Tag Archive | brittany eckerberg

She Thinks She Can

This year, 16 incredible women will compete to become Miss Nebraska 2017.  18 hope to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Every one of them is already making an impact on people and the world around them and for decades, visiting schools has been a constant thread linking generations of contestants.

Classrooms are hotbeds for knowledge and learning; about the 3 R’s, about social skills, about the arts and more.  It’s no different when Miss Nebraska titleholders visit schools and share their messages.. but how do you talk to a first grader about the serious issues these women are trying to impact?  How do you write a lesson plan about sexual assault, cancer, or in one teen’s case, a chronic health diagnosis?

It’s a challenge Sheridan Blanco has eagerly accepted.

Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Sheridan Blanco

“One challenge I face everyday is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis,” Sheridan told me recently.  “I have not let this affect or limit what I accomplish.”

Sheridan served as Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen last year and competed for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Almost immediately, she jumped back in to try again, winning the title of Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen over the summer.

Sheridan crowning

(Side note: Old West Balloon Fest is a huge, annual event in Mitchell, Nebraska.  16+ hot air balloons go up simultaneously to coincide with the historic Old West weekend!)

Sheridan balloon

After the annual ride into the clouds, Sheridan got back to work sharing her story.  She focuses on the bigger picture, calling her platform ‘Conquering Challenges.’

“Many challenges people face can be unknown to others,” said Sheridan.  “Since we do not know what people are going through, we need to show empathy and be kind to everyone around us to help them through their challenges.  I have taken this opportunity to overcome my own challenge and turn it into an opportunity to strive to be a positive role model and an inspiration to others.”

Sheridan National Night Out

Sheridan, a Gering High student and Gering native, volunteers throughout her community at events.  Often times, she joins forces with her sister queens in Western Nebraska to make an even bigger impact.

“Pageants bring out the strengths of the young women involved,” said Sheridan.  “We may not know each other when we first arrive, but by the end of the competition many of us become very close.  Some of my best friendships came from doing pageants.  [They] give young ladies an opportunity to present a platform and to represent the values, integrity and scholarship that is an integral part of the pageant process.”

Sheridan and girls

And terrific attributes for a maturing young woman learning more about the world around her.  Sheridan has been selected for All-State Band, Doane Honor Band and Chadron Honor Band. She’s a state speech qualifier, and a national DECA qualifier.  She has been selected for the All-State Academic Team for Tennis two years running, and is a dancer on the Gering High POMS team.  She’s an Honor Roll student, a member of the National Honor Society, and a Best Actress Award recipient.

Sheridan final

“This organization helps young women gain confidence, poise, and public speaking,” said Sheridan.  “These are important skills to have for the future no matter what occupational path is taken.  The benefits are for a lifetime and provide a remarkable experience.”

One that’s taking Sheridan to Omaha next weekend to once again compete for the state title.  No doubt she’ll stop at a few classrooms along the way… which brings us back to that challenge about the message.  How do you help children understand the deeper meaning behind the sparkly crown?

“When I go to schools I read ‘The Little Engine That Could’,” said Sheridan.  “This way the younger kids can see the challenge that the train faces and how friends around him help him to conquer his challenge of getting up the hill.  I usually tell kids that the best way to get through the day is to wake up and be positive!”

Sheridan christmas

She thinks she can, she thinks she can, she thinks she can… and Sheridan Blanco plans to show everyone at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“The main goal is to do the best you can, have fun, and hopefully win,” said Sheridan.  “My mission is to be the best representative for the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Organization.  It would be a terrific honor to promote this organization and its high standards to other teens across the state.”

***

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SHERIDAN?

CLICK HERE * 2016 * Let’s Dance

For more information about the Miss Old West Balloon Fest Outstanding Teen Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their website, or CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook!  You can also contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by email at cengelhaupt@fnbnp.com or by phone at 308-783-2940.

***

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.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen 2017 Katy Greene

NEXT.. Miss Twin Rivers 2017 Emma Wilkinson

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!

Running To Remember

As journalists, we are part of a strange phenomenon.  The nature of our job is to witness and report; we talk to people, we listen, we watch, we learn and we share everything we take in with our viewers and readers.  We are storytellers.. but sometimes, the stories we feature, the people we share with the world, are souls we never got the chance to meet.

todd----Kylie-jpg

This photo will be part of my memory for the rest of my career.  One moment, frozen in time, showing the touching relationship between a proud dad and his teenage daughter, his eldest child.  Her name was Kylie Jo Remmereid.

Kylie died in a terrible car crash in November of 2011.  Investigators believe the car was going too fast; it crashed and rolled.  One of Kylie’s best friends was driving; she suffered a traumatic brain injury, and another friend in the car badly injured her arm.  They were three beautiful girls, surrounded by love and the promise of an incredible future.. and everything changed in one moment.

I will never forget Kylie’s father’s sheer strength talking to us in the weeks that followed.  If you have a moment, please CLICK HERE to watch our story with him from January of 2012.   Despite their unimaginable grief, Todd Remmereid and his wife, Kimberly, worked to organize a fundraiser for their daughters’ two friends in that car.. including the girl who was driving that night.  In a way, Cassi Collier’s family also lost their daughter.. she survived, but with massive brain damage.  Cassi spent months at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, then moved to Omaha’s QLI to continue therapy.  To ANYONE driving a car, and to all parents of teens getting behind the wheel, I can’t encourage you enough to CLICK HERE and listen to Cassi’s message in our story.

10556315_10205084916476934_2234075130640680343_n

CLICK HERE for more information about the 5th Annual Run To Remember event, or CLICK HERE to sign up!

These families will NEVER stop sharing their girls’ story, hoping that everytime YOU get behind the wheel, you remember these three, smiling faces.  Unfortunately, the dangers that accompany driving are more present than ever.. we rush and forget to put on seatbelts, we keep our eyes on the phone instead of on the road.. we take out our frustrations on the strangers going too slow or not driving how we think they should.

Claire Holsinger never met Kylie or Cassi.  In fact, the Scottsbluff High School senior lives on the other side of the state.  Still, she too has joined the fight for safer driving, hoping to make a difference and maybe, save a life.

12743870_1682681878688018_2143970922162411016_n

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Over my four years in high school, there have been so many car related deaths in our small community.  Many of those teenagers could have been survivors if they had worn their seatbelt,” Claire told me recently.  “January 10, 2013, my next door neighbor, Alexis Wheeler passed away in a car crash.  Alexis was only 19.  When I heard the awful news of her death, it changed my life forever.  I made it my goal to make every single one of my friends and family members to buckle up.”

Claire was only 14. When that tragedy hit so close to home, Claire had already seen that she could make a difference for any cause she believed in.  Just a few years prior, she was selected to be a Little Sister for the Miss Scotts Bluff County Fair pageant.  Claire watched all of the ‘big girls’ in her hometown volunteer, dazzle on stage, and go on to compete at Miss Nebraska.. including future Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan.

“It was always a dream of mine, to participate in a pageant.  I grew up around pageants most of my life because my dad was the longtime photographer for our local pageant, Miss Scotts Bluff County Fair,” said Claire.  “This summer, I decided just to go for it.  I had developed a talent, I had participated in Speech and DECA, so I took a chance and competed.  I wasn’t expecting any kind of title, I just wanted to see what would happen.”

12742635_1681910828765123_496017477072226986_n

Claire won the title of Miss Old West Balloon Fest.. and in THIS moment, secured an avenue to make her voice heard on an issue she cared so deeply about.

“My platform is ‘Seriously, Seatbelts’,” said Claire.  “I knew something needed to change, and making this my platform was a step towards the right direction.  I take seatbelt safety incredibly seriously, and I get very angry and upset when others don’t buckle up.  Not doing so is so selfish, [because] by not buckling up, one is affecting their friends and family.  It takes 3-5 seconds, buckle up.  It could save your life.”

Claire now takes part in events across Western Nebraska to promote her platform, and to connect with children.

“I really want to be a first grade teacher, so I love kids,” said Claire.  “I try my best to be very personable and relatable.  I’ve also learned through pageants to be more sure and confident of my beliefs and thoughts, because they are mine and I need to own them.”

Claire is taking part in all this (and learning from it!) in addition to activities at Scottsbluff High including Drill Team, show choir, musical, varsity cross country, varsity soccer, National Honor Society and Tri-M (Music Honor Society).

Even with state champion trophies and fancy crowns, Miss Old West Balloon Fest stays grounded thanks to her family, especially her mom.

“My role model is my mother, Stephanie,” said Claire.  “She tries so hard to help me succeed in everything I participate in. She is super funny, even though she thinks she’s even funnier.  She always gives me cute, quirky gifts, like a coconut hair mask, because it made her think of me.  She always puts the family’s needs before hers, but she is slowly learning how to make her things a priority, too.”

12688210_942019069220853_2537349437316552055_n

Funny how things come full circle.  Here’s another photo capturing a beautiful relationship between a parent and child.  I’m sure Stephanie Holsinger will be one of the proudest in the Miss Nebraska crowd in North Platte, watching her daughter compete for the coveted state title.  Perhaps she’ll have a few tears in her eyes.. maybe she does now reading her daughter’s words (I would!)  There is simply no limit to the depth of a parent’s love.  Hundreds of miles east, the Remmereid family still shares photos of Kylie on Facebook.  More than four years since her death, they are still proud of their beautiful girl.  They’ll honor her yet again April 16th, bringing together hundreds of people to remember Kylie and to spread the word about safer driving.

Claire Holsinger wants to share that message as Miss Nebraska.. for her own family, for future drivers, and for the people she’ll only know about through their families’ stories.

11828594_853208748101886_5285362572472043963_n

***

In loving memory of Kylie Jo Remmereid,  1995-2011

***

To follow Miss Old West Balloon Fest 2016 Claire Holsinger, CLICK HERE to follow her on Facebook.  You can also contact Claire about events and appearances at claire.holsinger@gmail.com.

For more information about the Miss Old West Balloon Fest Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.  You can also find more information via the Scotts Bluff County Fair Pageant HERE on Facebook, and HERE on their website. For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by phone at 308-783-2940 or at 308-635-8615.

***

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.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen 2016 Brooklyn Stack!

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Adella Smolsky!

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!

ROAR

Well, HELLO!!!!! Long time no post! As always, THANK YOU for reading the blog!

I have been ‘off the grid’ for most of the month of June.  Vacation, time with family, heaven at home.

IT HAS BEEN FABULOUS!

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, step back, close your eyes and BE.  I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and reminded of who I am.  GO OFF THE GRID! IT’S GREAT!  Even if just for a few days.

Before my amazing time at home with the three men in my life (four, if you count our dog, Mack), my hiatus began with a long awaited trip to North Platte, Nebraska.

MISS NEBRASKA 2015.

11424461_1667335490165038_1732359934618830364_n

Photo courtesy of Corbey Dorsey for the North Platte Telegraph; click here to read the NPT’s wonderful article on Alyssa by reporter Kamie Stephen!

After seven days of rehearsals and events, four days of nerve-wracking competition, a lot of laughs and some tears, too.. Miss Douglas County Alyssa Howell was crowned Miss Nebraska 2015.  What an INCREDIBLE moment to cap off a wonderful week for this caring, young woman.  Alyssa has dedicated so much of her time to others.  She is sweet, kind, hard working and focused.  For five years, she also watched her big sister compete at both the Miss Iowa and Miss Nebraska pageant, finishing as a finalist multiple times.

THIS MOMENT WAS ALL ALYSSA.  SHE WILL NOW FOREVER BE MISS NEBRASKA.

22396_871139626281329_3462163964733806682_n 1424493_871830892878869_6377259748978629830_n 10641085_871746456220646_6933829812333264095_n 11169402_874429055952386_4704679366055369864_n 11350476_871113499617275_6486011756191348337_n 11377217_871139919614633_1478749432335656428_n 11402909_872023272859631_6571225368431080310_o 11406594_872562942805664_8859651553213680121_n 11407319_874429195952372_1211355176790995046_n 11536110_874428362619122_2394524877527121349_n

So many cool moments; the kids who just LOVED Alyssa, including her Little Sisters who took part in all of the Miss Nebraska events at her side, and the little boy who not only wanted one kiss, he circled around for a second.  Alyssa’s real boyfriend, Grady, and his excitement and sheer pride every moment leading up to his girl’s crowning moment.  Shrieks of joy between Alyssa and the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien; the two have been Miss Douglas County sisters for months, now they are going to Miss America together.  And the heartwarming friendship and bond between Alyssa and her sister queen Miss Omaha Megan Gould, supporting each other from Omaha to North Platte and still to this day.

But.. I’m going to throw this out there.. was Alyssa ‘the best’?

11425078_817246344997512_713591516705215789_n

How do you choose which flower is ‘the best’ in the garden?  Which city is ‘the best’ in our state?  Which art, whether it be singing or dancing or playing piano, is ‘the best’?  Alyssa will be a FANTASTIC Miss Nebraska and I cannot WAIT to see how far she’ll go at Miss America.  This is Alyssa’s time; this is the result of her hard work; this recognizes an exceptional young woman, helping her to inspire so many more; and five smart, talented, and critical judges determined Alyssa Howell was the best candidate for this job as Miss Nebraska 2015.

The best of the best, you might say.. because HOLY CRAP, did this event showcase some absolutely incredible women in our state.

4th Runner Up, Miss Northwest LaRissa McKean

JOYFUL.  LaRissa McKean radiated happiness, and made everyone in the Miss Nebraska audience feel it.  She also shared that positivity with her fellow contestants, voted Miss Congeniality by the majority of the other titleholders.  LaRissa CAPTIVATED the audience Thursday night, winning the Preliminary Talent Award with an energetic and dazzling dance (another Kitty Lee Dance graduate!)  As I told one of my friends during finals night, she JUST MAKES ME SMILE.  What a better role model than that?

10465261_10153363761894717_2260100376109127566_o

3rd Runner Up, Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux

BREATHTAKING.  I love watching dance, but don’t know much about it (and hurt myself trying.) I know even less about ballet, but I LOVE the costumes, the makeup, the SHOW.  And boy, oh boy, did Steffani Jiroux deliver.

11406539_905672729478438_1216888943444887985_n

Just stop and look at this picture for a second.. (and thanks to Kamie Stephen and the North Platte Telegraph for sharing it!)

It was like watching a scene from a movie. Steffani also seemed to enjoy herself every moment; smiling nonstop, walking across that stage like she OWNED it, twirling around her Little Sisters like they were just dancing in the living room and not competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.  What’s next for Steffani? Continuing LAW SCHOOL at Creighton University.

2nd Runner Up, Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann

SENSATIONAL.  Miss Nebraska and Miss America challenge a woman to become the best version of herself in all areas, and Brooke Ludemann pushed herself to the max in every. single. test.  Her gown made me gasp (in a good way!); her answers showed evidence of a woman with a business plan as Miss Nebraska; her physical self was a demonstration of what our bodies can become with hard work and discipline, and her talent.. I have no words.  On the final night of competition, with everything on the line, Brooke’s performance singing ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables game me CHILLS.  Brooke won 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, and she will be Nebraska’s representative at the National Sweetheart Pageant this summer.

11406163_10202980350468496_2149197652179894276_o

1st Runner Up, Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen

JAW DROPPING.  Every time Allison Tietjen walked on stage, my eyes were just DRAWN to her.  (In a completely uncreepy way, regardless of how that sounds…) She is the model of poise, grace, and beauty.  Allison could’ve walked right off the Miss Nebraska stage onto Hollywood’s red carpet and fit right in. BUT, what I love is that Allison knows, and SHOWS, this program’s power and purpose extends long beyond Miss Nebraska week.  Allison’s work promoting awareness of our veterans earned her the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award and the Miss America Community Service Award; she also earned the Miracle Maker Award for raising more than $1300 for the Children’s Miracle Network, helping hospitals like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.  Oh yea, and Allison JUST TURNED 19 in April.  Truly exceptional.

I would argue not one of these women is ‘better’ than the other; each is SENSATIONAL.  They each prepared, volunteered, practiced.. hoping THIS was their year, and their time.  It was only destiny for one–and Alyssa is FABULOUS.  But this is why you see so many girls try again for the crown.. and thank the Lord for that, because they are all deserving, INCREDIBLE women, and bringing them together to recognize them and their accomplishments is uplifting and inspiring to everyone who can be part of it.  WE ARE WOMEN, HEAR US ROAR!!!!

***

Now to the moment I know you all have been waiting for…

The 2nd Annual Brandi Petersen Unofficial Superfan Awards!

( ahem… I’ll wait for your laughter to die down before I proceed..)

The ‘My Life Goal Is To Look Like Carrie Underwood’ Awards…

Again.. the work and service that take place the other 364 days of the year are arguably the most important part of the Miss America Organization.. but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the gowns!!  C’mon.. from dreaming of your wedding gown, to picking out prom dresses, to playing dress up as a little girl, who DOESN’T love beautiful dresses?!? 2015 was simply a RAINBOW of color on the Miss Nebraska stage, and THAT alone made it awesome.  So much diversity; different colors, styles, fits.. and so much elegance!

18617_10202980382909307_821612036163868962_n

Remember how I said Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann’s gown made me gasp?  GASP!!!  OHHH.. this dress.. this moment.. absolutely INCREDIBLE. (Details: Tarik Ediz gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln)

11312670_10153363719524717_235579917640736749_o

Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen.. ANOTHER gown that stole my breath.  Just STUNNING.  (Details: custom Sherri Hill gown from the Winning Crown Boutique in Omaha)

11391354_736720879806500_1334970181652682476_n

And boy, those Kearney Crane Festival Directors KNOW THEIR STYLE.. because Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen was possibly MY FAVORITE gown of the weekend!  There was just something so very special about Merrilee Prill when she walked on stage in this dress.  The color, the style, HOW she wore it.  I LOVED IT. ( Details: Jovani Fashions gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln–thanks to owner Joe Bohac for the photo!)

11415466_845070792225462_4715499471754087924_o

Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen Cherokee Purviance.. what a GORGEOUS choice for her gown!  On stage, this color and the sparkle were just RADIANT.  (Details: a Mac Duggal gown from Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe in North Platte–thanks to them for the photo!)

The ‘Holy Crap, Petersen, Put Down That Blizzard’ Awards..

I’d like to show you my reaction to this year’s Miss contestants competing in swimsuit.

enhanced-buzz-29413-1378495673-3

My thanks to Taylor Swift for the assist.

ABSOLUTELY SENSATIONAL.  This year EXEMPLIFIED that Lifestyle and Fitness is just that–this competition is intended to encourage women to treat their bodies like temples and reach their full physical potential.  AND THESE WOMEN DID.  Abs, biceps, quads for days. This wasn’t about starving, or being the skinniest.  You could SEE their work; the time they spent in the gym and the time they DIDN’T spend at their local fast food spot.

11417774_10153363788699717_8412475752011061570_o

Miss Omaha Megan Gould was my winner for swimsuit.  I know this girl puts in countless hours of dance and practice as a Nebraska Cornhusker cheerleader, and WOW-did that hard work show!!  Plus Megan was just SOO confident, not conceited in the least, just wonderfully comfortable in her own skin.  You go, Megan!

1907543_905687206143657_8262410826092817313_n

Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux.  This is her profile picture now on Facebook (taken by Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph), and to me, that’s using restraint.  If I looked like this, I’d make a cardboard cutout of myself to greet people at my front door.  THIS is what happens with 20 years of ballet training and several more as a member of the Creighton University dance team!

11393336_10153363788604717_7910429993041322666_o

Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen was the Overall Swimsuit Winner at Miss Nebraska this year, and here’s why!  Another absolutely radiant moment in red for the UNL sophomore, and in case you’re wondering, she’s a piano player.. so what you see is the result of sheer hours in the gym and dedication to nutrition!

11312784_10153363756944717_1347043052005932044_o

And Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann.  Just.. WOW.  MUSCLE ON MUSCLE WITH MUSCLE.  When I messaged Brooke about using this photo, she responded ‘I’m darn proud of those photos!’  AS SHE SHOULD BE!! AH-MAZ-ING!!

STRENGTH, POWER, HEALTH. Are you listening, America? I just read this morning there are more clinically obese people in our country than simply overweight Americans.  Heart disease remains a leading killer.  These women exercised and ate healthy with consistency and self discipline for months, and likely formed a foundation to continue to do so to some extent.  Long after that 10 second walk across stage in a swimsuit, their health is improved, their confidence is boosted, and they’ve empowered and inspired many others. (I’M AT THE TOP OF THAT LIST!) Ladies, you should be so very proud of yourselves.

The Nebraska’s Got Talent Awards..

MY WINNERS FOR TALENT: THIS YEAR’S MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN CONTESTANTS.

BLOWN AWAY.

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to the other young woman who wrapped up this weekend in North Platte with a state title..

11391321_706034459519932_7737170789847360990_n

Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien is now Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015!  (A 3-peat for Omaha titleholders!)  While Steffany shined all night at the competition, SHE OWNED talent.  America, watch out; when this girl competes for the national title in Orlando this July, she will STUN YOU!

CLICK HERE to see a preview, showing Steffany competing at the World Championships in Italy in April, winning her SIXTH world title.

Steffany does things with a baton that challenge the Laws of Gravity and Physics.  Not only have I never seen her drop a baton in competition, I’ve never seen the girl even ‘almost’ drop one in rehearsal.  She is SENSATIONAL!

Nebraska’s 10th Outstanding Teen was one of several incredibly talented young teenagers who competed in North Platte this year.  Piano players, singers, dancers.. these girls are so young they can’t vote, but they knocked the socks off everyone in the audience Friday night.

Among my favorites (along with Steffany, of course!)..

11401569_894956907227271_5136888123483408894_n

..singer Emma Kate Brown, Miss Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen.  There’s a reason why little girls love her.. because someday she will be the voice of a princess in a Disney movie.  That’s how I described her voice to my husband.  Emma Kate sang ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story and her innate vocal talent is just BEAUTIFUL.  I’m calling it now.. the next animated blockbuster you take your kids to, you will likely hear Emma Kate in the soundtrack! (And a huge CONGRATULATIONS to this beauty as well!  Less than two weeks after being named 2nd Runner Up at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, the Elkhorn South student was also named Nebraska’s Best High School Actress, winning an all-expenses paid trip to New York to compete for the National Award!!)

11337079_10204281192531938_6223047804027148537_o

Grace Heggem, Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen, was dazzling from start to finish.  She played Tarantella on the piano, her fingers dancing across the keys at the speed of light, and she NAILED it.  Much like ballet, I know nothing about piano, but I can hear a bad note… and I didn’t hear one off-key when Grace performed.  Incredible!

11401031_847419771979783_6935144355842316472_n

Emma Keifer, Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen, was just a joy to watch.  I felt like I was watching an act from So You Think You Can Dance (and you all know what a freak I am about that show!!) Emma tapped.. up and down STAIRS.  Her energy was just OFF THE CHARTS.  Emma, you would’ve made Nigel proud!

And finally, though she wasn’t competing for a title, this performance was MY FAVORITE TALENT PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK..

11427246_473277716168989_1997538885131275466_n

THE WATER CUPS DANCE.  Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen, performing the same dance her mother Jodi did as Miss Nebraska 1988 at the Miss America pageant that year.  Balancing three cups of water on her hands and forehead, Morgan bent backward, forward, down into splits, up from splits… all without spilling a drop.  You could’ve heard a PIN drop in the auditorium, as hundreds of us collectively held our breath through this performance.  ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE..  just like Morgan.  Many of us shed tears as she took her final walk as our state titleholder.. mine started to fall as her proud daddy, Brad, handed her a bouquet of flowers at the bottom of the Miss Nebraska stage.  The sky is the limit for this young woman–you WILL see her again.

The Brittany Jeffers Awards for Super Awesomeness

We all have someone we just ADMIRE.. their style, their confidence, just because THEY ARE AWESOME.  Some of mine: one of my best friends Jenni Rohacik who always looks so good she could host E!, my neighbor Brittni Madden who can take a picture off Pinterest and make a project look like it cost thousands of dollars.. and my fellow anchor/reporter/forever Miss Omaha Brittany Jeffers-Hannema, who I swear is fabulous, in every way possible, 24/7.  (And now that I’ve declared my obsession with these ladies.. they may all be working on protection orders..) THESE GIRLS ARE JUST AWESOME!  Brittany gets the award named after her because she had to work rather than attend the Miss Nebraska pageant this year.. she may have been on air in Oklahoma, but her heart was in North Platte!

Two young ladies made a huge impression on me this year.. two teens who I didn’t know prior to this year’s pageant.

11391770_1588698231400445_2737169950825112891_n

Shelby Blundell, Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen, was the youngest and tiniest of ALL of this year’s contestants, Miss and Teen.  She was also Contestant #1 in the competition, a tough draw; you set the bar for the judges, you are the first contestant both that panel and the audience will see.  Shelby rose to the challenge, nailing her song in talent, and impressing the hell out of me during her on stage question.  Shelby was asked a very tough question, whether LGBTQ issues should be discussed at school in the classroom or in group/activity settings, or if those topics are best left for family and group discussion outside of school.  Without hesitation, tiny Shelby answered confidently and quickly, sharing her opinions without pause.  That’s a tough issue for politicians and public leaders to address, and often we see adults avoiding giving a clear answer.  This young woman tackled the issue head on, and agree with her or not, it was refreshing to see such a young person stand tall and share her opinion.

11430274_473278932835534_4847251336903548559_n

I was also SO very impressed with Allison Baird, Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  For the second year in a row, Allison was named 1st Runner Up in the teen competition.  I’ve touched on this before.. as exhilarating as it is to hear your name called as a new titleholder.. it is incredibly disappointing when all of that work does not result in that win.  Allison’s now been through that twice.. coming ever so close both times.  BUT.. the moment that curtain closed after Steffany was crowned, when the spotlights were off and no one was watching her (except me, the nosy emcee/reporter backstage), Allison was the first one to smile and hug Steffany.  She was also the first to hug Morgan last year–and not just the cordial ‘arm around her, pat pat pat’ hug.. but a genuine embrace, wishing a friend well.  It’s the moments you think no one is looking when your true character is revealed.  Allison Baird is an exceptional young lady.  A gorgeous voice.  Mature and smart.  Beautiful.  And in those moments, when I can only imagine how her heart was breaking, she showed class and selflessness, to celebrate Steffany’s moment.  That’s something you don’t often see in adults, let alone a young woman just entering her senior year of high school.  Again, these competitions are not about choosing ‘who is the best’, but who is right for the position at that exact moment in time.  YOU ARE A WINNER, ALLISON.. your future is so very bright.

CGxl43RUIAAeJ48

So did you pick up on that ’emcee/reporter’ note?  I had the GREAT honor of co-emceeing this year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant with this beauty, my final Awesomeness Award Winner, Jessica States!  A) She can sing REALLY well  B) She’s a born leader, holding a respected position with Junior Achievement of Lincoln  C) She was THE FIRST Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2005!

AND, she was SUCH A GREAT co-host!!!  We had such a terrific time, and I hope the audience did, too!  (And thank you to Joe Bohac and the Black Swan Dress Boutique for providing our gorgeous gowns for the evening!)

11130398_784217616105_8809027466563427599_o

#MNOT2015.  Trending.

***

What a terrific, empowering week of incredible women and the people who support them.

14370_10153389106457442_1405902180609126356_n  11350596_10155648181705072_5453830911084697279_n 11390214_871831592878799_7220766397161898872_n 11390269_473277769502317_7521392733432612489_n 1521734_654873567947978_8042578823242700993_n 11391113_10204532537456338_9024392395364646660_n 11391412_871831712878787_506003047851296077_n 11391535_1155331577825913_5638123017206844563_n 11406806_880200825351734_3424976498725734520_n CGx6qeBUgAArn0M

I enjoyed every single moment, and CAN’T WAIT until next year to do it all over again!  AND, I NEED to mention what these girls took away from Miss Nebraska (in addition to their own memories..)

MORE THAN $42,800 IN CASH AWARDS

AND MORE THAN $400,455 IN OFFERED COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS.

But hey, it’s just a silly scholarship pageant, right?

***

One final message to wrap up this post, and this year’s 2015 Miss Nebraska series..

11393003_871831689545456_9214018070855425117_n

I was SO very honored and humbled to receive this year’s Miss Nebraska Volunteer of the Year Award.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all of you who have read these blogs and offered your congratulations.  I’m still mystified and elated that so many people check in to read my work, and to receive such an incredible honor for it is just a thrill.  THANK YOU.

To all 24 of the young ladies who competed in North Platte, YOU EMPOWER ME. You are the future of our state, and our country, and that makes me so very proud.  CONGRATULATIONS Alyssa, Steffany, and every young woman taking a chance to set an example, be a role model, and to just SPARKLE.

No matter what you do next, crown or not, go out into the world and continue to ROAR.

***

 Click here to learn more about the Miss Nebraska Organization, and the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.  You can also visit Miss Nebraska on Facebook, follow the pageant on Twitter, and follow the pageant on Instagram.

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

Dancing Queen

I have been a performer (coughcough a show off coughcough) since I could smile for photos.  In every old-school VHS home movie, I’m the loud one trying to get my Dad’s attention, singing, or making up a dance (and forcing my brothers to join in).  In junior high I LOVED choir and show choir.. a passion that continued into high school, along with theater and speech.  I did not, however, ever take dance.. and it shows.  I am NOT good.

That being said, for someone who knows nothing technically about it, I am MESMERIZED by dance.  Telling a story without words, transmitting emotions through movement, so many backgrounds and styles, all connected yet all so different.

For an Omaha woman, dancing isn’t just a hobby, it’s been part of her soul for as long as she can remember.

11216416_891294020916309_889873691_n

MISS HEARTLAND 2015 STEFFANI JIROUX

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I started dancing since I was the ripe age of two and a half.  Basically, I went from getting comfortable with walking into learning how to point my toes in a short time,” Steffani told me recently.  “Ever since that first class, I fell in love with the art form of dance.  I realized that it stimulates my brain and body at the same time while capturing every emotion I could feel.  It is a beautiful way to express myself, and now it is a part of me.”

It’s a piece of her heart that Steffani shares every time she steps onto a stage.. which she does a lot.  She’s danced at the collegiate level, as backup for Weird Al, and as you see below, for classic ballet performances.

11210277_889034631142248_1789622590_n 11195563_889035377808840_254805786_n

Steffani competing at the Miss Nebraska Pageant in 2013 as Miss Lincoln & performing in a recent production

“Dance is my first love,” said Steffani, who in the last year alone has starred as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty and the lead in Paquita.  “It is the thing I go to when I need a boost, and the stage is the place where I can say with the utmost truth, I feel alive.  I truly live for the moment I step out of the light, BOOM, and await my music.  It is those seconds where both nerves and enthrallment combine; it’s the moment you can hear a pin drop; it is the time I feel nothing but myself and God and where time seems to stop.  With that, I am confident in saying that being able to share my talent with others is my favorite thing to do.  It is sharing something that God has granted me, and in that I cannot ask for anything more.”

11160195_889035327808845_2097851295_n

Steffani danced throughout her undergrad years at Creighton University, cheering on the sidelines of all home basketball games at Omaha’s CenturyLink Center (including for now NBA basketball player Doug McDermott).  She’s still at Creighton, immediately pursuing her law degree after earning her BSBA in Management.  Steffani plans to become an entertainment attorney.

“I think versatility is an element of uniqueness and I strive to fulfill it,” said Steffani.  “Some can’t understand how the world of law intrigues me as a dancer and someone who likes to wear a lot of pink.  Now, my nickname is Legally Blonde (and fun fact, I had already owned a chihuahua, Shadow, since I was 2).  I am okay with that because it is a movie about embracing being yourself in a world that clings to conformity.  No matter what, purely being yourself will guide you to your ultimate goals.”

11173710_889038781141833_1719988659_n 11178398_890488180996893_2028581192_n

That is a message Steffani is now bringing to young people as Miss Heartland, in addition to her personal platform ‘Arts For Academic Excellence; The Benefits of Fine Arts In The Education Of Our Youth’.

“I have been graced with the opportunity to partake in many forms of art, and I realize just how beneficial it has been throughout my life,” said Steffani.  “I have started a service project called Tutus N’ Dance Shoes, where I set up boxes in dance studios around Omaha in order to collect lightly used dance wear and shoes.  I organize them and bring them to dance programs where the children don’t necessarily have the means to buy a new pair of tap shoes because they grew out of their last one or just don’t have the means in general to afford the necessities dance requires.”

11198906_889038411141870_118512179_n 11195440_889035627808815_1236032115_n

Steffani says she didn’t just wake up one day and decide to compete for Miss Nebraska, nor did she realize, as she puts it, that her lifestyle and experiences were preparing her for this role and competition.  In a way, this adventure is simply another stage for Steffani to showcase her passions.

“The Miss America Organization provides brilliant young women with an opportunity to share their voices, touch others, and be the change they hope to see in the world,” said Steffani.  “As Miss Heartland, I know that I can truly be myself through every step of the way.  We are all ourselves, we are all so different and have so much to offer.  I can honestly say that I present myself and act with the utmost respect everyday; none of that changes when we affix the sparkle upon our head.  Competing to me means making a difference and making the days of all the new faces I see while on an appearance.”

11198496_889034637808914_1614128309_n

Now, this law student, volunteer and dancing queen wants to stay in the spotlight.. but on a MUCH bigger stage.

“Being Miss Nebraska would be absolutely fulfilling,” said Steffani.  “Because making everyone else’s day a bit brighter is my dream job.”

10646995_854525247926520_1462458559768761999_n

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

Follow Miss Heartland 2015 Steffani Jiroux and contact her for appearances and events

on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Chelsey Jungck at 308-382-1710 or by email at cjungck@statefair.org.

***

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.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Scotts Bluff County 2015 Brittany Eckerberg

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County 2015 Alyssa Howell

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

Unanswered Prayers

The thing about being a reporter is you never know what’s going to happen that day at work, what you’re going to cover.  On some of the biggest days in my career, I bounced from one story to another, from humorous to devastating, from trivial to unforgettable.  We also get to witness things firsthand that others only see through their TV’s or read about.

Last Thursday, I got to do this..

CEbv1oaVEAQhwip

Thanks to Mary Nelson from The Morning Blend for snapping the photo!

One on one, KETV photojournalist Ashley Nodgaard and I interviewed the most successful musician in history, Garth Brooks.  He has sold more albums than any other artist, more than 69-MILLION.  Songs alone, he’s sold more than 150-MILLION.  You’d think all of that success would go to a guy’s head.. not this guy.  He was gracious, genuine, down-to-earth and FUNNY.  He shook not only my hand, but went out of his way to shake every photographer’s hand as well, making sure to thank them for their work.  He truly seems to be completely fulfilled by his life in music, traveling the world with his wife Trisha Yearwood at his side.

Click here to watch my One-On-One interview with Garth Brooks!

Click here to see Garth Brooks’ news conference with Omaha media!

11218834_10102560345968120_3651261968725841375_n

When I asked Brooks about his advice to aspiring artists, he said PAY YOUR DUES.  The gigs you play for little (or no) pay, the criticism you take that’s just flat out MEAN, the grueling hours you spend devoted to your craft without an end in sight… he said it’s all for good reason, it helps you become BETTER.  Ironically, a few minutes later Brooks teared up a bit when he told me about hearing tens of thousands of fans singing his song, Unanswered Prayers.

It’s a song I’m guessing this young lady has played a time or two at home..

11150229_1644930622405525_9149959471482211382_n

MISS SCOTTS BLUFF COUNTY 2015 BRITTANY ECKERBERG

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I competed 12 times before I won anything.  The 13th time is when I won Miss Scotts Bluff County,” Brittany told me recently.  “There are so many times when I would get discouraged and want to quit because I didn’t understand why I was never winning, but thankfully I kept going.”

Lucky #13 for a woman who has certainly proven herself worth of her crown.  Brittany, a freshman at York College majoring in Business Management and minoring in Accounting, thought she would only participate in choir when she started college.

10549258_10202732731429843_5842238704217510938_o 10174915_10204880536198469_7319605533983798231_n 10289856_10205332183209362_8985145691252953666_n

“Once I got on campus I became involved in speech, cheerleading, Theta Psi social club and Songfest.  Next year, I’m going to be a Resident Assistant, Treasurer-in-training and Fashionista of Theta Psi, and I am the Vice President of York’s new chapter of Phi Beta Lambda.”

Advocating for things she believes in is nothing new to Brittany; when York College announced plans last month to cut the school speech team, Brittany joined a vocal group of students pushing for a chance to appeal the decision.   Click here to learn more about #YCFreeSpeech.

Now as Miss Scotts Bluff County, Brittany is also volunteering throughout her community.

10988310_10206345272335957_7998385636116805246_n

From Brittany:  “Spent my #MissAmericaServes day by helping with clean up at the East Hill Clothing Drive! I helped sort through all of the clothes that are going to be donated to different charities in Nebraska! And I also helped load clothes into multiple trailers! Today was a great day to serve! @missneorg #MissScottsBluffCounty2015 #MissNebraska #MissAmerica #clothingdrive “

Brittany says some days, she can barely find time to eat. (Please note I took another bite of my Jimmy Johns as I read this.. Momma ALWAYS finds time to eat!)  And there’s more!  When she does get a break from classes, Brittany spends that time each summer, a full month, at church camp.

“My faith is very important to me,” said Brittany.  “I chose to attend a private Christian school because I wanted to have a Christ-centered education while still being equipped for my future career.  I wouldn’t be who I am today without my faith.”

10409227_10204439695497727_8754721749759403861_n 10615510_10204439766379499_2468086353413268181_n

Brittany wants you, and the Miss Nebraska judges to know all of this, and it’s why Interview is a favorite moment for this pageant veteran.

“It’s nerve-racking yet fulfilling at the same time,” said Brittany.  “It really makes you be who you really are.  I love the fact that I have no idea what they are going to ask me, whether it be what my favorite move is or what my platform means to me.”

That platform is ‘No One Is Invincible: Underage Drinking Prevention’ a mission inspired by her father’s work as a Scottsbluff police officer.

“Growing up I was taught to never do drugs and alcohol,” said Brittany.  “I knew every, single police officer that my dad worked with and I knew that if I ever got caught, I would immediately have consequences.  I was scared to drink.  I have personally seen how your life can change in an instant because of drinking alcohol as a minor.”

11210477_10206486627189740_6305809029145574710_n

From Brittany:  “Enjoyed spending a little time today at the YMCA preschool. I got the chance to explain what the Miss America program is and I talked a little bit about citizenship and my platform! Preschoolers are such a joy to be around, and I’m so blessed that I got the opportunity to hang out with all of these kids today. Brings back good memories from when I went to this preschool! #MissNebraska #MissScottsBluffCounty2015 #myjobrocks”

Family continues to inspire and support Brittany as she pursues this new goal of competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.

429947_3306662950694_101576255_n

“I have an older sister, two younger sisters and a younger brother. I know for a fact that I would never trade my siblings for anything,” said Brittany.  “We are all different from each other which is the best thing to me.  We cover the pageant scene, the sports scene, the computer guru area, and the country music loving scene.”

And speaking of country music, Garth Brooks once wrote:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

Perhaps, each of those 12 times Brittany prayed for a crown, to be recognized for her gifts, leadership and service, it wasn’t that no one listened, but that there was a different plan in place.  Maybe #13 was always meant to be her lucky number.  Maybe THIS gift is also a guide, keeping Brittany Eckerberg on the very path she’s now taking in 2015.. the road to Miss Nebraska.

10622941_10205059801239983_406415049391228985_n

Follow Miss Scotts Bluff County 2015 Brittany Eckerberg

on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

To contact Brittany for appearances and events email bneckerberg@york.edu.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Cheryl Engelhaupt at 308-783-2940 or by email at cengelhaupt@fnbnp.com.

***

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.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Western Nebraska 2015 Chrissy Townsend

NEXT.. Miss Heartland 2015 Steffani Jiroux

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