Tag Archive | UNK

All-Around Champion

I opened up my paper Saturday morning to an awesome surprise…

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High School Speech.  FRONT PAGE of the Omaha World Herald.

This is absolutely fantastic!!! So often the first thing we see on the front page, or leading the news, is the negative or controversial.  I get it; I understand the process that goes into those decisions and often these subjects are extremely important and affect a large amount of people.  Our media members are also serving our communities; what is the state talking about? The Huskers often steal the spotlight during football season, and once in awhile, fantastic moments of celebration and joy.  Seeing speech kids, on the front page?  THAT. IS. AWESOME.

A few years ago (ok.. long ago in a galaxy far, far away..) I was one of those kids.  I am a proud 2-time Nebraska State Champion in Original Oratory.  Just last week, a new generation of students joined our exclusive club.

Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long

She’s just a junior, but Carsyn Long is also now a 2-time state speech champion.

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She was named Champion in Serious Prose just one day after she turned 17.  And this moment atop the podium at UNK was just one highlight for a teen so extraordinary, she’s competing to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organization empowers young girls of all shapes, sizes, races, religions, etc. to achieve their dreams and do things that are so much greater than themselves,” Carsyn told me recently.  “From my time being an Outstanding Teen, I have gained so much confidence and have grown so much as a young woman.  My dreams and goals have become more of a reality to me and the work I have done throughout the state has made my heart strong and completely full.”

You name it, Carsyn’s involved in it at Gering High School.  She’s involved in theater, cast in a leading role for Gering’s competitive One Acts earlier this year.  She’s  a State DECA qualifier.  She’s a consistent member of Honor Roll and an Honor Society inductee.  She’s an active advocate for her faith, even appearing on NBC Nebraska Scottsbluff in October to promote one of the biggest events in her diocese (CLICK HERE to watch!) And this year, she was selected for the prestigious Doane Honor Choir.  Still, Carsyn told me last year (click here to read more!) she has long dreamed of pursuing another goal since meeting Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan as a little girl.

“Looking back on it now, Teresa has represented everything I have ever wanted to be as a young woman,” said Carsyn.  “I had seen all of the amazing things she was accomplishing and all of the service she was doing during her time as Miss America.  I wanted to be that girl, too.  I wanted to be the girl who changed the world.  I wanted to be that girl who served her community, state, nation and world.  And I wanted to be that girl who would possibly touch an 11-year old girl on the shoulder and she would have the same feeling and attitude towards me as I did with Teresa.”

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Last fall, Carsyn was crowned Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen, punching her ticket to the state competition.  Almost immediately, in addition to her studies and activities in high school, she lined up a slew of appearances and volunteer events.

[Miss America 2015] Kira Kazantsev said something that really struck me at Crowns and Gowns,” said Carsyn.  “[She said]: ‘You want to get something done? A pageant contestant is the best person to go to.’  We are always working on things greater than ourselves.  We are self starters.  It isn’t beauty or just a time for a girl to walk around on stage aimlessly.  [Pageants] are a time to show all the hard work and effort these girls have put in to better themselves and their state.”

Proof: Carsyn has been implementing her personal platform of service in every facet of her life, from home to school to Facebook.  She calls it ‘Real Queens Fix Each Other’s Crowns’.

“A few months ago there was a girl in Kearney who chose to end her life because of other girls’ hurtful actions,” said Carsyn.  “She had become a target for mean comments, cyberbullying, etc.  After reading about her story, I had realized that I am her.  I am the girl that had become the brunt of other girls’ snide and just plain mean , rumors, dirty looks, etc.  I felt so hurt and so alone and wondered what I did to make these girls dislike me so much.  I had a decision to make each morning: I could either let these girls have power over me and make me feel small, or I could remind myself that this won’t matter in 5 years.  I chose [the latter].  I can’t stop thinking about that girl in Kearney and ‘what if I had been her friend?  What if I had been that one girl who was actually kind to her?'”

So Carsyn spreads that kindness everywhere she can, for example, posting surprise well wishes for strangers when she competed for that state speech title.  She posted on Facebook: “Not only was it a perfect day to bring my A game, but it was a perfect day to spread some love! I know all too well the importance of saying kind and uplifting words to others. With left over sticky notes I had in my bag, I gathered some of my sister Queens to team up with me to spread empowerment and brighten someone’s day. Speech days can be really tough for some kids and so we thought we’d offer up some encouragement for some beautiful girls competing yesterday. #realqueensfixeachotherscrowns #mneoteen #misskearneysot 👑”

“I am here to let girls know that they are not alone in their hurting – even someone competing for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen goes through this,” said Carsyn.  “It is my job to show girls how to stop looking at each other as competition and as threats, but rather as a sister or a friend.  We all bring something so unique and special to the table, so why can’t we just encourage each other to use these gifts rather than tear each other down?  Strong and confident women choose to fix each other’s crowns instead of breaking them.”

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A phenomenal message for women everywhere, especially for little girls who may look at Carsyn just as she looks at her Miss America idols.

Last Fall, as Nebraska speech season kicked off for high school teams across the state, the NSAA used a state champion to serve as the face of their #MyReasonWhy campaign… Carsyn Long.  They posted her photo on Facebook, with the caption: “Whether it’s preparing for the big debate or practicing for the big solo, setting goals for tomorrow helps you set goals for life.”

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From one speech kid to another, I wish this outstanding teen good luck no matter what the stage.

“If I don’t win the state pageant, I’ll be busy preparing for senior year and pursuing my dreams of performing,” said Carsyn.  “I love to say that ‘I may be small, but I have giant plans’.  And I know that whatever God has in store for me will exhibit that.”

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Click here to follow Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long on Facebook.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CARSYN?

CLICK HERE * 2016 * Little Big Shots

For more information about the Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen program or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook.  You can also email Director Megan Goeke at jenna@hellobeautifulbridal.com.

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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 Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Haylee Umble

NEXT.. Miss Kearney 2017 Jessica Shultis

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 Sound Of Music

Right now, I’m writing this blog listening to the film score from The Lone Ranger.

Perhaps you’re asking.. Umm.. what?!?!

You read that right.  John Williams radio on Pandora is my go-to when I need to drown out the world.. whether it’s my own thoughts, chatter, or negativity clouding my mind.  The violins, the drums, the SERENITY of these symphonic masterpieces help me focus and block out all the distractions trying to make their way in.  From this Hans Zimmer soundtrack piping through my earbuds, to Williams’ iconic (and for me, BELOVED) movie soundtracks.. music is my rock in these moments.

CLICK HERE if you need a zen moment.. and check out KETV’s feature on future violinists at the Omaha Conservatory of Music!  WARNING–you may DIE of cuteness overload!

Music represents even more for Kate Lynne Duncan, a UNK student and future music teacher.  In the soundtrack of her life, there’s a song for every milestone moment and she’s usually working on what will play next.  Music is her past, present and future.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Music has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Kate told me recently.  “I can’t imagine my education, or life, without music and I hope that my future students never have to.”

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It’s that love of performing that led Kate to the Miss Nebraska Organization; she’ll compete for the title in June as Miss Alliance 2016.  This is Kate’s third local title within the Miss America Organization, and she also competed as a teenager starting at the age of 14.

“I could not have paid for my first semester of college without the money I received from Miss Nebraska that fall,” said Kate.  “More recently, the scholarship money has helped pay off part of my student loan.  I have increased my self-confidence, poise, sharpened my interview skills and gained communication skills.  I really feel that I can tackle any job interview I encounter.”

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But neither pageants, nor college have just been about building to a final crescendo.  When I spoke with Kate last year as she served as Miss Sandhills (click here to read more!) she described the last few years as a metamorphosis in way because of all of her personal growth.  Kate is currently in her fourth year at the University of Nebraska Kearney where she is also a member of Alpha Omicron Pi, the Nebraska Association for Music Educators, the Thompson Scholar Learning Community and the National Association for Residence Hall Honorary (Kate is a third year Resident Assistant).

“I have enthusiasm, positivity, zeal and I encourage those around me,” said Kate.  “It may take a little coffee to wake me up, but I strive to put a smile on someone’s face each day.”

Kate credits that drive to a support network including her family, sorority sisters, and her boyfriend, Andrew.

 “I consider my mother to both my role model and one of my closest friends,” added Kate.  ” I would not stay sane with my hectic daily lifestyle if it wasn’t for her love, support and guidance.  She is always a phone call away and makes frequent 5+ hour drives to see me when I haven’t been able to make it home for a few months.”

Kate also has a close relationship with her father, nurtured by, of course, music.

“Editing my pageant music has become a bonding activity for my father and I,” said Kate.  “He knows the technological aspects of the software program, and I just sing through our cutting and help with the fine tuning of the audio.”

But Kate was to spread her music far beyond the Miss Nebraska Pageant; she’s devoted this to her personal platform called ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music: the importance of fine arts education in schools.’

“I’ve built many connections in my hometown, college town and across the state that will enable me to participate in events and reach out to schools,” said Kate.

So back to John Williams (and by the way, the score from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is now playing).. for anyone who’s never followed it, the Miss Nebraska Pageant is truly MUSIC in a way.. it’s the union of different sounds and styles to create one symphonic masterpiece.  This organization highlights women with various backgrounds, talents and visions that when brought together, empower and inspire everyone who witnesses it.

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These women make MUSIC together.  And Kate Duncan is on a mission to remind all of us how much the world needs that.

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CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Alliance 2016 Kate Lynne Duncan

on FACEBOOK, on TWITTER, on INSTAGRAM

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KATE?

CLICK HERE * 2015 * Madame Butterfly

For more information about the Miss Alliance Pageant, visit FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Riki Cornish Hunter by email at riki.hunter@farmcoop.com or by phone at 308-430-4355.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County 2016 Savannah Rave!

NEXT.. Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Hannah Miller!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Madame Butterfly

Think back to where you were in 2012.. what you did, the places you traveled, the person who were. My husband and I took a long awaited trip to Hawaii… as parents of ONE, not two.  I can’t imagine life without my two little boys.. and can hardly remember a time before I was a momma of two, even though it was just a few years ago.

Now, imagine how much your life changed between when you were, say, 17 years old.. and 20 years old.  The music you sang along with in the car.. the stages in life those songs represented. For this young woman, those ages and times could arguably be represented by two records, two Miss Nebraska pageants, and two very different points in her life.

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MISS SANDHILLS 2015 KATE LYNNE DUNCAN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“The last time I competed at Miss Nebraska was in 2012 as Miss Scottsbluff.  I was only eligible for the Miss division because I graduated from Gering High School less than one month before Miss Nebraska, I was only 17 at the time,” Kate  told me recently.  “I am absolutely elated to have the opportunity to compete on the Miss Nebraska stage again!  Three years later, I’ve experienced a lot of personal growth.”

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2012 to 2015, sister queens Jessica Littlejohn and Kate Lynne Duncan

That maturation is what inspires Kate’s platform of service: ‘True Beauty: It Shines From The Inside.’  She’s promoting the DOVE Beauty Project, in addition to her own message to women to see their own beauty as others do.

“[Reveal] your attitude, outlook, confidence, intelligence and passion,” said Kate.  “It is all too easy to be absorbed in the body shaming negativity seen in the media.  Young women often feel inadequate if they fail to fit the picture-perfect, highly photo-shopped and airbrushed mold.  I strive to inspire young women to inspire and create a world where beauty is a source of self-confidence, not anxiety.”

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As Miss Sandhills, Kate created a self-esteem workshop, including varied activities for elementary, middle and high school students.  Schools are familiar environments for Kate; she’s studying K-12 Music Education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney focusing on vocal music and a 7-12 English endorsement.  She’s also a Resident Assistant on campus, is active with the Loper Activities Program Counsel, the collegiate chapter of the National Association for Music Educators and the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority.

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“I would have not been able to afford my first year at UNK wthout the scholarships I received from competing in the 2012 Miss Nebraska pageant,” said Kate.  “With the funds I have received from competing, I will pay off my only student loan this fall and graduate in May 2017 debt free.”

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Kate has also spent the last three years perfecting her passion, music.

“With three years of private vocal study under my belt, my voice has grown tremendously since the last time I competed on the Miss Nebraska stage,” said Kate.  “This June I will be performing Carrie Underwood’s ‘Something In The Water’.  She has a powerhouse voice and I’m definitely up for the challenge.  The first time I heard that song it gave me goosebumps and I knew I had to sing it.”

And arguably, a fitting choice.  The song is all about evolution within faith, growth in spirit and as a person.  Kate Lynne Duncan, 2015.  Flashback to 2012 when she sang Blessings by Laura Story.  From a promising high school graduate testing the waters of independence, to a driven woman achieving her academic goals as a leader among her peers.  Two songs, two stages, transformation.  Kate Lynne Duncan is a butterfly, ready to return to North Platte and poised to reveal HER inner beauty.

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Follow Miss Sandhills 2015 Kate Lynne Duncan

and contact her about appearances and events on Twitter, on Instagram and on Facebook.  Click here to read Kate Lynne’s blog A Whole Latte Love.  

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Shardel Nelson at 308-760-7266 or by email at shardel@bbc.net.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen

NEXT.. **SPECIAL FEATURE** Miss Iowa 2014 Aly Olson

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

A Bull Dog in a Pair of Pants

DO NOT mess with Miss Alliance.

Studies biochemistry.  Likens pageants to football.  Emotionally tougher than nails.

Let’s compare; I can’t follow a recipe most of the time.  My nickname on the softball field is 1-3 (as in, I hit it back to the pitcher).  I get choked up watching Carter’s commercials.

Yeeeaaaaaa… I’m out.

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Miss Alliance, Staci Craighead

Staci’s been to North Platte before; the last time winning the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2010. (She’s one of three former Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teens, including Rachel Foehlinger and Lianna Prill).

“I earned the title [at 17] and fell in love with the four points of the Miss America crown: scholarship, success, style and service,” said Staci in a recent interview.  “My family’s values are very similar to these four points which allowed me to grow as a person with my family and the Miss America Organization.”

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Staci sees strong leadership at home; her mom Joni is running for the Nebraska legislature, and has actively been involved in the state’s Republican party for 20 years.

“Watching my mother progress and succeed as a businesswoman, politician, and volunteer has solidified my tenacity,” said Staci.  “Once I set a goal for myself nothing can get in my way, no matter the course.”

Staci has also experienced setbacks, including a tragic loss several years ago.

“I lost my father to cancer at 14 years old and hold on to his many words of wisdom as I grow into a young woman,” said Staci.  “Being earnest comes from my father’s value of honesty and sincerity.  His kindness and encouragement were the foundation for my love of service and appreciation for life’s gifts.”

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“Happy Father’s Day to the turtle dove that greats me at my car every morning, and on my porch every evening. Love you Daddy.”

Staci has also faced disappointment; dismissal from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shortly after beginning her college career.

“I found myself lost in the transition between ‘assigned’ learning and ‘selected’ learning.  I had no idea where I wanted to start my education to further a career and ended up losing interest in my classes,” said Staci.  She took a year off to work and ‘grow up’, and was granted another chance at her scholarship at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

“Most will tell you that you’ll never go back to school if you stop after the first year or two, but I was determined to prove that staple wrong, and I did,” said Staci.  “[I am a] Chemistry major with an emphasis on biochemistry and [hold a] 3.75 GPA.  I want to do Bio-defense research for the military after earning a PhD in Analytical Chemistry.  I am a firm role model for those who have lost the spark for education as my college experience is proof that you can succeed in every aspect of life.”

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TENACIOUS, GREGARIOUS, EARNEST

As Miss Alliance, Staci is taking her personal story to schools and students planning, or not planning, for college.

“As a young woman and student, I have observed and experienced a rising problem among other young Americans.  Desensitization to debt and lack of appreciation for the opportunity to pursue an education are variables that are causing a decline in graduation rates across the United States,” said Staci.  “I am passionate about educating young Americans about the process of earning scholarships, the fundamentals of fiscal responsibility as newly independent individuals, and understanding what an incredible privilege it is to achieve a higher education.”

Staci calls her platform of service ‘Financial Education: The Dollars Make Sense’.

“I witnessed many of my classmates struggle to pay for school and keep up with the cost of living as a college student, which led me to realize that students are not adequately prepared for the financial difficulties that come with an education,” said Staci.  “I plan to work with high school juniors and seniors, teaching them how to set up a monthly budget, establish an understanding of student loans, and succeed in applying for scholarships.”

Staci also volunteers at Crossroads Mission Center in Kearney, in addition to her studies and preparing for the Miss Nebraska pageant.

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She also sings at local events, like here for an Omaha Beef arena football game, but Interview is her favorite part of competition.

“Sharing experiences, values, and honesty with the judges brings the process of competing in pageants full circle as it reminds me of why I am there, services and action,” said Staci.

She doesn’t need a reminder about WHO she is.

“I am a woman with a thirst for knowledge, a passion for service, and a hope for the future of education,” said Staci.

One more thing.. this beauty queen plans to become a soldier.  Staci says she will join the Army Reserve in her junior year of college.

The Army.  Competing for Miss Nebraska.

<<speechless>>

Staci: “I think camouflage and crowns go quite well together!”

We’ll find out soon–Miss Nebraska begins ONE MONTH FROM TODAY.

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Connect with Miss Alliance, Staci Craighead

via email at srcraighead27@yahoo.com

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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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PREVIOUS POST..  Miss Eastern Nebraska, Alyssa Howell

NEXT POST.. ***SPECIAL FEATURE*** Miss Nebraska USA Amanda Soltero!