Tag Archive | miss kool-aid days

Gering Women Hope To Bring Hometown 2nd Miss America Crown

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Sheridan Blanco, Makinzie Gregory and Carsyn Long were just little girls when Gering’s Teresa Scanlan made history as Nebraska’s first Miss America. Now, all three will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska, hoping to bring their hometown a second Miss America crown. Blanco, Gregory and Long, all 2018 Gering High graduates, will compete at the 2019 Miss Nebraska competition in June in North Platte.

Blanco, 19, has already won thousands of dollars in cash scholarships competing in the Miss Nebraska program, including a $2,000 scholarship to Western Nebraska Community College, where she is pursuing a degree in physical therapy. Blanco was crowned Miss Scotts Bluff County 2019 over the summer, and has since volunteered at events across Western Nebraska advocating for causes including Special Olympics, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and sharing her personal message about Arthritis Awareness.

SHERIDAN BLANCO

“The Miss Nebraska Organization has been a very rewarding program to be a part of,” said Blanco. “I have learned public speaking skills, how to promote myself, and am able to go to college for free all because of this organization.”

Gregory, 19, has won more than $7,000 in cash scholarships competing in the Miss Nebraska program. One of the youngest contestants at the 2018 state competition, she was named 2nd Runner Up, honored with a Preliminary Talent Award, and named a finalist for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award. In addition to volunteering across Western Nebraska, Gregory is an active social media advocate for individuals with special needs, serving as Miss Kool-Aid Days 2019.

MAKINZIE GREGORY

“I am so excited to represent all that I stand for in the Miss Nebraska competition this year from my spiritual beliefs, to my hometown and state, to various social issues, organizations, and businesses that I have become involved in!” said Gregory. “I am grateful for the voice and platform that the Miss America Organization gives me to advocate for my chosen causes!”

Long, 19, is currently a student at the University of Alabama on a full-ride scholarship she earned by winning the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017. Long travelled the state performing for various events, speaking to schools and organizations, and volunteering for a variety of causes. Long, whose parents now live in Bennington, was crowned Miss Douglas County in October, and has made frequent trips back to Omaha to promote foster care and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

CARSYN LONG

“It’s so incredible that Gering gets to be represented in this way, and it’s even more incredible to have such successful and esteemed young women representing it,” said Long. “We have seen each other’s successes throughout high school and it’s exciting that we get to continue to see each other’s success at the Miss Nebraska competition this summer. I am confident that any one of these young women would execute the job of Miss Nebraska so eloquently and beautifully! Our program truly does encourage us to be the best version of ourselves. We become advocates for causes larger than ourselves. We strive to achieve our educational goals in receiving cash scholarships. We evolve into the women that Nebraska truly needs.”

The Miss Nebraska Scholarship competition will be held June 2-8 in North Platte, Nebraska, where candidates are eligible for more than $70,000 in prize packages and an estimated $1.4 million in in-kind college scholarships. Tickets are available for the event, which will also be streamed live online, at http://www.MissNebraska.org.

Going The Extra Mile

I follow many law enforcement officers on the Twitterverse. It’s the same reason I follow celebrities I will never meet; because their random posts give me a little peek into a part of the world we’re not part of. Police officers see things we don’t, and don’t have to. Twitter provides all of us a way to connect with each other through one common thread; we’re all just people who make jokes, feel emotion, and sometimes, are compelled to share our thoughts or opinions in the hopes of impacting maybe one other person.

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75 mph with your head buried in your phone, completely oblivious to me following behind you and then beside you. A crash at that speed is catastrophic and kills people. A $200 dollar ticket is cheap compared to what could have happened.  – @opdofcbossman

Officer Mike Bossman is a 14-year veteran with the Omaha Police Department. He is a traffic reconstructionist – he is often the first to arrive on the scene after an accident. The warning he posted on Twitter that you see above isn’t just a vague threat, it’s a real-life result he’s witnessed far too many times.

GUYS, THIS HAPPENS. KIDS DIE. I covered it way too many times at KETV, and that’s nothing compared to what Mike has seen on the streets of Omaha.

Krista Hinrichs wanted to do something. She wanted to make a difference in an issue affecting all ages.. something like being a car, put at risk by a distracted driver.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Krista was crowned Miss Kool-Aid Days 2017, and Miss Douglas County 2018. For the second year in a row, she’ll compete at the Miss Nebraska Competition, hoping to represent our state at the Miss America Pageant. At the max, that’s a handful of days on stage competing.. the rest of every year as a titleholder is spent SERVING. Making sure people are safe behind the wheel has become a key part in Krista’s mission.

“Whether they are in the back seat, the passenger or the driver everyone has a voice and can speak up!” Krista told me. “I partnered with the End Distracted Driving (EndDD) organization which is a group that works everyday to help teach others and prevent distracted driving across the country. One of the most important things to remember when you are driving and there are other passengers in your car…YOU are responsible for everyone’s life and making sure everyone arrives to their destination safely.”

EndDD has provided Krista with resources she’s used in presentations at schools across the state. She’s met with the National Safety Council and State Senator Bob Krist about legislation and current laws regarding distracted driving.

 

 

Nebraska is one of few states in the country in which distracted driving in not a primary violation,” said Krista. “This puts us behind all other states who have recognized and established legal consequences for distracted driving. By acknowledging distracted driving as a law violation, it recognizes the risks of that behavior and allows for consequences that may actually result in changed behaviors in the future.”

Krista uses her Facebook page to share statistics and powerful stories from people she’s met.

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“I love talking to people of all ages, but I also love listening and being present whenever someone has a question for me or wants to tell me more about themselves,” said Krista. “I absolutely love meeting new people, talking to people, and making a connection as well as using this title to create a positive impact for people in the community.”

And community has been central to Krista over the last two years.

She volunteers with Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. She recently won Omaha’s Dancing With The Stars, benefiting Youth Emergency Services. Fundraisers, parades, galas.. Krista is there, hoping to send others, especially children, home with a brighter outlook.

Krista and sis

“I enjoyed getting to settle down during lunchtime [at Miss Omaha] to start to build a relationship with my Little Sister,” said Krista. “My heart was filled when I saw her for the first time and she had made a special good luck card for me! I believe that people may remember a gorgeous gown you wore or your crown at an appearance, but they will also take with them how you made them feel and I want everyone to always feel valued after each conversation or interaction.”

Krista will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska this summer, and while she would love to win, her bigger goal is to connect with people and make an impact.

A will to do more.. it’s something deep within people like Krista Hinrichs and Officer Mike Bossman. Krista is a gifted dancer, a college student, a future child psychologist; she could just focus on those things, or even herself and her goal of winning that sparkly crown. Bossman could just clock in and clock out, hand out tickets and head home knowing he did his job. These two go beyond – they want to make the world better, one visit, one day, and one tweet at a time.

Krista’s latest post… ‘Use your smile to change the world, never let the world change your smile!’ 

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To follow Miss Douglas County Krista Hinrichs on Facebook, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KRISTA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * The Meaning of Life

For more information about the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also email Director Devin Howell or Director Marianne Grubaugh at missomahapageant@yahoo.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Whitney Miller

NEXT.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest’s Outstanding Teen Hope McCoy

Bo Knows Inspiration

Once in awhile, you meet someone that makes you want to jump higher and run faster. You meet a Bo Jackson.

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He won the Heisman… AND played baseball for Auburn. He was a #1 NFL Draft pick AND a 4th round draft pick for the Kansas City Royals. To this day, he remains the only person to be named an All-Star in both the MLB and the NFL. Bo Knows Awesome.

(Sorry, guys – Spring Training is here. Get ready for lots of baseball references!)

We are surrounded by Bo Jacksons, right here in Nebraska. I know one.. he goes by the alias Tyler Hottovy.

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Tyler is a musician. He’s a church leader. He’s a proud husband and father. And as of last summer, he has been the principal of one of the largest schools in Westside, Westbrook Elementary.

Westbrook is a Title I school; a relatively high number of the students enrolled here receive free or reduced lunch. For many of them, their biggest worry every day is not homework or getting enough screen time.. it’s thinking of when they’ll eat next, or wondering how they’ll stay warm when the temperatures drop. Mr. Hottovy has made it his career mission to make school consistent, comforting, and a source of hope and opportunity for every, single child who passes through his doors.

“If they are hungry, we will feed them. If they are cold, we will make sure that they are warm,” Mr. Hottovy told me recently. “We don’t turn anyone away. We learn to support and serve the students that show up at our door and give them as many opportunities as we can.”

On the first day of school, he literally rolled out a red carpet for Westbrook students and invited Westside cheerleaders to root on kids as they walked into the building. He and Teacher Leader Amy Falcone don goofy glasses and deliver snacks by wagon, endearing themselves to their students as friends and trusted adults. Mr. Hottovy goes above and beyond to bring experiences and inspiration to his students, like the Nebraska Brass Band (of which he’s a proud member of!) His goal: to make both his students and teachers LOVE coming to school everyday. Click here to follow Mr. Hottovy on Twitter!

“My beautiful moments are when I hear adults supporting each other, recognizing the positive in kids, building meaningful relationships with students, and when I hear staff stop talking about what our kids have done and instead talk about what they will do,” said Mr. Hottovy.

It’s one thing to accept a role and fulfill your responsibilities. It takes a Bo Jackson to keep pushing, to test the limits and to do more.

Cue Nikki-Catrina.

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

People think beauty queens brawl for tiaras to wave their hands and ride in convertibles. Nikki-Catrina Anderson has put her crowns and sashes through more than 1,300 hours of community service… and counting.

“One reason I love serving is the people I have met and the stories I have heard,” Nikki-Catrina recently told me. “It’s a two-way street; I’m helping people, but it is rare that I don’t leave a service opportunity enlightened and uplifted from the people I have met. Serving in my community is something I will do for the rest of my life.”

 

 

The current Miss Kool-Aid Days has jumped into ice-cold lakes to raise money for Special Olympics. She’s flipped pancakes and handed out ice cream for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. She’s spoken to schools from Scottsbluff to Kearney, walked in charity fashion shows, served food to families in need.. the list goes on and on. But Nikki-Catrina’s prime focus and favorite contribution is through an ages-old hobby and essential skill: reading.

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

“My platform is ‘Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader’,” said Nikki-Catrina. “It is about promoting family reading and children’s literacy, sharing the importance and relevance of reading, and the bond it can create.”

From business to personal health to civic empathy.. there are endless pieces of evidence as to the positive benefits of simply reading. Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, C.S. Lewis, Maya Angelou, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis… they all agree(d) reading is the key to success. Nikki-Catrina shares their messages and puts in the time on the ground, getting books to as many children across Nebraska as possible.

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“Last May, I did a book drive in which I collected more than 4,800 books to give to students,” said Nikki-Catrina. “I’m also privileged to partner with the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library, which has allowed me to vastly promote literacy in the community. With them, I was able to visit every elementary and preschool in the Scottsbluff Public School District to encourage 1,800 students to sign up for the summer reading program!”

Two years ago, Nikki-Catrina amplified her message and mission as a titleholder within the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program. She soon realized that crown and sash also netted her some personal rewards for her hard work.

“This has been a life-changing organization,” said Nikki-Catrina. “Even before I was old enough to compete, I was inspired by the titleholders in my community who became role models and the women I aspired to emulate. Since becoming a titleholder, I have found countless friendships with women who’s strength, determination, and stories inspire me to be better. I have developed a greater confidence and a deeper sense of who I am. I have been given opportunities to serve my community in a way I would not have been able to do without the prestige reputation of this organization. I have created large projects from beginning to end, and because of those experiences, I am now confident in my ability to continue to make great change even after I am no longer a titleholder.”

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Photo courtesy Timmy James Photo

“I do not want to get wrapped up in the idea that this is a competition, I see this more as an experience,” said Nikki-Catrina. “A chance to get to know amazing and wonderful girls. I do not want to be the shy person I typically am in large groups; I want to get to know the girls and build relationships with them. I am surrounded by uplifting, inspiring, and friendly women. I want to make this the best experience it can be, because I am blessed to be able to have it.”

At one recent appearance, Nikki-Catrina warmly greeted a deaf family who approached her… and she communicated with them in sign language. Yup, she does that, too. THAT is the beauty this young woman has defined in the phrase ‘beauty queen’. Look at the faces of the children in these photos. Just like Tyler Hottovy’s pictures, I not only see a caring, person to devoted to making the world better, but I see sheer happiness in the children she is impacting.

People like Tyler and Nikki-Catrina are talented. They are hard working. They do it all.

They are our Bo Jacksons.

The sports legend once said, “Set your goals high and don’t stop ’til you get there.”

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Tyler Hottovy has started his doctorate. He thinks about expanding his work with Title I schools, but for now: “I’m focused on making Westbrook a great place for kids.”

Nikki-Catrina hopes to work in an elementary school, too; she is studying to become a teacher, and may someday be telling her students the story of her time as Miss Nebraska.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I never believed in myself enough to give it a try,” said Nikki-Catrina. “[Now] I love it. This gives me the chance to grow, to be who I am, and feel I have a place.”

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To follow Miss Kool-Aid Days Nikki-Catrina Anderson on Facebook, click here.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NIKKI-CATRINA?

CLICK HERE * 2017 * Leading Through Reading

For more information about the Miss Queen City of the Plains/Miss Kool-Aid Days Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their website, or CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also emails Directors Angie Trausch at angie.trausch@gmail.com or Angela Keiser at angelakeiser@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Scholarship Competition takes place June 7-9 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Facebook

CLICK HERE to follow the Miss Nebraska Organization on Twitter

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen Kiera Rhodes

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen Morgan Baird

The Meaning Of Life

Guys, I’m pooped.  Not enough coffee in my house and not enough creativity in my head.  I’ve been sitting here, grasping for inspiration, and a moment outside caught my attention.. a little boy doing backflips on his trampoline.  Do you remember that?  Boundless energy.  No fear.  The adrenaline rush of trying something like a flip and boom–just doing it.  That little guy isn’t thinking about everything on his to-do list, or how nice a nap sounds right now.. he is enjoying every second of springing backward without a care in the world.

As adults, we take every moment for granted.  We don’t just jump.. we dwell on all of the reasons why we can’t; we don’t have time, we should be working, we could get hurt. But then I see things like this:

At 10:10 am on March 3, 2017, in his mamma’s arms, Trucker took his last breath here and went home to be with Jesus.💔💔💔  We prayed that his passing (and I say passing because we have hope of seeing him again in Heaven) would be peaceful, not painful and with ohana there.

This brave child, just 3 years old, died Friday after a valiant battle with cancer.  This morning, I just stared at my boys for a few seconds.  How do I ever take for granted each precious second God has given me with them? How do I think of anything but how blessed we are that we have two happy, healthy boys?

The simple answer is.. because we subconsciously have an ‘invincible’ mentality.  ‘This is so sad.. but it could never happen to me.’  We get busy with work and drama and what we think is so important, and we forget the everyday beauty that life truly is all about.  Even after 15 years of covering terrible things that DID happen to us, right here in Nebraska.. it takes moments like this to wake me up. To remind me to celebrate everything special we have and to never, ever assume the next day will happen.

“Life is too short to go one second without a smile,” I heard recently. “Whether I am having the most stressful day of my life or I am having one of the most exciting days of my life I always remember to stay positive and smile through it all.”

Miss Kool-Aid Days 2017 Krista Hinrichs

Krista is a brand new titleholder in the Miss Nebraska Organization, showcasing her own ‘live for the moment’ mantra when she signed up to compete for Miss Kool-Aid Days last summer.

“Before 2016 I don’t think I could ever picture myself gliding across a stage in a formal gown or speaking in front of hundreds people,” said Krista.  “One of my close friends, Chelsea Arnold (Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016, click here to read more) asked me if I would be interested in participating.  I always followed her journey and I thought it looked like an amazing experience.  I told myself to just go for it and see what would happen.  I was overjoyed to hear my name called as the new titleholder and it is a moment I will never forget.”

And since that night, Krista has graciously accepted and embraced every life experience that crown and sash have offered her.

“In the past few months I have had the opportunity to go to parades and perform, speak to schools about my platform and participate in so many fun events that I will cherish forever,” said Krista.  “I have been able to volunteer throughout my community and help others in need and find out more about how others live around me.  I have learned so much about communicating with others and being able to stand up in front of others and express what is important to me.  The Miss Nebraska [program] has given me more confidence than I knew I was capable of.”

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Krista’s Miss Kool-Aid Days winter newsletter

Krista also knows the impact she can have on children who view her as nothing less than royalty every time she enters a classroom.  She’s used that exposure to teach kids a lesson that will be important now and long after her pageant days are done.

“My platform is Distracted Driving,” said Krista.  “[This] affects all ages and everyone has a voice when it comes to protecting the ones we love.  It is important for older ages to be informed on the dangers they have on others if they are driving while distracted.  It is also important for younger ages to understand that even though they are not driving they can always remind their parents or older siblings that they love them and they want everyone to arrive at the destination safely.”

Krista does all of this; speaking at schools, volunteering at events and advocating for important causes, while studying at Midland University, where she’s majoring in Psychology and Art Management and performing for the school’s award winning dance squad.

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“I always remember to set goals for myself and push myself to achieve my goals one step at a time,” said Krista.  “Whether its working towards a first place award at a dance competition, achieving a high GPA or going for Miss Nebraska, everything comes in steps and each step will bring me closer to achieving my dreams.  While balancing school, dance team, family, friends and pageant events I have learned to make the balance equal between all of these activities so I can be the best I can be in each area.”

This young woman is making the most of every day, filling her life with meaningful moments while appreciating every person and experience.  Much of that she credits to self determination, compassion for others and positivity.. traits she hopes to impress upon others throughout this special year.

“I love taking any opportunity I can get to be a role model for others,” said Krista.  “This organization has allowed me to serve in a way where younger girls can look up to me and I can offer them words of encouragement and allow them to believe in themselves.”

Krista’s goals: she wants to take the feedback she receives competing and use that to improve as a person, while also supporting her fellow contestants in anyway she can. She wants to raise as much money as possible for the Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals, money that goes straight to our local hospitals and doctors finding ways to save little boys like Trucker.  (To date, she’s raised $1857) To everyone who meets Miss Kool-Aid Days 2017 Krista Hinrichs, whether it be a little girl at a parade or a someone simply looking for inspiration, she offers a reminder to live in the now and to be grateful for every minute.

“I would be honored and thrilled if I was crowned the next Miss Nebraska,” said Krista.  “I also hope to always continue to be a role model to others throughout my life and be there for others whenever they may need me.  My final goal is to always be happy and positive and enjoy every moment of this amazing experience.”

My sincere condolences to those who loved Trucker Dukes, especially his mom and dad.  My heart is broken for you, and your sweet boy is in my prayers.

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To follow Miss Kool-Aid Days 2017 Krista Hinrichs on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

For more information about the Miss Kool-Aid Days Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their website, or CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also emails Directors Angie Trausch at angie.trausch@gmail.com or Angela Keiser at angelakeiser@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Eastern Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Naomi Turner

NEXT.. Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Jamie Chen

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!

Good Work

So I’ve mentioned I want to write a book..

So very many of the stories I’ve covered are inspiring, emotional and powerful… often because they reflect something incredibly positive, born out of something terrible and tragic.

January 5, 2011.  I was 8 months pregnant, sluggish and FOREVER late.  That day I was running behind as usual, hoping to stop at Subway on my way to work.  I was at the stoplight at 144th and Q and one, then two, then three Omaha Police cruisers flew past me with lights and sirens blaring.  I called the KETV assignment desk to let them know something was going on, and my managing editor, Jim Reding, responded, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a shooting at Millard South, we need you here right away.’

I immediately turned my car around and sped to KETV as quickly as I could.  Within minutes, I was on the anchor desk and on air, sharing what we knew with our viewers. A young man had walked into the front office and opened fire, shooting two principals.  One of them was dead, another was critically hurt.  The teenager drove a few miles away, then shot and killed himself.

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Millard South student Kyler Erickson heard and saw it all.  He hid in a bathroom, called 911, and waited.  No one should be witness to a nightmare like this; Kyler was as a teenager.  Still, he refused to let that horror take him down, despite the nightmares and grief that followed.  With therapy and sheer inner strength, Kyler healed emotionally and grew physically, attending the University of Nebraska Omaha to play Division 1 Basketball.  He began to share his story, meeting with everyone from veterans suffering from PTSD to other students.  This year, Kyler was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team, recognized at the 2016 Final Four tournament, one of only five student athletes nationwide.  This dude is simply AWESOME.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Kyler’s incredible journey from KETV’s Matt Lothrop.

Kyler’s loved ones are among those most proud of this young man, including his longtime friends from Millard South…

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..friends who were there in full force at Kyler’s final game with UNO.  The girl in the beige and black sweater is LaRissa McKean.

“He’s so inspiring,” LaRissa told me recently.  She too was at Millard South that day, in AP Economics class.  And much like her friend Kyler, she’s devoted much of her time and focus on simply trying to make the world a better place.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“The best compliment I received was from a sorority sister.  She anonymously left me a note saying ‘you make people feel good about themselves,'” said LaRissa.  “That statement is what motivates me daily to make an impact on someone’s life.”

I first met LaRissa last summer at the Miss Nebraska Pageant; she left her mark on most, if not all of the audience and her fellow contestants.  This girl is SHEER JOY.. she lights up a room with her smile and personality, and radiates energy and glee the second she steps on stage. LaRissa was also voted Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants.

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That beautiful smile shows LaRissa’s inner spirit… but so does THIS.

Hilarious.  Carefree.  So many women in pageants, business and LIFE are afraid to let their guard down, so afraid of what people will think about them.  LaRissa knows who she is and OWNS it.  You can just tell she LOVES life, and everyone around her smiles and lets THEIR guard down because of it.

LaRissa will compete at Miss Nebraska again this year as Miss Gering 2016.  Her personal platform of service is called ‘Feel The Difference: Empowerment Through Communication.’

“[It’s] based on Maya Angelou’s quote, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’  I will leave a legacy where I make people feel inspired and willing to take the act of listening through conversation to better the lives around them.”

LaRissa has all kinds of opportunities to communicate.. the girl is surrounded by people CONSTANTLY.  A University of Kansas graduate specialized in Accounting and Human Resources, LaRissa currently works three jobs; she’s a Head Instructor of summer high school/college dance camps with Universal Dance Association, she’s a full-time educator with Lululemon, and she’s a substitute paraprofessional in the district where she grew up, Millard Public Schools.  She volunteers every week with local 4th graders, helping them catch up on homework and answering questions.  LaRissa also takes part frequently at charity events, doing what she can to help as Miss Gering.

THEN.. there’s dance, a constant in LaRissa’s life for many years.

“I have judged the State Dance Competition for the last three years along with other local high school competitions and college regional competitions for the NAIA Nationals,” said LaRissa, who learned at and competed with Kitty Lee Dance, a place she still practices and volunteers.  “One of my biggest role models was Miss Kitty.  Not only did she instill my love for dance, she taught me to be stronger and never think you can’t improve.  She raised me in the studio and I can’t thank her enough for whacking my leg with a ruler to get my knees straight.  She was the first one to correct me in every dance class but also the first to congratulate me on a performance well done.  Even with her gone, I know she is watching every class and performance, smiling that her passion lives inside of me.”

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Talent is LaRissa’s favorite part of the Miss Nebraska Pageant; she plans to combine her love of comedy and dance to present a musical theater piece with ‘an element of surprise’ this year.

“Not only does [talent] set our system apart from others, it is truly beautiful to see all the contestants show their art to the world,” said LaRissa.  “I love watching the contestants light up the floor with their interests and show a piece of themselves to everyone.  The emotion that can be portrayed in 90 seconds gives me goosebumps and really shows the uniqueness of every competitor.”

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That’s one of the things LaRissa hopes to share with pageant naysayers.. to learn more about the women who take part before forming an opinion.

“I remember going to pageants as a young girl and telling my mom I couldn’t wait to be as pretty or as talented as the women that compete for Miss Nebraska,” said LaRissa.  “The majority of people who compete are varsity athletes in their schools, Honor Roll recipients, and leaders in their community.  They are some of the most respected people and receive more credit for being mentors to people all across the nation.”

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LaRissa adds that every woman she knows who’s taken part in this system has made a difference in someone’s life.. and that she became a leader because of it.  She describes the title of Miss Nebraska as a job she’s applying for that could give her a year of memories she can only imagine.  BUT.. in the swirl of glamour and costumes and performances, LaRissa hasn’t lost focus of her values and priorities; her family, including grandparents Pampy and Nana who she spends several hours with every week.  Education, through both mentoring students and planning ahead to obtain a Masters Degree.  Love, and her love of people.. simply spending time with those who matter most, friends like Kyler Erickson.

No one would have faulted Kyler for never talking about that day again, for withdrawing from everything to process what happened, for moving thousands of miles away from Omaha to escape everything and start fresh.  Instead, this guy confronted his demons, defeated them, then stayed and shared his journey to help others still battling.  LaRissa McKean’s story doesn’t stem from tragedy and horror but is inspiring nonetheless.. a young woman using her gifts and positive attitude to simply do good work in our world.

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Photo courtesy  Loren C Winkler Images

“At the end of the day, I look in the mirror, washing off my makeup and think it would be amazing to be Miss Nebraska 2016, but I would rather be known as LaRissa who became Miss Nebraska because of the person I am,” said LaRissa.  “I’m an honest person, who gives my opinion respectively.  I won’t change my values or morals because of a title, I will continue to grow and live a life I treasure.  At the end of the day, I will still be LaRissa McKean forever.”

I think they call this perspective.  Maybe it’s what she saw Kyler go through.  Maybe it’s been the lesser challenges she, like the rest of us, go through.  No matter where the drive comes from.. imagine what life could be like if we all strived to do good work to help each other, and in turn, found peace and joy within ourselves.

Kyler Erickson is available to speak at events; CLICK HERE for details and to learn more about his story.

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Click on each link below to follow Miss Gering 2016 LaRissa McKean

on FACEBOOK and on INSTAGRAM.  You an also email LaRissa for appearances and events at larissamckean@gmail.com.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT LaRISSA?

2015 * Sleepless Beauty

For more information about the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska Pageant, CLICK HERE to visit their Facebook page.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Heather Hayes by phone at 307-340-0601, or by email at Heather.Hayes@chartercom.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.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashlynn Haun!

NEXT.. Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Shaniah Freeseman!

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!

All The World’s A Stage

I am currently experiencing a CRAZY sense of deja vu..

This week, I’m back on stage at Papillion-La Vista High School for the first time in 17 years, as a special guest in Monarch Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde the Musical.

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The choir room in this picture.. the theater filled with maroon seats.. the green room where the cast gets ready each night.. it’s all SACRED GROUND to me.  It was my home away from home while I was in high school, where I took part in plays and performances, formed my dearest friendships, and created art that I was so very proud to showcase to our community.  There was something intoxicating about theater to me.. the thrill of seeing your name on a casting sheet, the adrenaline rush when the curtain goes up, the sheer GLEE of hearing the audience applaud at the end.

Many of my fellow ‘drama nerds’ channeled that love into our current careers: my friend Joe Rohacik now teaches at PLHS, where he is also the PA announcer for the entire district.  My friend David Wenzel is now a motivational speaker booked around the country for events (CLICK HERE to read his incredible story!)  My ‘green room’ is now the KETV newsroom, and my stage is 7 Burlington Station.

For others.. performing is simply what they were destined to do.  My fellow classmates Audrey Billings and Leanne Hill-Carlson are now professional actresses in Chicago and here in Omaha.  Monarch alumni Merle Dandridge and Abbie Cobb are now on national TV, starring in shows ranging from HBO to ABC.

Tyler Rambali is somewhere in between.. constantly learning new skills to teach future performers, while fine-tuning her own talents and seeking out opportunities to perform.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I love to sing and act!” Tyler told me recently, and backed that up with an impressive resume of work, including awards with her trio, Major minor 3.

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“[We] competed in the Galaxy of Stars competition this last summer and the summer before,” said Tyler (CLICK HERE to link up to Major minor 3’s Facebook page to watch and listen to them sing!).  The group won a slew of honors their first year and the Megastar Award last summer, earning a recording session as their prize.  Tyler walked away with an additional bonus.

“That is where I met Chelsea Arnold (Miss Kool-Aid Days) and her mother, Paige, who first talked to me about competing in the Miss America system,” said Tyler.

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Tyler was crowned Miss Chadron last fall, opening up the doors for more performance opportunities across the state… not that she needs them.  She’s starred in Annie Get Your Gun, Nunsense, Lettice and Lovageas, Defying Gravity, and currently, she’s the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Tyler takes on these roles in addition to classes at McCook Community College where she is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Phi Beta Lambda, the National Association for Music Educators and Not Your Average Theatre Group.  Now as Miss Chadron, she’s also making appearances and often, trying to promote change with her personal platform ‘Reach Out and Read’.

  “Reading has become one of the least important things to my generation,” said Tyler.  “Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by integrating children’s books and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud [during] well-child visits.  I am trying to expand on this by connecting it to Children’s Miracle Network: reading to the children there, giving them books and teaching them the importance as well.  I also want to start a Reach Out and Read site in my hometown of McCook!”

It’s the part of pageants that doesn’t end up on reality TV, the service and networking opportunities that open up for these titleholders.  THAT is part of what Tyler, a pageant newcomer, hopes to show with her new title.

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Tyler painted this to symbolize her new adventure competing for Miss Nebraska.

“I wanted to try something new, and on top of that, I had a chance to make my voice heard, make a difference, and be apart of something really special,” said Tyler.  “Miss America celebrates women and empowers them and their abilities and accomplishments.  It’s purpose is to serve others, show your personal style and what you can bring to the table, provide scholarships, and help you to be successful, and that is what it has done for me!”

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Tyler also stresses the friendships she’s already made, adding to circle of loved ones she describes as the most important in her life.

“I have a huge family (over 20 first cousins on one side!),” said Tyler.  “Both of my parents served in the US Army (Dad for 20 and Mom for 7) and my brother leaves for basic training in the Navy in May, but I am so proud of him and his endeavors to be a Navy Air Rescue swimmer.  My faith in God is the BIGGEST thing in my life, and it is the only way I will be able to let my brother go off to the military.”

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Tyler adds that her mother is also one of her role models, teaching her at home from Kindergarten through her senior year.. a tie Tyler compares to ANOTHER of her role models, Miss Nebraska and then Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan.

“She has so much in common with me,” said Tyler.  “She loves to sing and act and she was home schooled.  It gives me encouragement and I know that I can do anything I can set my mind to.”

For anyone at a Nebraska high school right now, dreaming of someday being on a big time stage or on that screen in front of millions.. just LOOK at the incredible talent coming out of our state.  Omaha native Gabrielle Union.  North Bend native Marg Helgenberger.  Norfolk native Johnny Carson.

Tyler Rambali not only wants to follow their lead, she wants to be CAST as the lead in this incredible production called ‘life’.. and she’s ready to call Act I: ‘Becoming Miss Nebraska.’

“I feel that I am an extremely diverse person who can relate to so many people because I have so many different backgrounds: I am biracial, military, city girl, country girl, stage-fright-girl-turned-performer, and so much more!” said Tyler.  “I have been placed where I am, in the position I am for a reason, and I will do my very best to not squander the opportunities that God has given me to be a light for HIM.”

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Photo courtesy Chris Swasta

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Chadron 2016 Tyler Rambali on FACEBOOK

For more information about the Miss Chadron/Miss Northwest/Miss Fur Trade Days Pageant, visit their FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Directors Caitlin Rodiek and Sara Smith by email at misscnwdirectors@gmail.com.  You can also contact Caitlin Rodiek by phone at 308-207-0336.

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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 Sugar Valley’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Courtney Pelland!

NEXT.. Miss Heartland 2016 Tosha Skinner!

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!

Top Of The Class

What do you think of when you hear the word SCHOOL?

school

This?

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This?

Maybe even this?

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(Disclaimer.. this is actually what I first thought of about the word ‘school’.. getting totally, embarassingly defeated at something.  Morpheus and the Matrix were just an added bonus that made me laugh..)

WELL.. now that I’ve hit my NERD quota for 2016, I’ll get to my point… SCHOOL.  The word, and the issue, are anything BUT simply defined these days.  College education is highly debated issue in the current presidential campaign.  School bond issues are often top stories in our newscasts.  Just within the last few weeks, charter schools again resurfaced as a hot topic in Nebraska. (Click here to learn more about the new statewide initiative in reporter Kristyna Engdahl’s story on KETV.)

However you want to define school, Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016 Chelsea Arnold is willing to listen.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“Even before my involvement in the Miss America Organization, I was very vocal about how important it is for students to individualize their education plans,” Chelsea told me recently.  “I’ve been a student at many different kinds of schools (charter, online, public, home, private) and have witnessed firsthand how important it is to be an advocate for your own education.”

That message has also been Chelsea’s personal platform of service, both as a teen titleholder (click here to read more!) and now as Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016.  She says ‘The 4 Learning Languages’ focuses on the four main types of learning and teaching study habits.  Working with students of all ages is a passion for Chelsea, who also volunteers with the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, including Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Travelling to Omaha is no big deal for the Lincoln Southwest senior; she’s visited 48 of our 50 states (one of those trips–an Alaskan cruise right before Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen two years ago, click here to read more!).  In addition to being a student and MAO titleholder, Chelsea also models for clients like the Omaha Bridal Fair and Oriental Trading Company.

Still, Nebraska is where the Crete native wants to be, planning to attend the University of Nebraska – Lincoln next fall to double major in broadcasting and communications, inspired and humbled by her own family.

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Her grandfather, Wayne Drummond, is the Emeritus Dean and a Professor of Architecture at UNL with nearly 40 years of professional and academic experience.

“My role model is my grandfather, ‘Poppy’,” said Chelsea.  “I have never met anyone who has been so successful in their chosen profession while still making their family their number one priority.  I admire his patience, kindness, and integrity.  He has told me many times, ‘always be honest and do what is right,’ and I hope to be as successful in my career as he has been following that mantra!”

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 Chelsea’s mom has also had a huge impact; as a former Miss Alabama contestant, she introduced her daughter to the Miss America Organization.

“I love to sing and it was an opportunity to be on stage,” said Chelsea.  “I have benefited from the Miss Nebraska Organization more than I could ever put into words.  It has truly pushed me to be the best version of myself, and I will always be thankful for that.”

And to those who criticize the Miss America Organization or pageantry in general, Chelsea Arnold has a quick lesson..

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This..

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This.. and this.

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“It is SO much more than what [we’re] saying on stage,” said Chelsea.  “It is not about objectifying women, physical appearance, or hairspray.  It’s about women who are given a platform to speak their mind and further their education and careers.  Getting that many successful women in one place in incredibly empowering.”

THIS is the class Chelsea Arnold is a part of right now.. the Miss Nebraska Pageant Class of 2016.  She wants to take what she’s learned as Miss Kool-Aid Days and educate others as she moves forward, hoping to visit schools of all kinds with a new title: Miss Nebraska 2016.

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Photo courtesy Ali Marie Photography

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CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016 Chelsea Arnold

on FACEBOOK, on TWITTER, on INSTAGRAM

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CHELSEA?

CLICK HERE * 2015 * A Beauty Queen’s Bucket List

CLICK HERE * 2014 * Nebraska’s Outstanding Teens

For more information about the Miss Kool-Aid Days Scholarship Pageant, visit THEIR WEBSITE or  FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Angie Trausch at (402) 984-2690 or angie.trausch@gmail.com, or contact Director Angela Keiser at (402) 578-8621 or angelakeiser@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 Nebraska USA 2016 Sarah Hollins!

NEXT.. Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Grace Heggem!

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!