Tag Archive | Suicide Prevention

Edge Of Glory

Every time I begin writing an article featuring a Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen titleholder, I scroll through our conversation and their photos. I look not only at their words and pictures, but their faces and body language within those images. Are they engaged? What did they say about their experiences? How often are they serving as their community’s local titleholder?

When it comes to Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, I simply don’t think WordPress has enough space online to share everything she’s doing.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

She is a patriot. She is a community servant. She is a natural performer. She is a proud Nebraskan. She is wise. SHE IS 13. 

When I was crowned Miss Douglas County in October of 2000, former Miss Omaha and Miss Nebraska Jodi Miller-Holen told me, “you do what you want with this title. You can do nothing, and we won’t be happy but that’s your choice, or you can do everything.”

Here’s what Phoenix told me after being crowned Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen: “Most teens are not interested in giving up their time and energy for a greater cause. I want to change that. We are the future of America. We will inherit the social issues affecting our parents now. I’m only 13 years old, a freshman in high school. I want to lead by example because if we can motivate teenagers now to be the change, just imagine the great things they will accomplish as civically engaged adults.”

Guys. When I was 13, I sat in my brother’s room for hours playing Nintendo and read Babysitter’s Club books walking home from school.

 

This young lady isn’t just talk, either. Phoenix Stanford is proving herself through action, a tireless civil servant advocating for Children’s Miracle Network, school safety and security, sexual assault awareness and women’s rights, world health causes, Autism awareness.. and for several years now, support for military families.

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“I have been a military brat my entire life and to me civilians don’t completely understand the sacrifices made by military families,” said Phoenix. “It’s not easy being a military child. Deployments and relocations not only affect their academic success, but their social and mental well-being are affected. These kids are at risk for depression and anxiety. I get involved with Offutt Air Force Base’s events that are designed to boost family morale. I help raise scholarship money for military dependents, I’ve testified for a military bill, I’ve collected food for veterans, visited sick veterans at the VA Hospital, talked to schools about the hardships of being a military child, collected books for a free, little library at base housing, helped with Gold Star family events, etc.”

 

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Many of Phoenix’s efforts coincide with the work of the current Miss Nebraska Allison Tietjen, who has spent her year of service advocating for our nation’s past and present military heroes. Much like Allie, Phoenix says she’s deeply impacted by the stories she hears from the very people she’s helping.

“Volunteer work is important to me,” said Phoenix. “While being a titleholder, not only have I found out so much about the world around me but I have found out so much about myself. My title has given me the opportunities to meet and connect with amazing people and hear their uplifting stories. Coming across these people has helped me expand my platform to places I didn’t know it would go. I have come across many different non-profit organizations that I didn’t even know existed. These organizations inspire me to do more.”

Being a titleholder has also provided Phoenix with a way to explore two of her passions: education and singing.

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“So far, I have won five scholarships as a local titleholder,” said Phoenix. “My career goal is to become a professional singer. I am working on getting to my dream college, Juilliard. I not only want to break into the music industry but I want to know exactly what I’m doing, and I want something to fall back on in case things don’t go as planned. Nebraska should care about the Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen Pageant because it helps shape the future leaders of America. Providing scholarships to well-rounded young women is worth investing in.”

“I have dreamed of performing the most amazing shows for the biggest audiences since I was a little girl,” said Phoenix. “All I have wanted to do is sing and perform my heart out and that is what I intend on doing. Performing gives me a sense of freedom and a power I look for in life. This program has been a blessing and a huge stepping stone for me.”

No surprise then that Phoenix’s female role model comes from the world of music: Lady Gaga.

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“We have one life, so live it regardless of what anyone else says. That is what Lady Gaga has taught me,” said Phoenix. “I also look up to her untouchable music career. She writes the majority of her own music and performs at high profile events. Even if you are not a Gaga fan, you will certainly be entertained by one of her cinematic shows. I praise her amazing work ethic; she is a rolling stone showing no sign of stopping any time soon. It is people like her I admire and dream of being.”

I would argue Lady Gaga has shifted her status from sensation to legacy by ensuring there is substance and meaning behind every song and every performance. Phoenix is already emulating that.. certainly thinking of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen crown she’ll compete for in 2 weeks, but also using her microphone to make sure people hear and understand things happening in our world. Proof… a message the Miss Nebraska Organization received from Phoenix on March 14, just a few short months after we lost a beloved member of our pageant family, Miss Chadron Kaelia Nelson.

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“Just wanted to let you know that Kaelia won’t be forgotten and people are still fighting for her even on this day,” wrote Phoenix. “Attended the Nebraska State Advocacy day held by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”

At just 13 years old, Phoenix is now also helping Stomp The Stigma against mental illness, the very personal cause that Kaelia fought so passionately for.

“The biggest issue my generation is facing is suicide,” said Phoenix. “It’s an epidemic that is sweeping the nation. More teens have been diagnosed with mental illness in this generation than ever before. We need to pass Nebraska’s LB998, a collaborative school behavioral and mental health program. We also need to eliminate the stigma of mental illness so teens can comfortably seek help and not feel ashamed of what they are going through.”

Lady Gaga once told a journalist she wrote ‘The Edge of Glory” in about 10 minutes, the same night her grandfather passed away. She told Lisa Capretto, “I started playing and I said to my dad, I said, ‘Don’t be sad. He’s on the edge of the most glorious moment in life, when you realize that you won. I said, ‘Look how much he won at life. He won at love with Grandma, and he’s on the edge of a glorious moment.’”

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Look at the women in these articles. Look at Phoenix Stanford. Look at how much they are winning at life. At 24, 17, even 13 years old, they are using every moment they are given, feeling the rush, and pushing themselves to the edge.

Who are you, and in this one, beautiful life you have.. where are you?

“I try to focus on performing at the best of my abilities,” said Phoenix. “If I know I did my best, then I will be content with whatever I leave with. That, to me, is still success.”

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To follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SHELBY?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Just The Way You Are

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.

PREVIOUS.. Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen Jadyn Wetherington

Asking Questions, Saving Lives

Miss America 2009 Katie Stam once said, “I wish I could add a fifth point to the Miss America crown.  There’s scholarship, style, service, and success.. I wish I could add substance.”

YASSSS.

As I’ve noted countless times, these young women are about so much more than makeup, hairspray and heels.  They want to make a difference.  They want to make people smile.  They want to improve lives.

In some cases, they want to save lives.

Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Makenzie Davies

“After hearing so many stories of teen suicide and just suicide in general, I felt like I needed to make a change,” Makenzie told me recently.  “Lifeguards are certified in CPR and lifesaving techniques.  Young parents look for daycare providers who are trained to care for their children in the case of an emergency.  Schools and local businesses often require their staff to be certified in CPR for the added safety of their students or customers.  There is now another program readily available and would allow people to be trained to help someone in the case of mental or emotional crises that could lead to the person choosing suicide as their solution.”

A powerful message shared by a passionate, young advocate.  Makenzie is a student at St. Patrick’s High School in North Platte, describing herself as hard-working and dedicated.

“Being dedicated to something means you are devoted to a purpose or task, having loyalty or integrity towards that purpose,” said Makenzie.”  “Hard-work is taking it a step further by working with energy and commitment, being diligent towards the purpose or task.”

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That mentality helped Makenzie win the title of Miss Northwests’s Outstanding Teen last fall, something she had hoped for for several years.

“As a Little Sister Alumni, I have had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer and be involved in this organization every year,” said Makenzie.  “I actually volunteered last year backstage for the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant and I had so much fun.  That day, I told my mom this is what I want to do.”

And Makenzie embraces ALL aspects of the organization, not just what she saw that night on stage.

In addition to her high school studies and activities, Makenzie has embraced her role as a community leader and public servant.  She has visited classrooms to read, emceed charity events like the Bowl-A-Thon for Junior Achievement of Lincoln, and visited with the little girls who look up to her just as she did not so long ago.

Makenzie has also used her title to spread awareness about that cause she’s so passionate about: suicide prevention.  She calls her personal platform ‘Ask a Question. Save a Life.’

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst teens today,” said Makenzie.  “Teens attempting suicide have a very hard time talking to someone about their problems.  Teens feeling suicidal often feel hopeless, isolated and powerless to change the situation they are in.  This is why the QPR program (Question, Persuade, Refer) is so important to me.”

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Makenzie ordered and distributed awareness bracelets at school assemblies.  Her school rallied behind her efforts, gathering all students for a presentation by Makenzie on suicide awareness. (An event covered by KNOP – click here to watch their story!)  She’s also visited state senators in Lincoln to advocate for suicide awareness legislation.

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“My plan is to motivate people in local communities to recognize the need for certifications in QPR,” said Makenzie.  “The QPR program has been implemented in may communities as a required certification for teachers, police officers, hospital support staff and local community members.  The 90-minute training helps to remove the stigma of fear and train people to effectively speak to those that may be in crisis.”

Makenzie hopes to broaden her message even more, by becoming Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen later this month.

“I would really like to continue working with Region 2 Health and Human Services to build awareness of the QPR Program and stop teen suicide,” said Makenzie.  “[This organization] has taught me how to go after what I believe in, which is stopping teen suicide and building the awareness of the growing epidemic.  It has also helped me in so many ways on a personal level.”

Makenzie notes improved communication skills, friendships, and the chance to share one of her other passions: dance.

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“My favorite part of the competition is definitely the talent portion,” said Makenzie.  “I have been dancing since I was 4 years old so being able to learn a new dance and show the judges and audience my passion and love for it really makes me excited to perform.  To perform by myself on stage dancing and really show the fun that I am having is really exhilarating.”

Makenzie used one more word to describe herself: kind.  And perhaps, that’s where this young woman’s story about pageants, performance and passion comes full circle.

“I try to live by what my parents have always told me,” said Makenzie.  “That is, ‘you never know what is going on in another person’s life so always choose to be kind.”

“To be kind to all, to like many and love a few, to be needed and wanted by those we love, is certainly the nearest we can come to happiness.” – Mary Stuart

I’d argue this is the biggest point we can all take away from this young woman and outstanding teens like her.  What kind of difference can you make in the world today by simply asking questions, caring, and being kind?  Makenzie Davies wants to find out.

“I put my heart into the things I choose to do,” said Makenzie.  “I feel that if you are doing something you like and work hard, you will get the most out of life.”

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Click here to follow Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Makenzie Davies on Facebook!

For more information about the Miss Chadron/Miss Northwest/Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen Program or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook.  You can also email Director Amanda Vogel by emailing maoteenchadron@gmail.com or calling 308-665-5595.

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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 TwitterHERE 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 Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Hope McCoy

NEXT.. Miss Alliance 2017 Kaelia Nelson

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!