Tag Archive | megan gould

Best Friends Forever

How many people, when they hear the word ‘pageant’, think of this?

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Tears through the confetti.  A cat fight over the tiara.

It’s kind of like when people ask me if news is really like this:

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Yes, Rob has many leatherbound books.  NO, we did not brawl with the other stations on the streets of Omaha.  And despite all of the pageants I have watched over the years, I have yet to see a cage match over a crown and sash.  Repeatedly, though, I DO see this:

Competitors who become best friends. Fellow contestants who end up being bridesmaids in each others’ weddings.  Women who lift each other up as they prepare to represent their state.. and continue to reach out long after their pageant days are done.

“The purpose of this competition is to become the best version of yourself. That means preparing in a healthy way. Mentally, emotionally, and physically. That includes lifting each other up and supporting one another.”

That was the message Miss Nebraska 2016 Aleah Peters shared with the Class of 2017 Saturday night, with Miss South Dakota 2016 Julia Olson sitting at her side.  It’s also one of the reasons a contender for the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen title signed up to compete in the first place.

Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Sydny Ridgeway

“Last year, my friend and fellow student was crowned at our local pageant,” Sydny told me.  “After seeing someone I actually know compete and win, I got the idea that I wanted to do a pageant.  I mentioned this to another one of my friends and we started competing last year.”

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Sydny’s venture into something new also became a test of persistence; she competed five times before winning the title of Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen in October.

“It was the best feeling ever,” said Sydny.  “I think that people need to know that doing pageants actually has the ability to bring teens and young adults out of their shells.  It improves a girl’s body image and many other things.  It’s a great learning opportunity.”

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This, from a young woman who has taken advantage of opportunities presented to her throughout her life.  A junior at Gering High School, she’s active on the Poms (dance) team and has danced for Tabor Dance Academy since the age of 3.  A German student traveling to Europe in June, who is also working to become a certified Emergency Medical Responder in her community. Sydny is also a member of the Class B State Champion Journalism staff and has written for the Gering Courier.  Simply put, Sydny describes herself as ‘committed’.

“I am in a lot of things, and now that I was crowned, my life is even more busy,” said Sydny.  “I have been able to find a balance so that I don’t have to stop doing something that I love.”

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In addition, Sydny competes for the speech team, sharing a persuasive oratory on seatbelt laws in Nebraska.  Driving safety is a message she’s extremely passionate about, and her personal platform as Miss Alliance’s OT.

“Last year, my cousin was in a horrible car accident, which caused him to have an acute brain injury and he almost did not survive,” said Sydny.  “If he were to have been wearing a seatbelt, it was likely he wouldn’t have had to suffer the severe brain injury.  I want to put the facts out there that anybody can get in a car accident, but there are also precautions you can take in order to save yourself.  Even if you aren’t driving, you should be practicing the right safety.”

Sydny is sharing that message across her community, as well as advocating for Children’s Miracle Network, the community partner to the Miss America Organization and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.

In the short few months since her crowning, Sydny has taken part in numerous events throughout her community.  She’s volunteered to paint faces, collect Christmas gifts, host Halloween celebrations, and collect donations that go directly to patients at local hospitals, like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.  She is a constant advocate for service, and hopes to share more about that journey when she competes for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April.

“My favorite part of the actual competition itself is the interview portion,” said Sydny.  “Going into a room with five strangers and just telling them about my life is kind of exciting.  I used to be really shy before trying out pageants, and now I am able to talk to anybody.  I believe I owe that to all the interview and onstage questions in pageants.”

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And Sydny Ridgeway is ready to show the judges she is a cheerful, independent, outstanding young woman with or without a title.

“Even if I am in a bad mood or anything where I shouldn’t be laughing, I am.  I am always smiling or laughing; it makes me really happy,” said Sydny.  “My goal for the state pageant is to just perform the best I can and be myself.  Even if I don’t even place in the top, I want to make more friends and just have a great time.”

MORE friendships… in addition to this:

Teenagers from across Nebraska who will meet on stage, side by side with their classmates, contestants, SISTERS, who represent the best, the brightest, the kindest in our state.  Young women just like Sydny Ridgeway.

“I’ve made so many great friends that I probably wouldn’t have if I wouldn’t have done pageants,” said Sydny.  “That has really made my life better.”

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Sydny Ridgeway!

CLICK HERE for more information about the Miss Alliance/Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, or email Director Melinda Cullan at maot.alliance@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.. Special Feature: Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev

NEXT.. Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Katie Harris

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!

Fire and Gold

June 4, 2015.

I had the humbling honor of hosting the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant, and spent the day at North Platte High School in rehearsals.  During breaks, I tried to upload as many photos to the Miss Omaha Facebook page as I could, typing furiously to tag contestants and draw more viewers to our site.  I almost didn’t notice when a stunning blonde sat next to me and said ‘Hi, how’s it going?’

Her name was Alyssa Howell.

Funny how such a small gesture of kindness, just taking a moment to ask someone how they are doing, can make such a big impact on how you think of a person.  A panel of six judges thought VERY highly of Alyssa.. naming her Miss Nebraska 2015 just 24 hours later.

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Photo courtesy the North Platte Telegraph

“Miss Nebraska week was the most fun I have ever had!” Alyssa told me recently.  “I was surrounded by 12 amazing contestants that not only were great friends to me during the week, but who also supported me throughout my year.”

And so began a reign that represents everything this Miss Nebraska has stood for; friendship, kindness, genuineness.

As a longtime Miss America fan and a journalist who is always subconciously observing, I’ve noticed over the years the reaction of other contestants speaks volumes about the woman crowned.  Minutes after Alyssa was named Miss Nebraska, she was immediately embraced by  her ‘pageant sister’, Miss Omaha Megan Gould.  Just weeks later, Alyssa invited Megan, as well as other Miss Nebraska finalists Brooke Ludemann, LaRissa McKean and Allison Tietjen, to perform at her send-off party for Miss America.  These women, Alyssa’s competition at this time last year, seemed genuinely happy for her and showed up in full force to give her their support; Alyssa was eager to share her spotlight that night to showcase the titleholders who had become her friends.

For me.. it goes back to that day in the cafeteria.. Alyssa Howell is REAL.  She doesn’t pretend to care about people; she just DOES.  She’s taken that incredible quality across the country for the last year, focusing much of her time and energy on children.

“Not having grown up in Nebraska, this year took me to so many new places!” said Alyssa.  “Just being able to reach Nebraskans across the state was such a wonderful experience.  Whether it was a Pumpkin Chuckin’ in a cornfield in northeastern Nebraska, a small town elementary school with a total of 42 students, or a large scale fundraising Gala in downtown Omaha, I was able to reach out to the people of Nebraska on so many levels.  If anything, this year reminded me just how much I love being a part of the Cornhusker State.”

Alyssa visited dozens of schools across Nebraska, and four Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in several states.  THAT has been Alyssa’s passion for years now, connecting with sick children through her Miracle Bags program.

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Alyssa recruiting 2016 Miss Nebraska contestants to put together and deliver bags of goodies, ‘Miracle Bags’ to kids at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

CLICK HERE to watch KETV’s story about Alyssa & her Miracle Bags!

“As soon as I won Miss Nebraska, one of my priorities for the year was to impact as many children as I could with my Miracle Bags program,” said Alyssa.  “And with that goal in mind I was able to visit the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in Omaha, Denver, Milwaukee, and Washington DC, and deliver over 180 Miracle Bags!  Many people ask me how I am able to visit children who are in such dire situations, and not be completely depressed after the fact.  I always tell them that the feeling of seeing a child who is going through the most difficult time in their life light up at the sight of my crown and Miracle Bag is indescribable.  And I will never forget the parents who tell me that this is the first time they have seen their child smile in days.  Children’s Miracle Network will forever be a passion of mine.”

To countless families and children, Alyssa made a profound impact.  She also made a huge mark on the pageant world, when in September, she travelled to Atlantic City to represent Nebraska in the 2016 Miss America Pageant.

“I have watched the Miss America Pageant every year on TV since I can remember, but never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would one day be on that stage!” said Alyssa.  “Even after winning Miss Nebraska, my goal for Miss America was to have a blast, meet some amazing girls, and represent Nebraska well.”

Check, check, CHECK.  And when 7-million Americans tuned in to see who would make the Top 15..

Left photo courtesy Getty Images

..they heard Miss Nebraska, Alyssa Howell.  I screamed and jumped in my living room.. Alysa’s family and friends were EXUBERANT in the crowd in Atlantic City.  With the confidence women dream of and the swagger of Bruno Mars, Alyssa strutted her stuff on that stage in Lifestyle and Fitness.. and sauntered right into the Top 12.

Photos courtesy Getty Images

“Being called into the Top 15 was a complete and total shock,” said Alyssa.  “Standing on that stage with 51 other talented, beautiful, intelligent women, I never thought that I would hear NEBRASKA called! I still get goosebumps when I watch the video.  When I made the Top 12, I was just so excited and honored to move on!  I was surrounded by some of my best friends in the competition and it was such a surreal moment.”

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Photo courtesy Getty Images

That is where Alyssa’s journey ended, sadly, before she could play her INCREDIBLE piano solo for America.  But when I spoke to her just a few weeks later at the Miss Omaha Pageant, Alyssa didn’t have ONE negative thing to say about her experience;  no trash talk on her fellow contestants, no coulda woulda shoulda’s.. simply a completely EXCITED outlook on what she could accomplish next in her home state as Miss Nebraska.  And holy cow.. has that been a lot.  After Miss America, Alyssa was featured in US Weekly and Pageantry magazines.  She was a high profile model in Omaha Fashion Week.  She secured and strengthened partnerships and sponsor connections with Omaha’s world renowned Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Sun Tan City, Kontempo. and nationally known stylist Kirby Keomysay among others.

Alyssa also became a frequent muse for photographers, taking part in numerous photo shoots with Deyo’s Photography in Nebraska and Jenn Cady Photography based in South Carolina.

Alyssa accepted every interview request that came her way, including the nationally recognized Pageant Junkies (CLICK HERE to listen!), Omaha’s KFAB and KETV (CLICK HERE to watch!)the North Platte Telegraph (CLICK HERE to read!), and ME!

“This year was definitely more challenging than I expected,” said Alyssa.  “Seeing all of the work Miss Nebraska does from Facebook and Instagram posts pales in comparison to the actual job.  What people don’t see is the full hair and makeup 4+ days a week, the early mornings, the days when I drive 8+ hours for an appearance, the days that I was sick, the days that I had three appearances and events.  Truly, this is a 24/7 job.  But what I also didn’t expect is how rewarding this whole experience would be! By going through everything this job requires, I have not only learned so many life skills, I have also learned so much about myself.  I know that if I can be Miss Nebraska, I can do anything.  This job has given me a strong sense of confidence about what I am capable of, as well as so many amazing memories and friendships!”

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June 4, 2016.

I have the humbling honor of writing this blog post, chronicling Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell and her year of service.  Initially, I wanted to title this article Humble and Kind, inspired by the Tim McGraw song that to me, so reflects who this incredible young woman is.  Despite her jaw-dropping beauty, smile and grace, she doesn’t radiate a shred of arrogance.  She is giving, real, and most of all KIND.

Alyssa Howell is fire and gold.  She has a huge heart that she has opened to countless children over the last year and more, with the aura of a woman who can only be called QUEEN.  As this journey ends, she’ll pick up where she left off one year ago.. pursuing her Elementary Education degree at Creighton University, intending to impact even more children through her career, now with a big boost from her life experiences and financial awards from being Miss Nebraska.

“I have won over $20,000 in cash scholarships for school,” said Alyssa.  “This has made all the difference in my future!  I started at Creighton University with a total of $27,000 in student loans over four years.  Graduating to become an elementary school teacher with that debt was going to be difficult to say the least.  This program is first and foremost a scholarship organization, and I cannot say enough about the impact that Miss Nebraska and Miss America makes on young women who are getting a college education.”

As I close out.. I must share a ‘shout out’ to part of  Alyssa’s dream team.. her boyfriend, Grady, and her directors, Kayla and Rachel.

These three are superstars in their own right; people who have been in Alyssa’s corner since the moment that crown was placed on her head.  They have also become near and dear to my heart with their humor, loyalty and dedication to helping Alyssa become the absolute best she could be.  Each of this year’s 36 women I’ve profiled have set out to make the world a better place, supported emotionally and otherwise by their own #TeamAlyssa’s.  To ALL of you, THANK YOU for helping these fires burn so brightly, for allowing these gems to sparkle.  They’re about to embark on one of the craziest, exhausting, yet exhilarating weeks of their lives.. and they’ll need you.

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“To this year’s contestants, whether you win or not, Miss Nebraska week is the most fun you will ever have!” said Alyssa.  “Don’t let the stress get to you, and don’t take yourself too seriously.  Just have fun and enjoy that time that you get with your Miss Nebraska sisters!  To Miss Nebraska 2016, I am so incredibly excited to see everything that this year has in store for you!  Remember to make this year your own, to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and find those small moments that make every challenge worth it.  Most importantly, remember that this is a year of service.  Never underestimate what an impact a crown and a sash can make.”

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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CLICK HERE to watch Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell’s Farewell Video

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell

on Facebook and on Instagram.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALYSSA?

2015 * ROAR

2015 * Miracle Worker

2014 * The Kid Whisperer

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CLICK HERE to meet the 2016 Miss Nebraska Pageant contestants!

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 Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien!

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska Pageant 2016 Recap: The Year of the Phoenix

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.

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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.

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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’?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!!!!

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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!

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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)

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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)

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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..

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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!)..

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..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!!)

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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!

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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..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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#MNOT2015.  Trending.

***

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

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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..

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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.

A Beauty Queen’s Bucket List

I have a folder on Pinterest titled ‘Must See Before Death.’  (Sheesh.. that sounds morbid..) I think of this folder as my virtual travel guide wish list for the world.  So far, I haven’t made it far.. to the Bahamas once, Mexico once, Canada once.  Iowa MANY times.  I hope this isn’t just wishful thinking.. that someday I’ll get to see these gorgeous places with my own eyes and not just in pictures.  I’m a daydreaming world traveler wannabe.

You’re about to meet a young woman who at just 17 years old already has a jump start on me.

CHELSEA

MISS OMAHA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 CHELSEA ARNOLD

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

Chelsea is arguably an explorer of the world, both literally and physically.  When I talked to her last year as Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen (click here to read more!) Chelsea was getting ready for a 3-week cruise to Canada and Alaska, after a school year spent taking full-time online classes through the University of Nebraska High School.  This year, Chelsea returned to a more traditional high school setting, attending Lincoln Southwest High School and taking part in several Silver Hawk activities.

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February, Chelsea posted on Instagram: “A little late but I’m so proud of #Ambeyonce for finishing the season as grand champs this past weekend!”

Chelsea was part of the award-winning Ambience performance choir at LSW, competitively performing at the University of Nebraska-Kearney and at the UNL School of Music throughout the school year.  She’s also part of the sold-out production of Lincoln Southwest’s White Christmas, chosen to be part of the International Thespian Society’s Festival this summer.

Regardless of where she’s studying, Chelsea is often in the spotlight, and at times, to a far-reaching audience.

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Last summer, Chelsea was featured on the cover of Oriental Trading Company’s catalog.  She won first place in the Nebraska State Fair’s Galaxy of Stars Talent Competition.  Chelsea also finished in the Top 5 at the 2014 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant, leading her to Omaha in the hopes of again, being a teen titleholder.

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Chelsea winning a title at in Omaha in November, along with Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien, both crowned by Miss Nebraska’s OT 2014 Morgan Holen.  The day after, Chelsea posted on Instagram:  “Incredibly excited to begin my year as Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen.  Thank you so much to everyone who came out to support me last night!”

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Since that moment, Chelsea’s booking calendar has only filled up more.  She volunteered in Lincoln’s Radio-Thon for the Children’s Miracle Network.  She also spent time alongside Miss Omaha Megan Gould and Mrs. Nebraska Erika Shelton to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Action Network.  She was selected as a model for the Omaha World Herald Bridal Show at the Mid-America Center, and took part in all three Miss America service days to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.

Chelsea’s photos on Facebook and Instagram also exemplify what she calls her favorite part of the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen experience: friendships.

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Chelsea with Miss Scotts Bluff County’s OT 2015 Grace Heggem in Kansas City, with other teens competing for Miss Omaha’s OT in November, and with 2014 Miss Nebraska’s OT contestant Alexis McGlone at a recent choir competition.  Chelsea told the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program: “I’ve met some of my best friends in this system and I’m so thankful to be a part of it.”

Maybe we are all daydreamers in some respect, it’s just our dreams are all different.  Some dream of bright lights and roaring applause.  Some dream of white sand beaches with the soft lull of waves as they sleep.  Some dream of white picket fences with babies laughing in the yard.

Only a few of us print off our Pinterest lists and make our dreams reality.  At 17 years old, Chelsea Arnold has traveled, performed for hundreds, and been seen by thousands. ‘Wannabe’ isn’t in her vocabulary; her next adventure will likely be wherever and whatever she wants it to be.  In less than two weeks from tonight, we’ll all know if the next stop on her world tour will be as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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Follow Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Chelsea Arnold

on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook.  To contact Chelsea for appearances and events, please contact omahadouglascountyOT@gmail.com.

Click here for a special feature on Chelsea on the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Facebook page!

For more information about how to become a contestant, contact Director Kelsey Ellis at 402-980-1984 or by email at omahadouglascountyOT@gmail.com.

***

The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Emma Keifer

NEXT.. Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Shelby Blundell

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

She Don’t Coast

Complete disclosure: I’m a former Miss Omaha.  I’m a current volunteer with the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant, hoping to recruit outstanding young ladies to compete every year.  As much as I’d like to be at every local pageant across the state, Miss Omaha is often the only one (other than Miss Nebraska) I can attend.

I was front row for this moment..

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..when Miss Nebraska newcomer, Megan Gould, was crowned Miss Omaha 2015, along with Miss Douglas County 2015 Alyssa Howell.

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MISS OMAHA 2015 MEGAN GOULD

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“Literally, this was a dream come true,” Megan told me recently.  “I had watched pageants for as long as I could remember and finally getting to be a local titleholder for the MISS AMERICA system was an absolute blessing.  Little did I know at the time just how much of a blessing it would truly be.”

Megan, an Alliance, Nebraska native and University of Nebraska Lincoln student is now spending more time in the eastern part of the state she likely ever has before.  She includes Children’s Miracle Network, Leap-For-A-Cure, Pediatric Cancer Action Network and others among the charities she’s worked with since that crowning moment last fall.

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“I have booked myself for more appearances I can count and put in a large number of hours in preparation for Miss Omaha,” said Megan.  “I have done appearances ranging from hosting events at bowling alleys to reading to children to Children’s Miracle Network fundraisers to platform presentations.  Each appearance is as exciting as the next.”

That platform is Megan’s mission to promote constructive use of social media, or as she calls it, ‘T.H.I.N.K. Before You Post.’

“I see posts on social media sites that have no need being broadcast for the world to see,” explained Megan.  “The problem is many social media users do not understand the effects their posts can have on their lives.  T.H.I.N.K. is a list of five questions I hope all social media users will ask themselves before making a post on social media: T-is it true? H-is it helpful? I-is it intelligent? N-is it necessary? And K-is it kind?”

Megan notes she’s been traveling across the state to talk about her platform, and the ramifications of poorly using social media.  In addition, Megan updates a blog with tips about responsible social media use. (Click here to check out Megan’s blog: My Journey As Miss Omaha 2015.)

“During presentations I emphasize how social media users can use social media to their advantage to market themselves,” said Megan, a Business Marketing major at UNL.  In addition to her studies, Megan is also active with her sorority, the Kappa chapter of Chi Omega, and she’s a Nebraska Cornhusker Cheerleader.

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“I can be seen on the sidelines of Memorial Stadium in front of 92,000 of the greatest fans of college football, or courtside in the Bob Devaney Sports Center or Pinnacle Bank Arena cheering for volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball,” said Megan.  “[We] participate in a collective 200+ hours of community service visiting various schools, nursing homes, grand openings and charity events throughout the Lincoln area and all of Husker Nation.”

So why add to that already busy schedule by adding Miss America to the to-do list?

“One reason is the tremendous amount of scholarship opportunities provided as the Miss America Organization is the #1 scholarship provider of young women in the world,” said Megan.  “Another reason is that I love performing and being a titleholder with the Miss America Organization provides me with unlimited opportunities to perform and share my love of dance with others.  Additionally, I am given the chance to be very involved with various charities and causes dear to my heart.”

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 Omaha’s motto is ‘We Don’t Coast’.  Here’s a young lady who, like thousands of other college students, could be partying every weekend, napping between classes and simply kicking back for four years.  Megan Gould is a cheerleader for life, spreading positive energy and inspiring people around her.  SHE don’t coast, and she couldn’t be more proud to represent this city.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity not only to be a representative and ambassador for the Omaha area but also to get to promote the Miss America Organization,” said Megan.  “[To] make appearances throughout the state and have the opportunity to compete for my dream job, Miss Nebraska, this coming June.”

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(Photo courtesy Steph’s Studio)

Follow Miss Omaha 2015 Megan Gould

on Twitteron Instagramand via Megan’s blog: My Journey As Miss Omaha 2015.

To contact Megan about appearances and events, and for more information on the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Scholarship Pageant, click here to visit the organization on Facebook, visit the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Pageant website, and follow on Twitter.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Executive Director Marianne Grubaugh at 402-330-8033 or by email at missomahapageant@yahoo.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 Panhandle 2015 Jessica Littlejohn

NEXT.. Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen

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

Little Girls & Big Dreams

Every young woman competing to become Miss Nebraska takes on a personal platform a service; a cause she feels strongly about and spends her year as a local titleholder, and potentially as Miss Nebraska (or Miss America!), advocating for.  Quite often, these platforms come from a very personal place and are something these young women would passionately support with or without a crown.

For today’s featured contestant, her cause is quite simply a message of survival.

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MISS PANHANDLE 2015 JESSICA LITTLEJOHN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

As Miss Panhandle, Jessica shares a story of an abduction attempt when she was a little girl, and how she got away thanks to lessons her mother taught her at that young age.

“This is why I have partnered with ‘Kidpower’,” Jessica told me recently.  “‘Kidpower’ works to create a culture of caring, respect and safety for all by teaching people, especially children, to use their power to stay safe, act wisely and believe in themselves.”

It’s a message Jessica has been spreading for several years now, last year as Miss Kool-Aids Days 2014, (click here to read last year’s feature!), and one she hopes to continue on a much larger scale.

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“I have presented ‘Kidpower’ skills to many school children in the school and daycare settings,” said Jessica.  “As Miss America, I would also be able to continue my work with parents, law enforcement and other community organizations concerned with children’s safety.  ‘Kidpower’ teaches the skills that can help prevent exploitation, harassment, molestation and abduction.”

Did you catch that? Jessica talks about being Miss America. She’s aiming big this year, graduating from Eastern Wyoming College this May with a degree in business administration and a license in cosmetology. The Scottsbluff native is also competing in the Miss America Organization for one final time.

“Once I set my mind to something, I do everything I can to make it reality,” said Jessica.  “I was always told if your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough, and let me tell you.. I have massive dreams and I plan on achieving each and every one.  My first big dream is being Miss Nebraska 2015.”

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Jessica is excited to display that determination during Interview, which she says is her favorite part of the competition.

“The judges only have ten minutes to get to know you as a well-rounded young woman,” said Jessica.  “Being quick on your feet, intelligent and creative are all important while trying to show them your personality.  You’re interviewing for the job of Miss Nebraska and you want to show them you’re fully capable and versatile enough to communicate to a crowd of business people or a small group of children.”

An example: Jessica says her past interview questions have included spoon versus fork.. and her position on American foreign policy regarding ISIS.

Fork?

All those interviews and past pageants have given Jessica more than just food for thought.

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Miss Panhandle 2015 Jessica Littlejohn with Miss Omaha 2015 Megan Gould and Miss Western Nebraska 2015 Chrissy Townsend.

“As I prepare for Miss Nebraska for my final year I can’t help but think how much this program has changed my life,” said Jessica.  “Oddly enough, I turned to the Miss Nebraska program to help me through what seemed to be a defining time in my life.  I would either dwell on misfortune or empower myself to strive for better.  Now I am graduating and entering into an industry I love with several career paths available.”

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Jessica hopes young girls across the state who have looked up to her will consider following the same path.

“The Miss America program is one of the largest scholarship providers for young women in the world.  With scholarships I have received from this program I will be graduating debt free!” said Jessica.  “The Miss America Foundation strives to change lives and influence young women across the country, joining education leaders in advocating for more young women to choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of education.

And she wants to remind EVERYONE.. she hopes the path she’s on helps her keep those little girls safe.

“‘Kidpower’ would move the Miss America Organization forward as it already focuses on children and the importance of believe in ‘self’,” said Jessica.  “Nebraska is known for its hard working, humble ‘Get ‘R Done!’ state of mind and I believe I encompass all this and more, and would represent this wonderful state not only at a state level but nationally as well.  As they say, there’s no sky like a Nebraska sky; well, there’s no girl like a Nebraska girl!”

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Follow Miss Panhandle 2015 Jessica Littlejohn

on her Facebok page, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

To contact Jessica for appearances and events, and for information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Shardel Nelson at 308-760-7266 or by email at shardel@bbc.net.

***

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’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Grace Heggem

NEXT.. Miss Omaha 2015 Megan Gould

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

Amazing Grace

As I talk to each of the young women competing to become Miss Nebraska or Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, I consistently hear about how much they appreciate the friendships and sisterhood that develop from these pageants.  Over the years, I’ve seen past competitors reconnecting long after Miss Nebraska is over, some even bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.  To me, it speaks volumes of this program, and of a young woman’s character when she is someone her fellow contestants want to be around before, during, and after the competition.

Today’s featured contestant seems to be a friend to everyone, on stage and off.

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MISS SCOTTS BLUFF COUNTY’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 GRACE HEGGEM

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“My favorite part of competition is probably the Talent portion, however, I love the ‘behind the scenes’ aspect even more!” Grace told me recently.  “I love competing because it is a fantastic opportunity to meet and get to know some amazing young women I would have otherwise never met!  I always know that no matter what the outcome of the pageant is, many of the friendships will last much longer than a title.”

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L-R: Grace with Miss Western Nebraska’s OT Allison Baird, ‘rocking out’ with Miss Douglas County’s OT Steffany Lien and Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s OT Merrilee Prill, and with Miss Omaha Megan Gould

Grace is also proud of the relationships she’s built in her hometown of Scottsbluff through activities both in and out of school.  The 15-year old at Scottsbluff High participates in Key Club, Choir, musical Orchestra, dance, and piano (which she’ll be play for her talent), in addition to competing in volleyball and track.

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“I love putting on gowns and heels and walking on a stage, however, I feel just as at home in my tennis shoes and sweats on a crowded bus before a volleyball game,” said Grace.  “I love that I can do both and still have a little extra time for some ballet shoes.”

Grace credits the small-town atmosphere of Scottsbluff for allowing her to be so easily involved, an environment that’s also inspired her personal platform, mentoring.

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“I love being a mentor to kids in my community because of the trusting, loving relationships it builds,” said Grace.  “I love picking them up and taking them out for ice cream or to the park where we can run around and play until we can’t run anymore!  Seeing the excitement in their eyes really leaves an impact on me as well.  If you just donate a couple of hours of your time every week to a child you see is in need, it really is an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on their life.”

You certainly don’t need a crown to be a mentor (“Anyone can be a mentor!” said Grace).  So why compete in a pageant? Or, in the case of Grace, who also competed for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen last year, why CONTINUE to compete in pageants?  Grace says she was first intrigued by scholarships; in 2014, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants were awarded $2,900 in scholarships.  That number will increase to $3,600 this year.

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“I continue to compete not only for the scholarships but also because {pageants} build great life skills in general,” said Grace.  “Public speaking, poise and confidence are just a few of the very important traits this wonderful organization brings out in young women.  It is an honor to be a part of it and I hope to be for a long time!”‘

And based on pictures like this..

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    ..I think it’s safe to say her pageant sisters hope Grace Heggem is part of their lives for a long time, too.  These girls are still competitors for one stressful, non-stop week this June.  They NEED a friend like Grace Heggem;  relatable, down-to-earth, ‘fun and classic yet very relaxed’, as Grace described herself.

“Miss America represents the highest ideals. She is a real combination of beauty, grace, and intelligence, artistic and refined.” –Miss America Organization

GRACE.  Nebraska’s Grace is ready for North Platte.

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Follow Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Grace Heggem

on Instagram, and on Facebook.

Click here for a special feature on Grace on the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Facebook page.

To contact Grace for appearances and events, and for more information about the Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Pageant contact Cheryl Engelhaupt by phone at 308-783-2940 or by email at cengelhaupt@fnbnp.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

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