,” said Alex.  “I have met so many new friends and I have gained multiple opportunities that I never thought I would have.  I am so excited to see what the rest of the year holds for me!”

A year that was already jam-packed with performances and competitions; Alex is a member of the World Champion Stepperettes Baton Team, and she’s part of the state-finalist Mustang Varsity Cheer Squad.

Through cheer, Alex became part of the Sparkles program, partnering cheerleaders at several Omaha area high schools with students who have special needs.  The Sparkles held their first annual showcase this winter, and they volunteered at the Annual Rock and Roll for Disabilities in Omaha.  Friendships have always been integral to Alex, and she’s dedicated her year of service to the special relationships she’s formed through Sparkles.

Click here to read more about the Sparkles 1st Annual Showcase in the Omaha World Herald!

“My platform is called ‘We Are One’ and it promotes the equal treatment of people with special needs,” said Alex. “I chose this as my platform because throughout my years of school I have seen students with special needs get bullied and I want to see it come to an end.”

Flashback to October.. and telling Coach Cork that once again, a Millard girl was our newest titleholder in the Miss Nebraska system.  I heard then how kind Alex Nervig was to everyone around her, and how involved she was in the community. She didn’t transform into an outstanding teenager when she put on a crown; those qualities were already there.  That crown, and the 17 others worn by teens across Nebraska, simply highlight the extraordinary things they would be doing with or without their titles.

Alex and girls

“So far, my favorite part has been meeting the other local titleholders and becoming friends with them,” said Alex.  “I would really like people to know that pageants are not all about wearing pretty dresses and wearing a crown.  The crown gives us an opportunity to spread the message of our platform and make a positive change in society.”

Our connections to each other around the world are simply incredible.  It’s the Kevin Bacon effect.. someone knows someone who knows someone.  When those stories are exchanged, when we connect the dots as to how we all relate to each other, how will everyone describe you?  Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Alex Nervig hopes to stand out as a funny, talking, outgoing young lady who made a difference in this world.

Alex C&G

“I want people to know that your success is determined by your definition of success, not someone else’s,” said Alex.  ” As long as you accomplish your goals, you can call yourself a winner.”


CLICK HERE to follow Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig or to get more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant! You can also email Director Kelsey Ellis at omahadouglascountyot@gmail.com.


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


PREVIOUS.. Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Jamie Chen

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick

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!


The emerging theme for many of my posts lately has been assumptions.  The descriptions and details we assume to be fact because of what we’ve heard, societal influence, whatever the case may be.  Often, part of the challenge in spreading awareness about a cause or topic is changing the misconceptions people may have about it.

For example: addiction.  What do you think of?  Someone dirty, desperate, homeless.. or an upper middle class housewife living a seemingly normal, if not perfect life?

For several years now, my former colleague and award-winning friend Julie Cornell has worked tirelessly to shed light on what many view as a prescription drug epidemic in Nebraska.  Her reports have led to public questions and changes in state law.  That work has also encouraged people to come forward and get help.. people like Claire Winkelbauer. The mother of four and minister’s wife became addicted to hydrocodone after she was prescribed the drug post-surgery.

“Without God, without my husband, without people that love you, I honestly believe in my heart that I wouldn’t be here today,” she told Julie.  CLICK HERE to see Julie’s full story as part of KETV’s year-long State Of Addiction series.

Stories like this are taking place all around us, whether we know it or not.  It’s the reason a Bellevue teenager has dedicated her year to what she calls a Message of Hope.

Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Katie Harris

“My platform is called ‘A Message of Hope: Raising Awareness to Drug and Substance Abuse.’  I chose this because I have seen what the effects of drug abuse can do to a person and the people around them,” Katie told me recently.  “Since this kind of topic has greatly affected my family, I wanted to teach young adolescents the dangers of drugs and alcohol so that they can make the right decisions on their path to their future.”

Katie is a role model to her peers at Bellevue West High School, and now to countless children across the Omaha metro area.


Crowned Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen in October, Katie immediately used her crown and sash as an ‘in’ to speak to classes and groups.


Katie speaking at Westside’s Loveland Elementary

She’s also spreading her message across social media and more, urging her followers to share posts and pictures advocating for drug abuse awareness.

I’ll be selling these Message of Hope shirts to raise money for my Miss Omahas Outstanding Teen platform called “A Message of Hope: Raising Awareness to Drug and Substance Abuse”. All proceeds with go to the Omaha Valley Hope Association. They are a non-profit organization for people who are in the process of recovering from addiction. They are $15!! Please message me if interested!!

When a young woman is crowned a Miss So&So, they are not required to take part in community service.  They aren’t forced to give countless hours of their time, their evenings and weekends, to promote a cause.  Katie does all of this in addition to her studies at Bellevue West High School, where she is a member of the Varsity Cheer Squad, and competitive baton twirling as a member of the World Champion Stepper-Ettes Baton and Dance.

Katie, and women like her, give their time to others because they are determined to make a difference.  It’s why Katie decided to compete in a pageant in the first place.

“I care about others!” said Katie.  “I love helping people and being involved in the lives of others, which explains why I want to pursue a career in the medical field!  [I am] hard working because you get out the amount of work you put in.  I truly believe that working hard now will pay off later in life.  And finally, [I am] kind because kindness is key! A simple compliment or ‘hello’ to someone could make their day.  Plus, who doesn’t love to see someone smile because of you?”

These are all of the qualities Katie hopes to show a panel of judges when she competes to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“[Pageants] give girls confidence!” said Katie.  “Not everyone can go on stage and answer a question in front of lots of people and get judged on it… literally!  I think there’s a message behind pageants, also, and it’s that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.  Never give up!”


To pageant naysayers, Katie notes the three women with her in this photo, and countless others not pictured.

“My favorite part of this competition is meeting new people! I love making friends!” said Katie.  “I have met so many people and it has given me opportunities that I never imagined I would’ve had before.  It also boosted my self esteem/confidence because I worked so hard for this and I plan on working harder for the next step.”

Which path Katie Harris takes that next step could be determined in April.  Her end goal will stay the same, regardless if she’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen or Katie Harris, a truly outstanding teenager.

“Other than wanting to win, my goal is to spread the message of hope to more places in Nebraska,” said Katie.  “I want to further my platform and impact the lives of young adolescents and teens.  Most of all, I want to be the reason someone said no to drugs.”



CLICK HERE to follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Katie Harris or to get more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant!  You can also email Director Kelsey Ellis at omahadouglascountyot@gmail.com.


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


PREVIOUS.. Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Sydny Ridgeway

NEXT.. Miss Omaha 2017 Wellesley Michael

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!

Making Noise

Every single one of the young women competing for Miss Nebraska has a voice, a message they want as many people as possible to listen to.

Today’s featured contestant is working extra hard, because the same people she is trying to help CANNOT always hear her.


Miss Metro, Kimberly Brennan

Kimberly is nearly deaf in her left ear.  A virus, contracted when she was 14, stole her hearing.  A virus that was not diagnosed for several weeks, despite Kimberly’s complaints about ringing in her ear and an inability to hear things clearly.

“It took an ENT five minutes to diagnose a virus in my ear.  If I had only known weeks earlier, my hearing could have been saved,” said Kimberly in a recent interview.  “I want to share my story and take the message of hearing loss prevention on a state and national level because I don’t want others to risk this same fate.”

Kimberly now travels to schools and other groups sharing her story.  She also hands out earplugs and has plans to ‘take on’ companies that produce products like ear buds to make listening devices safer.

“With the ever growing prevalence of noise induced hearing loss, now is the perfect time to take on the issue,” said Kimberly.  “The answer lies mainly in providing the knowledge.”



Kimberly’s explanation behind her personal platform is only a glimpse of the passion she has for her roles, not just as Miss Metro, but as ‘Miss Brennan’.  Kimberly graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha and has been accepted into the CADRE Masters of Education program, where she plans to obtain her Master’s Degree in education WHILE teaching full-time.

“Student teaching was a high point in my educational career,” said Kimberly.  “I loved and was energized by teaching students each day and dedicating myself to helping them learn and grow.”

Kimberly also spends about 21 hours a week teaching baton at Sue’s Stepperettes, where she became a national and world champion despite her hearing loss.  She still trains there several hours a week.

“Imagine trying to throw a baton, jump, spin and balance, all while having the balance on one side of your body minimized,” said Kimberly.  “It took a lot of hard work and perseverance to regain the balance that I had; winning [those titles] have been some of the proudest moments of my life so far, because I had to work so hard to get there.”


Kimberly will compete for Miss Nebraska side by side with her fellow baton twirlers Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger and Miss State Fair Aleah Peters. 

See if you can spot them in KETV’s story on Sue’s Stepperettes when they celebrated 40 years in May of 2013.

No matter where she’s teaching, speaking, or twirling, Kimberly says she tries to show every person and group she cares about them.

“I want them to do well, I want them to accomplish great things and I want them to feel cared for,” said Kimberly.  “I try to talk to everyone I meet and I take a genuine interest in them.  I am truly fascinated by the things you can learn simply by talking to people you come across.”


That passion fuels Kimberly’s desire to serve others.

“I never feel better than when I am volunteering my time with others,” said Kimberly.  “I have had amazing opportunities to help by raising money, plunging in freezing cold water, reading to children at libraries and schools, speaking about hearing loss, passing out ear plugs, dancing, greeting people, running bid boards, doing arts and crafts, modeling, all while taking about a million photos to commemorate the life changing experiences!  I’m always looking for more opportunities to serve others, so PLEASE feel free to contact me if you know of any place that could use volunteers!”

Need proof?  I spotted Kimberly THREE TIMES in the April issue of Metro Magazine, volunteering or making appearances at events in the Omaha area.  In every photo, she is flashing a warm, welcoming smile.

Heartland family   6027_576526832365865_1941370413_n

“What you see is what you get.  I am proud of who I am and what I have accomplished so far in my life,” said Kimberly.  “I am confident in the fact that I am compassionate, passionate, dedicated, loving, caring, hard working, reflective, helpful, confident and intelligent.  But I also accept the face that I have lazy days sometimes, that I can procrastinate, that I over-schedule myself, that I have a sweet tooth and that I can be impatient.  We all have our negative qualities, but we need to be willing to embrace them and to better ourselves each day by serving others and gaining knowledge about anything and everything that strikes our fancy.”

Kimberly says the Miss America Organization highlights the positive, making the pageant still relevant in 2014.

“Turn to mass media and I bet you can find multiple stories about violence, celebrity happenings, people with eating disorders, and tragedies that happen every day,” said Kimberly.  “While there are some positive stories about people who are doing great things and fighting to make a change, they are far fewer than those that are disheartening and discouraging.  That is where the Miss America and Miss Nebraska pageants shine.  These contestants are women who are actually doing something about these problems.  They are women who are willing to put themselves out there and work like crazy to have a positive impact on the world.”

Kimberly’s out there, alright.  Trying to make people hear her story, on behalf of those who can’t.

She’s ready to make some noise at Miss Nebraska.


Connect with Miss Metro, Kimberly Brennan

by email at kabrennan@unomaha.edu


The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.


PREVIOUS POST..  Miss Western Nebraska, Morgan Yost

NEXT POST.. Miss Eastern Nebraska, Alyssa Howell!

How Do You Like Me Now?

This is my 9th feature on this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants, and I feel like with every profile I write and the pictures I post, I think, ‘WOW, this girl is just BEAUTIFUL!’  It’s hard to imagine a time in any of their lives when they were picked on, targeted, or felt sadness because of someone else’s words against them.

Not the case.

In so many of these interviews, these women have revealed moments in their past in which they were bullied for a variety of reasons.  Kids can be cruel; even more so in today’s age of social media, when it’s so very easy to tweet or post something mean about someone behind the shield of the internet.

This young lady is taking on the bullies, and showing everyone who feels alone that THIS is who you can become.


Miss State Fair, Aleah Peters

(Thank you Marla Austin Photography for use of Aleah’s photo!)

THAT SMILE.  From the moment I met Aleah, that has been something that is always there, in every picture, in every moment she’s on stage, and whenever you are around her in person.  THAT SMILE.  Little did I know before our interview, it hasn’t always been there.

“When I was in high school I was bullied by a group of girls,” said Aleah in a recent interview.  “I feared going to school, attending sporting events or even answering my phone.  Since then I have realized that this is a problem that has affected, or will affect, everyone.  Whether a person experiences being the victim, the bully, or a bystander, it is important that we stand up for change.”


Aleah is taking her message, dubbed ‘Stand for the Silent, Anti-Bullying’ to kids across the state of Nebraska.

“I have learned so much from each person I have met throughout my year,” said Aleah.  “This position allows me to be a role model to kids of all ages and a contributing member in my community.  Wearing a crown and sash gives me credibility and the chance to make a difference.”

Aleah is also raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network, Miss America’s community partner.  She recently organized the ‘Miss Valentine’ pageant, drawing more than 40 little girls.  Each child was treated to hair and makeup pampering, then participated in an opening number dance, modeling and an interview.  Every girl was recognized for something she did well in; the event raised more than $2,000 for the charity.

IMG_2261 IMG_2265

“The girls had a wonderful time!” said Aleah.  “The event was a huge success!”


“I genuinely care for the people around me,” said Aleah.  “I always try to make somebody’s day a little bit brighter.”

Those qualities helped Aleah finish as 1st runner-up in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen competition in 2010.  After graduating from Millard South High School, she decided to compete for Miss Nebraska.  While she says she enjoys all areas of the competition, Interview is her favorite.

“This part of the competition allows me to show the judges who I really am past all of the glamorous gowns, fit bodies and flashy talent,” said Aleah.  “Interview sets each individual apart from each other because we are all so different.”


Aleah also has plenty of practice for the Talent portion of the competition; she works at Sue’s Stepperettes in Omaha, where she has twirled baton for years along with fellow contestants Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger and Miss Metro Kim Brennan.  See if you can spot Aleah in KETV’s story on Sue’s Stepperettes when they celebrated 40 years in May of 2013.

As for Lifestyle and Fitness, or swimsuit competition, Aleah believes it should remain part of the Miss America system.

“The goal of the organization is to help women become the best version of themselves in all areas of their life including fitness,” said Aleah.  “This area of competition has helped me develop self-confidence and realize the importance of living a healthy life.”

In Aleah’s case.. healthy AND happy.  Did I mention her awesome smile?


I can’t help but hope those girls who were mean to her so many years ago see this post, or see Aleah’s picture and achievements, and someday teach their kids to be kinder than they were.  If I WERE Aleah, I’d be dancing in my bedroom, singing to Toby Keith’s ‘How Do You Like Me Now?’ at the top of my lungs.

I’m guessing Aleah doesn’t do that.  She doesn’t need to, when she can make little girls smile just like her.

Connect with Miss State Fair, Aleah Peters

on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram 


The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.


PREVIOUS POST.. Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger

NEXT POST….  Miss Panhandle, Mindy Schreiber!

River Deep, Mountain High

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….

I competed in the Miss Nebraska pageant.  Many moons and many pounds ago.

I loved performing on stage and speaking about issues and causes I believe in.  I will also never forget the amazing show of support I had from my family, friends and even strangers throughout the two years I competed.

Before Miss Nebraska 2002, a sweet little girl approached me with a neon green poster she had created just for me–it warmed my heart, especially considering her older sister was competing, too.  That little girl’s name was Rachel.

 This year, SHE is competing for the title of Miss Nebraska 2014.

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Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger

Rachel has been part of the Miss Nebraska family for more than a decade.  Both of her older sisters, Tina and Tami Foehlinger, competed in the Miss Nebraska pageant in 2001 and 2002 respectively, and Tina went on to represent Nebraska in the Miss America pageant, named as a Top-20 semi-finalist.  Rachel was just 9 at the time.

“There are no words for the impact this had on me,” Rachel told me in a recent interview.  “Not only was I in awe of what she had accomplished, along with all of the other contestants, I was in love with the organization and everything it stood for.  I looked at those young women on the stage and said to myself I want to be just like them when I get older.”


 Rachel went on to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2008.  Her journey continues now as Miss River City, representing the Omaha metro area along with her ‘pageant sisters’ Miss Omaha Payton Merritt and Miss Douglas County Megan Swanson.  Her history with the Miss America organization has made her a passionate advocate for the system and the women who participate in it.

“Never before has there been such a need for genuinely positive role models, which is exactly how I would describe the women I have met through the Miss America Organization,” said Rachel.  “I have already grown so much just by competing that I will be forever thankful to have been involved with this organization, whether I walk away with the crown or not.”


Rachel is no stranger to pressure or to the spotlight.  She is a world champion baton twirler with Sue’s Stepperettes in Ralston, which is owned by her mother, Sue Foehlinger.  Rachel has not only competed and performed since she was old enough to hold a baton, she has watched generations of twirlers train at her family’s studio and around the world.  KETV showcased Sue’s Stepperettes when they celebrated 40 years in May of 2013.  Two other Miss Nebraska contestants, Miss Metro Kim Brennan and Miss State Fair Aleah Peters, are also Stepperettes.

That legacy has earned the Stepperettes notoriety and respect around the world, even drawing local sports guys in to try and learn the art of the baton.  Rachel was on TV again in July of 2011, trying to teach KETV’s Andy Kendeigh how to twirl.. without hurting himself or others 🙂

Rachel made a name for herself several years ago, named as the Featured Twirler for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  She performed every Saturday during football season in front of 80,000 plus football fans, the fourth Foehlinger sibling to twirl for the University of Nebraska.  Omaha World Herald columnist Mike Kelly chronicled their run before Rachel’s last home game in November.

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“I have spent my entire life dedicating myself to the sport that has given me the drive to succeed individually as well as part of a team,” said Rachel.  “I feel blessed beyond belief to be able to share my talent on the Miss Nebraska stage!”

As Miss River City, Rachel is also sharing a personal message, spreading awareness of skin cancer.  Both Rachel’s uncle and cousin died from melanoma.

“Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States.  At the current rate, one person dies from melanoma every hour,” said Rachel.  “I spend every day thinking of ways to get the word out it CAN happen to anyone.”


Rachel says she’s involved in several efforts to raise awareness, including a recently launched campaign called #TheBedIsDead, encouraging people to avoid tanning beds.

(Check out KETV’s stories about why both cancer survivors and doctors fully support the campaignand the impact it’s having on students.)

Rachel is also a student liaison for the Nebraska Skin Cancer Prevention Act, recently passed by the Nebraska Legislature requiring anyone under the age of 16 have parental permission before using a tanning bed.

“My part in both of these campaigns is to spread awareness to youth, high school students and colleges,” said Rachel.  “So many of us have an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude.  This is a dangerous attitude, because once you get melanoma, you can never turn back.”


It’s truly amazing how life comes full circle.  That 12 years after a sweet little brunette presented me with a poster she made, wishing me luck at Miss Nebraska, I would be BLOGGING about her journey for the same title.  That ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ played when Tina Foehlinger competed for and won Miss Nebraska, and Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger will be competing for the same title in June.

Fate? Who knows.  A dream? Absolutely.  Rachel’s ready to bring the crown back home.. and maybe her own poster made by another sweet, little girl.


Connect with Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger

on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on the Miss River City website.

Click here for more information on the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County/Miss River City Pageant on Facebook

Click here to follow the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County/Miss River City Pageant on Twitter.


The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.


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