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Twirling To The Top

Last night, I had one of those moments where I just stopped, breathed deeply, and thought ‘this is the life!’  My boys, my man and I were all at the pool.. I was listening to them splash and laugh together, while I laid in the glorious sun for a few blissful minutes.

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Then I immediately felt GUILT… why was I just lying there?!? I should have been in the pool WITH them, right?!?  I *hope my guilt was unfounded.. that after a long two months of blog-writing, documentary-producing, news-anchoring, event-emceeing, etc… it was OK for me to sit and relax.

However, there are those among us who never stop.  They use every moment of every day to their full advantage.They rarely take a break for downtime… and in return, every day they are one step closer to the top of whatever peak they are climbing.  They define ‘outstanding’ in their attitudes, goals, and the way they touch people along that journey.

Steffany Lien has spent the last year twirling to the top.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“It has been a busy year, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way!’ said Steffany, who  next week, will pass on her title as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Anyone who was there to watch Steffany last year (click here to read more!) will tell you how outstanding this young woman truly is.

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Steffany started her year as Miss Nebraska’s Oustanding Teen with media coverage across Nebraska.  CLICK HERE to read her story in the Lincoln Journal Star!

Let’s start with her talent… which is WORLD CLASS.

“I compete with baton twirling,” said Steffany.

OK, STOP.  Steffany doesn’t just COMPETE with baton twirling

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Photo courtesy Blinq Studio

Steffany is a 6-TIME World Champion baton twirler.  Her talent WOWED the crowd at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen (more on that later..) and leaves audiences EVERYWHERE in awe.  Steffany and her incredible gift have been featured by Omaha’s Metro Magazine, by television news outlets, by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, by the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, even as part of the Pegasus Parade at the Kentucky Derby.  This spring, she was also selected by the University of Louisville to be the school’s featured twirler, a highly coveted position including a full-ride scholarship.Folks, that’s $25,000+ A YEAR.

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Steffany has fine-tuned and perfected this incredible gift with years of training and performing, and showcasing her art has been a highlight of her year as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“I was invited to perform for the Big Red Tailgate to benefit the Completely Kids Program in Omaha,” said Steffany.  “Not only was I proud to be the headliner at the event that raised $175,000 to combat childhood hunger and provide after school programs, but Tommie Frazier sang ‘Dear Old Nebraska U’ a capella while I twirled!”

“Performing at the Kentucky Derby and the Pegasus Parade was clearly a highlight of my year,” said Steffany.  “When I signed autographs and took pictures with people at a festival the same weekend in Kentucky, the people there couldn’t have been nicer to Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen!”

CLICK HERE to read more about Steffany’s performance at Churchill Downs, thanks to the Lincoln Journal Star!

As I’ve written about previously, the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program is the ‘little sister’ organziation to Miss Nebraska, all part of the Miss America Organization.  One of the biggest differences between the Teen and Miss program.. these teens are also STUDENTS.  While their Miss counterparts often defer their college entrance or postpone classes during their year of service, Teen titleholders take part in events and service all year IN ADDITION to their time in the classroom.  Steffany is no exception; in fact, she’s set a new standard for what is possible, even expected, out of these exceptional young women.

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“I dance and compete with Madonna ProActive Dance Team, I teach baton twirling at Madonna ProActive, I’m in National Honor Society, and I’ve maintained a weighted 4.28 GPA,” said Steffany, who just graduated this May from Lincoln Southwest High School.  “Most importantly, I had decided early on to leave a legacy of active participation at charitable events, so this year I performed at, appeared for, and worked at an average of two events a week for the year.  This means that I have participated in over 110 events as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  My white sash is now grey, my crown is spotted from raindrops and races, my tennis shoes have logged miles for health runs, and I need new heels!  It has been a very busy schedule, but I have loved every moment because I will remember these experiences for the rest of my life.”

The montage above barely scratches the SURFACE of the photos posted on the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Facebook page, showcasing Steffany’s service this year.  She also returned to Peru on a mission trip with orphans, work she has dedicated countless hours to over the years. (Click here to read more!)

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“When I became Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, I expected to be out and about in the community, attending charity events and promoting a variety of organizations,” said Steffany, who has volunteered for the Child Advocacy Center of Lincoln, Kids Against Hunger, March of Dimes of Omaha, Food Bank of Lincoln, People’s City Mission, the Autism Family Network, the Alzheimer’s Association, Pinwheels for Prevention, the LSW Parent’s Advisory Council… the list goes ON AND ON AND ON.  “While this was my main focus throughout the year, the part I had not anticipated was how much these experiences would change me and how I view life.”

THIS is the caliber of young woman we want to represent our state, do we not?  And Steffany did, oh so well, at the 2016 Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant in Orlando, Florida.

For the second year in a row, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen finished in the Top 10 in this national competition, in front of the 2016 Miss America Class and tens of thousands, if not more, online.  Steffany had a clear impact on the audience and the organization, later featured by MAOT on their Facebook page, and drawing wide support from fans across social media.

CLICK HERE to read more about Steffany’s success at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, in an article featured by KETV!

“Miss America’s Outstanding Teen was amazing, and so different from any other experience I’ve ever had,” said Steffany.  “I loved meeting other young women from across the US, and gaining friendships that will last a lifetime.  I was surprised to hear my name in the Top 10, because every girl competing at MAOTeen was well-spoke, talented, and we had all been working hard leading up to the national pageant.  For me, it was just an honor to be standing among them, but it was also satisfying to maek the Top 10 and be able to represent Nebraska at the competition.”

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Steffany came home from Orlando with $3100 in scholarship money, adding to the $1500 she won at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  She also caught the attention of designers Tony Bowls and Ashley Lauren, nationally renowed photographer Jenn Cady, as well as Lincoln boutique The Black Swan, leading to several modelling opportunities throughout her year.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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“The big events, the fashion shots with Ashley Lauren and Tony Bowls, and all of those wonderful purple bags from the Black Swan Dress Boutique bring me more pleasure than I’d like to admit,” said Steffany.  “However, I had one recent experience that made me understand the real meaning of being an outstanding teen.  Last week, a mom unpacked her daughter’s backpack at the end of the school year.  In it, she found a paper her daughter had written in school after given an assignment to write about someone that is important to her.  I was surprised this quiet, thoughtful child wrote about me.  I had no idea the impact on her values and her perspective about my attitude and ‘kindness’.  And although I giggled that she wrote I am the ‘world’s most amazing teen’, I am humbled and know that the title of Miss Nebraskas’ Outstanding Teen is one that I hold for life and that I better live up to this little girl’s expectations!”

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One year ago, Steffany Lien looked up and focused on her goals and dreams.  While many of us would get tired, and take a break, she kept climbing.. or in her case, twirling.

When Steffany represented Nebraska on the national stage this year, her program’s new directors, Kali Tripp and Heather Edwards, created her catch phrase: #TwirlingToTheTop.

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Steffany Lien has EARNED blissful moments poolside or otherwise.  She IS the top.. the essence of what it means to be outstanding, and a young woman our state will continue to be so very proud of.

JENN CADY

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Even now, as the clock winds down on her time as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, Steffany continues to put others ahead of herself.

“More than anything, I am thrilled for the next girl who will earn the crown, and can’t wait to see all the great qualities she will bring to this organization and how she will represent Nebraska.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien on Instagram

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT STEFFANY?

2015 * Vision For The Future

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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

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PREVIOUS.. SPECIAL FEATURE: Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell!

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell!

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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In loving memory of Kylie Jo Remmereid,  1995-2011

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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.

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss 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!