Tag Archive | HEATHER EDWARDS

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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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 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!

Homegrown

When I competed for Miss Nebraska my first time, I remember making the long trek to North Platte and thinking ‘why North Platte? Why isn’t this pageant thing just in Omaha?’  I got my answer during those first trips west for Orientation and state competition in 2001.

This town LOVES Miss Nebraska and treats every, single titleholder like a queen.  North Platte has hosted the annual Miss Nebraska pageant for 33 years.  Local families ‘adopt’ titleholders during the week of state competition.  Businesses offer cash donations for scholarships and services for the winners.  The Little Sisters program, partnering little girls with the young women they idolize, has a waiting list every year.  And for many of those girls growing up in North Platte, the Miss Nebraska Pageant is an annual can’t-miss event.

One of those ‘little girls’ is now a teenager and competing on her own.

Miss Twin Rivers Outstanding Teen 2017 Katy Greene

“I want to be the same role model for kids that I looked up to when I was little,” Katy told me recently.  “Those big girls meant everything to me and I always knew I wanted to be just like them!”

In February, Katy earned that chance.

Katy crowning

She was crowned Miss Twin Rivers Outstanding Teen in her hometown of North Platte.

“Any opportunity I receive I take it and give it my all!” said Katy.  “I always want to put my best into everything that I do.”

One glance at her social media, and it’s clear this teenager does exactly that.

She’s already busy, an Academic letter winner and cheerleader at North Platte High School.  But Katy immediately committed to her community, knowing the extra significance of being a titleholder in Miss Nebraska’s home base.  She’s taken part in charity events, visited schools, and helped with fundraisers to help people and families throughout the area.

“I absolutely love being out in the community and spending time with others,” said Katy.  “The kids in particular are my favorite! They always have adorable things to say and nothing is better than seeing the joy on their faces, as well as the impact that a strong role model has on them.  I always take the time to talk to each child, adult or anyone else who I meet at appearances.  I feel that personally talking to people is what creates such good relationships.”

Katy also uses those moments to spread the word about her personal platform: ‘Unplug and Enjoy the Arts’.

“This generation of children spend a lot of time on technology and I feel that too much of this is going to, over time, take away from both their creative thinking and social skills,” said Katy.  “By minimizing their time on technology and substituting it for other activities, such as the arts, we can find that happy medium between the two.”

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“There isn’t a day that I don’t have some kind of activity,” said Katy.  “The pageant word is full of amazing opportunities and experiences.  It allows young women to become involved in their communities, build strong relationships with their sister queens, and to show others how young people CAN make a lasting impact.”

Katy with girls

Next weekend, Katy will be taking the same trip I did.. in reverse.  With the people of North Platte behind her, she’ll head east to Omaha to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Directors Heather Edwards and Kali Tripp have done a FANTASTIC job drumming up the same support from the community, businesses and little girls in our neck of the woods.. all to cheer on this new generation of young women. Katy Greene is ready and willing to be the girl that ties it all together.

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“During the state pageant I hope to make a lot of new friends,” said Katy.  “I want to go into my interview and out onto that stage and perform as best as I can and just show everyone what I have to offer.  Also, I really want to get my platform out there and share my ideas with others!  Beyond, I wish to be the role model that young children look up to and always give them the opportunity to see that dreams do come true!”

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Click here to follow Miss Twin Rivers Outstanding Teen 2017 Katy Greene on Facebook!

For more information about the Miss Twin Hills/Miss Sand Hills Outstanding Teen Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook!

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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 Alliance 2017 Kaelia Nelson

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

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!

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.”

MakenzieDavies-StPatsSchoolShot

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.

makenzie state capitol

“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!

Nebraska Nice

NEBRASKA.

We are the Heartland, the Midwest, the centermost point of the United States.  We are urban and rural.  We are Fortune 500 and the Future Farmers of America.  We are closing in on 2-million strong.. emphasis on the STRONG.  And hardworking.  And kind.

I joke that my Nebraska coat has many colors.  I’m a proud Papillion native.  Omaha is where I’ve found success.  Gretna is now home.  I count down the days every year until my annual trip to North Platte, I spent several years cheering on my Huskers in Lincoln, the list goes on and on.

Every young woman competing this year to become Miss Nebraska or Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen has their own state story.. one, a Tiger proudly representing her community of 1700.

Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Hope McCoy

14-year old Hope McCoy calls Mitchell, Nebraska home.  The small town about 20 miles northwest of Gering is what spurred Hope to put on a crown and sash and step into the spotlight.

“I decided to compete in local pageants because I love being a party of my community,” Hope told me recently.  “I have been in pageants since I was six years old and I loved it.  Being a part of it felt like being more involved; I love meeting new people and making new friends.”

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Hope describes herself as petite, unique and caring.

“Unique because I don’t like to blend with the ‘crowd’,” said Hope.  “I love being different from other girls.  I love being who I am!  I have always cared for people no matter what.  Whenever we get a new student in school, I always make sure that I go and talk to them and make them feel welcome.”

Hope with Haylee

“There are so many amazing girls that compete [in Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen], and I have made so many new friends with all of them,” said Hope.  “The other part of the experience is gaining new knowledge.  I want [people] to know this is not just about the gowns, makeup and the crowns.  Pageants can help you get into good colleges just like any sport.  You gain knowledge doing pageants, not just walking in a nice dress.”

All of this, insight and opportunity she is using as part of her role as a leader throughout Mitchell and beyond.

 In addition to her studies at Mitchell Junior/Senior High, Hope volunteers and takes part in appearances to benefit Children’s Miracle Network and as part of her personal platform of service, Read Across America.

“Ever since I was very little I have always loved reading,” said Hope.  “So when I decided to compete in pageants I wanted my platform to be about reading.  I want to go to libraries across the state and read to children.  I want to go and help out the elderly in my community with anything they need me to do.  I want to sing in all of the care centers for elderly people, and I enjoy hearing their stories.  Any volunteer positions in my community, I want to be part of.”

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Our state motto is Nebraska Nice.. and I’d argue you’d find proof of that mentality in communities from Omaha to Mitchell.  It’s a common thread that unites us no matter what our background, demographic, profession or community.  And it’s a message Hope Isabella McCoy hopes she’ll get to deliver in person as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“My goal in general is to go to Children’s Miracle Network, talk to all of the children and get their stories,” said Hope.  “I would love to sit there and make them laugh and smile.  Also, just to help out with anything that I can around the state.”

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Click here to follow Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Hope McCoy on Facebook!

For more information about the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Program or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook.  You can also email Director Kyla Ansley at kyla_ansley@hotmail.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 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 Kearney 2017 Jessica Shultis

NEXT.. Miss Northwests’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Makenzie Davies

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!

Meet The Fosters

When I was a green, giggly young reporter at KETV, I was blessed with an incredible opportunity to fill in anchor for our weekday morning show.  I was so nervous.. anchoring for 2 hours straight everyday?  Would people like me?  Would I screw up the energy and chemistry that was already in place?  Little did I know, I would get to work 3am – Noon everyday with some phenomenal people.

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I guess when you work completely whackadoodle hours your form a deeper bond than most.  And those concerns I had?  They all evaporated on an early morning reading a story about the Beatles, when I accidentally said ‘Sir Rob McCartney’ instead of Paul.. and my co-anchor John Oakey stepped INTO camera view to say ‘um, excuse me.. he makes you call him SIR Rob McCartney?!?! I usually just call him Rob..’

John is one of the most phenomenal people I’ve ever met.  He’s HILARIOUS, talented, and incredibly devoted to his family, church and community.  I will always remember seeing the interaction between John and his wife, Kristi, and how in love they still are after 25+ years of marriage.  That love expanded 4-fold a few years ago.

Oakey

John and Kristi were the proud parents of two teenagers, but had been told many years ago they were unable to have anymore children.  For years, they considered adoption but from where? How? They began the long process of background checks and referrals from family and friends, and one day, received a phone call: a 9-month old baby girl needed a home.  They welcomed Trinity with open arms.  A few months later.. another call.. Trinity’s biological mom was pregnant again.  Hoping to keep the sisters together, the Oakeys welcomed Alivia, and began caring for two children 16 months or younger.  This happened twice more.. and each time the Oakeys welcomed another child, first Kaleb and then Kinley.  Here’s what John wrote about getting that call (again!) that Baby Kinley needed a home, too.

“Here’s the thing. How do you say No? There were countless reasons not to take her. Life was already crazy and hectic. Adding a fourth? Wow. But I was struck with the image of this girl, 18 years later, finding me and asking why I took her three siblings and not her. I did not have an answer. Except the overwhelming confirmation that we have been blessed. We are able to provide for our family. The Lord has looked after us. Now it was our time to look after this baby girl.”

This process was agonizing for the Oakey family; the fight to formally adopt was long and hard, and at one point, they were forced to return their children to their biological mother’s custody.  All four are now officially OAKEYS, enrolled in school and THRIVING thanks to the incredible parents who opened their hearts and homes to them.  (I encourage you to read more of the Oakey’s story on John’s fantastic blog Young Dad, Old Dad. CLICK HERE!)

Right now in Nebraska, several hundred children are waiting to be adopted.  Countless more are in need of foster homes.  A young woman from Gering, Nebraska is already planning her future foster family.. and encouraging others in her community to learn more.

Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Haylee Umble

“I have grown up around little kids; I LOVE kids,” Haylee told me recently.  “My aunts and uncles used to have foster kids in their homes.  I remember most of them very vividly.  They are part of the family.”

Hayley attended Community Christian School and enrolled at Gering High School last fall. As she mentally prepared for both high school and the public school setting, she wanted to find a way to become active in her community and meet the friends she would go to class with everyday.  She found those opportunities in a local pageant that also qualified her to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April.

“I love getting out in my community,” said Haylee.  “I had never really volunteered in my community much until I got my title, and I am quite sad I didn’t start earlier, yet very glad I am realizing now what an influence I can have.  The girls and strong women involved in the pageant, whether they are competing, mentoring or organizing are and will always be a blessing.  Getting to know them has been amazing!”

“I’ve never been shy, but I’ve never really thought that I could do very much in our community at a young age,” said Haylee.  “The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant has shown me otherwise.  I have the power of making an impact on kids, which are the future of our community.  Being a good influence goes farther than I ever could have imagined.”

From schools to events to superhero fundraisers, Haylee has been all over Scotts Bluff County making the most of her title, hoping to show everyone she meets they are represented by a thoughtful, charismatic and fun-loving young woman who wants to build others up and help them succeed.

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“I love people,” said Haylee.  “I always strive to see the best in them and then bring it out so others can see it, too.  Pageants are a way for girl to build confidence in who they are and what they are capable of.  The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant is very focused on giving out as many scholarships as they can, which helps us girls have a better opportunity at a great college education and therefore a great future in which we can contribute to the world.”

Haylee is also channelling that impact into the family atmosphere that helped shape the young woman she is today.

“My platform is Fostering The Future,” said Haylee.  “It focuses on the need to support our local foster care families, foster care children, and the great people who work with these families and children at our Department of Health and Human Services.  I want kids in foster care to be part of a family, too.  I want my community to support our foster care families so the families can focus on loving the foster children in their homes.”

Families like the Oakeys, who are now raising three, little princesses who I hope grow up watching Miss America and maybe someday, walk across the Miss Nebraska stage with their proud parents in the crowd.

Oakey girls

John, if your little girls need a royal role model, Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Haylee Umble is your gal.

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“My main goal at the pageant is not necessarily to win, but to do my very best,” said Haylee.  “I want to build lasting friendships with all the girls as well.  In the future, I wish to impact children as a teacher.  I want to make the lasting statement on them that they matter, are special and are loved.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Haylee Umble on Facebook!

For more information about the Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant or how you can become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their website, or CLICK HERE to follow on Facebook!  You can also email Director Cheryl Engelhaupt by emailing cengelhaupt@fnbnp.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 Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick

NEXT.. Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

It’s A Small World After All

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

Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig

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

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

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

Alex crowning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex and girls

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

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

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

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

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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 Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Jamie Chen

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

When Quality Meets Quantity

Every year as a little girl, I watched the Miss America Pageant.  I loved seeing these sensational women on that big stage on TV, showcasing their talents and exuding sheer joy when their names were called.  I also remember my disappointment when it seemed Nebraska was ‘never’ called. Not exactly true.. our incredible titleholders won a slew of awards in the 80’s and 90’s, but we faced a 17-year semi-finals drought.  We have had phenomenal titleholders in our state, but we are also going up against states like Texas who have 50+ contestants every year in comparison to our 16 or so.  How do we encourage more local girls to try our program?

Two amazing women are working to find the answer.

Kali and Heather

Kali Tripp and Heather Edwards are the Co-Executive Directors of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Program, Miss America’s companion organization for girls ages 13-17.  This year, they’ve helped recruit 18 young women to compete for our state’s teen title, the most EVER in Nebraska.  These busy women have been on a mission to not just ‘sign her up!’; they’ve scouted and invited in the best of the best across our state.  As a result, Nebraska has become a force to be reckoned with on the national stage and across communities everywhere.

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Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Jamie Chen

Heather and Kali ‘discovered’ Jamie Chen a few months ago, a striking young woman who seemingly checks off every quality Nebraska’s Dream Team looks for regarding talent, intelligence and service.  Jamie got her first taste of the program at just 8 years old, when she was asked to perform at the 2012 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.

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“It felt so right to be on that stage,” Jamie told me recently.  “So I promised myself that I’d be back one day, not just as a guest performer, but as one of those ‘queens’.”

Even then, Jamie knew there was a great deal more to this world, and ultimately, her reasons off stage are what compelled her to compete.

“One of the key reasons that I am participating in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program is that it is not the stereotypical beauty contest,” said Jamie.  “Instead, it goes far beyond that image to helping young women empower others.  [This organization] gives us an opportunity to make a true difference in our community, to imprint ourselves and our message on the hearts of children not only in our own community, but all across the state.”

Disproving stereotypes is a mission Jamie seems to have been born with, shunning the rules of boys and girls for as far back as she can remember.

“I have always been drawn to STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics.)  Throughout my journey, I have been consistently supported by my parents and family, along with many of my teachers and peers,” said Jamie. “My story, however, is unfortunately not the norm: it is the exception.  While the battle against misogyny may be a well-known movement today, its influence within the STEM fields has often been passed over.  Girls grow up with toys and movies that value girls because of their appearances and ‘damsel in distress’ status.  The daughters of our nation grow up believing that their true, inherent value lies in how other people, particularly boys, look at them.  Too often, they go into fields that suit societal perceptions, rather than what interests them.  This stigma, put together with workforce bias and the message that boys are receiving from society, ‘go out and conquer, even if that means being sexist and otherwise biased,’ makes for a deadly combination in the numbers of women in STEM.”

Chen

What you just read came from a 12-year old.  A powerful mission statement from a young woman who is dual enrolled at both Scottsbluff High School and Stanford University’s Online High School.  She’s Class President, a Student Ambassador, Captain of the Math Bowl Team, a national qualifier the national MathCounts competition in Washington DC,  and oh, and by the way, she’s already scored a perfect 36 on her ACT and has been offered a full ride to UNL.. at 12 years old.

“I’d describe myself as a leader, confident and humble,” said Jamie.  “Leaders inspire greatness in others and bring out the best around them.  I hope to empower others to reach their full potential.  Confidence is contagious.  By believing in my own inner strength and finding my inner hero, I aspire to influence everyone around me to do incredible things in life.”

Any variety of incredible things.. like music.  Jamie is not only a brilliant young woman (AGAIN, 36 ON HER ACT…), she’s a gifted musician, playing piano since the age of 5 and the french horn since the age of 9.

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“I pride myself on being a well-rounded person who enjoys both academics, extracurriculars and sports,” said Jamie.  “I am always willing to try new things, and I believe that this contributes to a large part of who I am today.”

A young woman who has visited schools all over her hometown of Scottsbluff, hoping to encourage her fellow students and provide them resources to achieve their goals.  She created the Scottsbluff Giving Club for language and math tutoring, she cofounded the Scottsbluff High Science Olympiad program, and she cofounded Erudit, an education start-up offering educational resources for students across the US. Jamie has reached out to national organizations including the National Girls Collaborative Project and the American Association of University Women for ideas.  Locally, she’s also worked with the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library to host STEM Clubs, providing her fellow students hands on activities and discussions to pique their interest in the same fields.

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Article courtesy the Scottsbluff Star Herald

“As a contestant in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant, I have grown all too aware that I am now no longer living for myself, but as a role model to children everywhere,” said Jamie.  “It has been a journey that I have willingly embraced; the organization has truly pushed me to become the best version of myself, to remember that in every action lies an example for everyone out there.  I wake up in the morning thinking ‘how I live and what I do today might influence the way that another young girl looks at the world’.”

Now every year when I watch Miss America on TV, I keep my fingers crossed that ABC will do more to highlight what is outstanding about these women and how this organization rewards those gifts and hard work to develop them.  That the new Miss America will receive $50,000+ to pay for her college education, and three state contestants pursuing STEM careers will each receive $5,000 every year.  I still get nervous and uber excited about hearing ‘Nebraska!’ but now I am as confident in our chances as ever, knowing teens like Jamie Chen are representing our state. Thanks to Kali and Heather, our numbers are certainly growing.. and the quality of character is simply outstanding.

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“It has always been my dream to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, not because of the crown or sash, but because it lends credibility to my work concerning my platform,” said Jamie.  “The Outstanding Teen program focuses on making a difference in our world, and that is exactly what I aim to do.  I hope to cultivate a message of ‘we can and we will’ in girls across the state.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Jamie Chen on Facebook.

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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 Kool-Aid Days 2017 Krista Hinrichs

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig

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!