Once in awhile, you meet someone who you just KNOW is going to be a star. There’s just something dazzling that radiates from them. They are THAT stunning, THAT talented, THAT well spoken, THAT inspiring. They are simply OUTSTANDING.
MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2014 MORGAN HOLEN
This is my 4th blog post I’ve written about Morgan. I’m not a creeper (at least in this case), she’s just that incredible. Beauty inspiring nationally renowned photographer Jenn Cady to invite Morgan to South Carolina for a premiere fashion show and photo shoot. Talent and a gift for dance that earned Morgan a state championship this year with Elkhorn South High, the dance award at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, and acceptance and scholarship into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and Dance Program.
Sheer kindness and love for life.. rooted deeply within her family and now woven across our entire state.
What an outstanding young lady. Like so many in the Miss Nebraska Organization, I first met Morgan through her mom, Jodi, who was Miss Nebraska 1988.
Jodi, also a former Miss Omaha, was hands down one of the most welcoming, kindest people I met the night I was crowned Miss Douglas County and unknowingly entered this new and overwhelming world. At her side, and then at MY side asking for pictures, were two sweet, little girls.
Me and the Holen girls, shortly after the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant, Fall 2001
Morgan has been attending the Miss Nebraska pageant with her mom for as long as she can remember. She decided to compete in this new version of Miss America for teenagers, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, her freshman year of high school. (Click here to read about Morgan’s time as Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen!) One year later, just weeks (if not days!) after completing her sophomore year at Elkhorn South, Morgan was crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014.
Immediately, Morgan began preparations for Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, knowing Nebraska had never cracked the Top 12 at the national level. Morgan did.
“I am extremely honored and humbled!” said Morgan. “Then my competition mode just kicked in and I didn’t realize really what happened until it was over. I competed in the first area, fitness, and made the cut to the Top 10 where I was able to perform my talent one more time.”
As Morgan told me last summer, (click here to read more!), her talent was a self-choreographed tribute to her longtime dance instructor ‘Miss Kitty’ Dahlberg. Dahlberg passed away the summer before Morgan won Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen. Among those in the crowd was Dahlberg’s daughter and another of Morgan’s instructors, Diane Hansen. This dance, dedicated to Morgan’s friend and mentor, was nothing short of breathtaking. Watching the webcast from home, I was in tears. Someone in the audience tweeted ‘Morgan Holen just set a new standard for talent.’
“Then, after the evening gown competition, I was thrilled (and stunned) to be called out in the Top 5,” said Morgan. “Outside of Teresa Scanlan, who has been a role model, no other Miss Nebraska or Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen had ever placed that high, so to be standing there representing my state was in incredible honor and an indescribable experience.”
Morgan finished 4th runner up, surrounded by a huge fan club who traveled to Orlando to support her, and the new friends she made while there.
“The friendships last long after the pageant,” said Morgan. “My roommate Page Mackenzie (Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen) and I have visited each other in our home states. We bonded over the fact that by the time we left our hotel room, our feet could stick to the bathroom floor due to hairspray (pageant girl problems.) We remain very good friends today and talk at least once a week.”
“I also was very blessed to have the third or fourth largest crowd of supporters,” said Morgan. “My parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, dance teacher, local and state directors, and Megan were all there to support me and of course, they were easy to spot since they help up big red Husker N’s. There really is no way to represent Nebraska without the Huskers! Other contestants even commented about it and were a little jealous.”
As for the last 10 months.. Morgan has simply been on the go NONSTOP. She’s on Elkhorn South’s state champion dance team, in addition to dancing competitively for Omaha’s Kitty Lee Dance; she’s also on the award-winning Elkhorn South competitive show choir squad.
Still, she’s been out across the state as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, not only taking part in EVERY local pageant this year, but volunteering and making appearances for various events. Morgan cares deeply about her platform Random Acts of Kindness, promoting good deeds and service to others, big and small. Last January, Morgan even created a ‘kindness calendar’ and shared it across social media, suggesting something different every day of the month you could do to pass on a random act of kindness.
Morgan volunteering with her big sister and best friend, Brittany Holen
“My one regret is that there aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week!” said Morgan. “As a teen, you are obviously still in high school and the girls who compete for and win these state titles are involved in many activities inside and outside of school. I only wish I had been able to do more as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because there are many opportunities the title affords you, however, you still have to go to school and honor your other commitments.”
That’s part of the advice Morgan has for whoever she’ll crown in just five short days, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015.
“To the next MNOT I would say do everything you can, but understand that some days there are just not enough hours in the day and that is okay,” said Morgan. “I would also tell her to enjoy every minute because the year flies by and you will never have these moments back. It will be an awesome experience!”
And still, Morgan shows me even now how exceptional she truly is. As part of that message to her future MNOT sister, a reminder, and a sign of this young woman’s maturity, sense of self, and state of mind.
“Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen did not make me who I am,” said Morgan. “Lots of people have invested in me over my 17 years: parents, sister, family, friends, teachers, coaches, over the years shaped me into the person I am and for that I am grateful.”
Morgan asked me to note her gratitude to her local director Kelsey Joseph and her state directors Rachel Daly and Kayla Jacox, not only for what they have done for her, but for the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Program.
Morgan, I thank YOU. Thank you for being KIND. For sharing your incredible gift of dance. For filling me with hope thinking of the young people that will soon be the adults in our world. For showcasing our state and this program to people everywhere, and making them do double takes. You are simply outstanding.
And I think Morgan’s own words confirm that:
“I hope that I have represented all of you in a way that made you proud.”
The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte. Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.
To read more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.