Tag Archive | pete ricketts

Just The Way You Are

Last fall, I had the honor of emceeing the Lighthouse Leader and Hall of Fame Gala for Westside Community Schools. This biannual event recognizes alumni and supporters who have demonstrated exemplary leadership, success and dedication to their careers and communities. All ten of our inductees are extraordinary, but one in particular caught my attention as I prepared my remarks.

Dr. Suzanne Hutchinson Verma grew up in Omaha and attended Westside High School. She’s now one of the world’s leading experts in Anaplastology; she rebuilds FACES. Patients around the world, including children, come to Suzi to reconstruct their faces after cancer, birth defects and accidents. Multiple times in her career, she’s operated for free on patients who cannot afford help.

Dr. Verma and I are about the same age. I mean, we’re basically the same person… Faux Pelini RETWEETED me once. That’s a really big deal.

WHAT?!?!?! I shook my head in disbelief as I researched this incredible woman’s accomplishments. Once in awhile, we come across people in life that have just set the bar higher, their contributions to the world are exponentially greater. It may not be their intent, but they inspire the rest of us to DO MORE, to BE BETTER. Cue 12-year old Phoenix Stanford.

Miss Sarpy County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Phoenix Stanford

She can’t get in to a rated R movie, yet this girl has already testified before the Nebraska Legislature, been a featured guest at several high profile events and spent countless hours volunteering across Sarpy County.

(Again.. we’re basically the same person. When I was 12, I set a new Tetris record on my Nintendo.)

“My parents have raised me since I was 5 years old to always be involved in giving back to the community,” Phoenix told me recently. “I believe helping out those who are less fortunate and donating your time to an event helps people to rise.”

Phoenix has touched communities around the world, literally, due to her military upbringing.

“I was raised in England and spent most of my childhood there. That was where I first started school,” said Phoenix. “All my friends were British and all the activities I was involved in were all done with the local nationals. Having to leave my childhood friends behind devastated me. It was a difficult transition when I moved. I missed my British food, I missed living in Europe and seeing medieval buildings around me. I was terrified to start school not knowing anyone around there. After having moving here, I met more military children. I’ve learned that the many who go through things like this soon give up the will to want to make new friends because they know that they are just going to move again.”

phoenix-miss

Phoenix took her own experiences and set out to help others facing the same challenges. When she became Miss Sarpy County’s Outstanding Teen 2017, she put a name on her mission: ‘Beyond The Yellow Ribbon: Support for Military Children.’

“Because this is something I can strongly touch base with and it is an issue that kids and teens have to go through, I wanted to make a difference,” said Phoenix. “The military has blessed my family and I with incredible opportunities that most people don’t get. I am forever grateful for it. This is why I want to give back to the men and women who serve and still continue to serve. ‘Beyond the Yellow Ribbon’ is about helping kids and teens go through these difficult moves, and also spread the word to civilians to let them know that not only do their parents serve, but us as the youth serve, too.”

phoenix-remembering-our-fallen

Phoenix is engaging her peers, her school and community members both in and outside the military. Her most recent pictures show a glimpse of all of her hard work; from the Remembering The Fallen exhibit on display at her school, to her volunteer efforts to raise money for military families.

phoenix-thrift-store 

Got to help out at Offutt Air Force Base’s Thrift Store today! The revenue that is brought in goes toward many base organizations, off base community organizations, as well as scholarships for high-school seniors and military spouses.

 phoenix-3

Proud to be a young Filipina! Performing at this year’s Santo Niño Festival was an honor! I had the pleasure of meeting our Nebraska Governor, Pete Ricketts, and Bellevue city mayor, Rita Sanders. I truly enjoyed being a part of this religious and cultural celebration!

Just last week, Phoenix did something most adults never commit the time or dedication to; she went to Lincoln to testify before members of the Nebraska Legislature.

phoenix-legislature

This brave 12-year old advocated for LB88, a bill that would prompt the state to issue temporary professional licenses to military spouses during the procedural wait time it takes to secure a permanent license.   State Senator Carol Blood later posted on Facebook: “Thank you to Miss Sarpy County Outstanding Teen for her outstanding testimony on LB 88 this week. This military spouses bill is important to Nebraska, especially District 3 and 45.”

phoenix-with-senators

“I want civilians to be aware of what goes on behind their freedom and how military families make it happen,” said Phoenix. “I also want people to know how amazing this pageant system is and how much young women can learn from an opportunity like this.”

That’s why Phoenix decided to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this spring, to share a message and grow as a person.

“I love how this pageant is scholarship based!” she said. “School and getting a good education is everything to me. [My goal] is to make it easier for my family to pay for my education. I love music and when I found out they have a talent portion in the pageant, I thought it would be a great way to express my love for performing and music. The Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant system recognizes young women’s talent, promotes healthy living, emphasizes scholastic achievements and encourages community service.”

phoenix-and-girls

Ironically, the friendships that are so often part of Phoenix’s message about military children have become of one of the clearest benefits of her participation in this year’s program.

“Not only have I met some amazing people, but I get to help out the community as well,” said Phoenix. “[This organization] has taught me some great skills and how to put myself out there. I have been so blessed with this opportunity and I’m so thankful.”

What’s next for Phoenix Stanford? Turning 13 in April. Graduating from middle school and starting high school.. something she could be doing as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. And continuing to advocate for the cause and people she believes in.

“Winning state would be a win for Sarpy County, including Offutt Air Force Base,” said Phoenix. “Winning national would be a win for Nebraska, the military community, the Filipino and German community. While it would be fantastic to win at any level, my goal is to make a difference in my community and for the people around me.”

Beyond the impressive resumes, what ultimately sticks with me about people like Suzi Verma and Phoenix Stanford are who they are beyond their titles. Those who nominated Dr. Verma for the Westside Hall of Fame didn’t focus on her extensive academia or doctoral accolades, they raved about her love for children, her kindness, and the depth of her heart. Miss Sarpy County’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford, at just 12 years old, doesn’t brag about her service or eye-opening accomplishments, she stresses the qualities she hopes to be remembered by: compassionate, perseverant and unique.

phoenix-final

“I don’t like to give up. I believe we are all put here to help one another,” said Phoenix. “There will never, ever be a person like me and that’s what makes me special.”

***

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Sarpy County’s Outstanding Teen Phoenix Stanford.

***

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

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Omaha 2017 Wellesley Michael

NEXT.. Miss Elkhorn’s Outstanding Teen Emily Lenser

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!

Highlighting History

This week, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts unveiled the state’s new license plate to be produced in 2017, just in time for Nebraska’s 150th Birthday!

CLICK HERE to see the new plate, and to read the background on the new license plate!

What an incredible time to be a Nebraskan.  We have produced gold medal winning Olympians, legendary performers, a President, an astronaut, and yes, a Miss America!  Every village, town, and city in our state has a unique and fascinating history.  For example, Chadron, Nebraska was founded in 1884 and originally named O’Linn, Nebraska.  When the railroad was built six miles away, the ENTIRE TOWN picked up and shifted to that branch site and renamed the community after Louis Chartran, a french fur trapper who built a trading post there in 1841.  To this day, Chadron’s Museum of the Fur Trade is the largest of its kind in the United States, attracting thousands of visitors. Now, the city has enlisted two young women to share their tradition statewide.

12813916_483052321893210_669525563086845037_n

Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

Brooklyn Stack is one of them; she’s Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen 2016.

“I am in Chadron High School’s Cardinal Singers, on dance team, Student Council, Future Business Leaders of America, in the musical and in speech,” Brooklyn told me recently.  “I strive to be the best person I can be and I commit to what I saw I will do.”

Brooklyn IS Chadron, involved in just about every facet of her community as a high school sophomore can be.  She and Miss Fur Trade Days 2016 Alex O’Connor will represent the far northwest corner of the state in the upcoming Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageants, along with Miss Chadron 2016 Tyler Rambali and Miss Chadron’s OT Emma Wilkinson.

12355736_456173874581055_957138400_o

 “I have gained so many friendships and communication skills already from being in the pageant circuit,” said Brooklyn.  Those connections are one of the reasons Brooklyn decided to compete in a pageant in the first place.. she saw her older sister, Kiya, form the same bonds while competing for Miss Nebraska.

with kiya

“My role model is my sister, Kiya, because she is such a strong and amazing individual,” said Brooklyn.  “She is so kind and helps out whenever she can.  Kiya has competed before and the relationships she gained influenced me to participate.”

And just as her big sister chose a personal mission as a local titleholder, so has Brooklyn, focusing on stereotype awareness.

12311236_457086701156439_954006793234769101_n

“I was bullied severely when I was younger and I do not want other kids to go through what I went through,” said Brooklyn.  “My platform is U-B-U Stereotype Awareness.  This program has helped me highlight my skills and has helped me get involved in schools to talk about my platform.”

One of the ideas Brooklyn’s brought to classrooms is to join everyone in a circle, hold hands, and discuss what everyone has in common rather than leaving someone out because of their differences.  She posted on Facebook: “We are all connected by our interests, our religion, our race, our personalities. There is no reason to outcast someone because they are ‘different.’ We are all unique in our own ways. #U_BU#Classroomvisit.”

Brooklyn has also created a website, described as a medium to empower youth by stopping stereotypes.  (Click here to see it!)

It’s times like these Brooklyn isn’t just representing her hometown or the historic tradition emblazoned on her sash, she’s the face of our program and what it represents.  She hopes people remember the positive influences and active change all titleholders in the Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen organizations are aiming for.

12295355_456165421248567_3660462433067941063_n

“I would tell people who criticize pageants that this program helps shape young women to be strong individuals who strive to be the best they can be,” said Brooklyn.  “If they don’t care much about the program, I can’t make them change their minds, but I can explain to them that this organization helps to create women who want to change the world with their footprint through the program.”

Brooklyn Stack wants to take her message of confidence and acceptance statewide. She wants to sing to a crowd and share one of the talents she embraces.  And she wants to be Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen to add her name to Chadron’s history books, and to the list of Nebraska greats.

10366194_464208580444251_2897619557724097776_n

“I bring something different to the table,” said Brooklyn.  “I am a strong individual who is not afraid to stand up for what I believe in.  Even though I am new to the program, I want to make a change.”

***

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Fur Trade Days’ Outstanding Teen 2016 Brooklyn Stack ON FACEBOOK.  You can also CLICK HERE to learn more about her platfrom U-B-U Stereotype Awareness.

For information on becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit the Miss Chadron/Northwest/Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook.  You can also contact Director Amanda Vogel by phone at 308-665-5595 or by email at maoteenchadron@gmail.com.

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

***

The 2016 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place June 10 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

***

PREVIOUS.. Miss Heartland 2016 Tosha Skinner!

NEXT.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest 2016 Claire Holsinger!

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!

We Are Nebraska

Who is Miss Nebraska?

I’m not just asking who is the current Miss Nebraska, but who is this person who travels the state wearing a crown and sash?  Who is the woman who goes on TV every year and represents all of us at Miss America?  Is there even one all encompassing definition of this person we call Miss Nebraska?

Click here and see the incredible compilation of Miss Nebraskas through the years.

11115604_1653412431557344_4936109219168280380_n

Miss Nebraska 1962 Mary Lee Jepsen was the first to crack the Top 10 at Miss America, twirling three fire batons; she went on to earn four college degrees, two of them Masters’ and one of them a Post-Masters, focusing on psychology and family counseling.

11181839_1653413228223931_5902289115002516787_n

Miss Nebraska 2002 Krista Knicely survived a horrific attack and assault before she was crowned; she used her time as Miss Douglas County and then Miss Nebraska to bravely share her story and inspire other victims of sexual assault attempts or attacks across the country.

11188307_1653413321557255_8927655937791408451_n

Miss Nebraska 2006 Molly McGrath traveled 30,000 across the state talking about financial literacy and economic education, has worked with both the Federal Reserve and in the private sector on multi-million dollar projects.

Such different stories during and after their time as Miss Nebraska, yet they all share a common bond, along with this young woman.

11159507_1644695909095663_5164437041644671565_n

MISS NEBRASKA 2014 MEGAN SWANSON

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I’m a tall girl with an even bigger heart,” Megan told me recently.  “The job of Miss Nebraska is so much more than what you look like, but rather is about the utterance of your heart by the words you speak and the message you believe in.”

THIS Miss Nebraska isn’t kidding about being tall, she’s 6 feet without heels.  That kind of altitude is common place in the Swanson household, but just short of legendary everywhere else.

 11014636_10153266518059468_7131116927797224665_n 11391535_10153421980444468_3722877979526782617_n

Megan eye to eye with her family.. and *slightly* taller than her pageant sister, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen

Megan wants people to remember more than that; she wants to be seen as the best possible candidate for serving her state.  That has been her intention from the beginning; click here to read my first interview with Megan during her time as Miss Douglas County.

“Nebraska is my home, my love, and my heart,” said Megan.  “It’s land, it’s people, it’s message, it’s feel.  While passionate about the nation, I believe this year I was supposed to make a visible impact on the state of Nebraska, and I believe I did so.  This year as Miss Nebraska, I put over 25,000 miles on my Miss Nebraska car, spoke to over 10,000 students alone, and really believe our residents would associate my name and platform in about 2 seconds.  THAT was what my goal was: for people to think Megan Swanson, Miss Nebraska 2014, and think: ‘Oh, yeah!  She’s genuine, she cares about people in a real way (not for show, not because she has to), and she’s a fitness/health/wellness buff.  Total Body Wellness: Spirit, Soul, and Body is her platform, AND she’s really tall!”

10168193_10153094107904468_680921234954336385_n 10689464_10153124864339468_40053077047091900_n 10848059_10152943520774468_479980850715953351_n 10858567_10153131156909468_220100922903025732_n 11009148_10153361904044468_6411302643565379186_n 11069309_10153207790909468_1885116788171405205_n

“I’ve spent many a surprising time with tears slowly falling down my face at the testimonies from this year,” said Megan.  “You see, to me.. it was never about ‘my message’, despite being 328479384% passionate about it.  It’s about the people, your audience.  Why go into a school, auditorium, arena, business luncheon, or conference and speak about the same topic over and over that has no way of relating to people?  I made it my mission to write the framework and research the heck out of all facets of my program, and then make sure I became an expert in each area.”

22118_10153328402234468_8760675442668947047_n 1891337_10152693674884468_276458343932498042_o 1962787_10153142539794468_5375324056765049606_n 10336594_10153076008474468_3124466399431429584_n 10978614_10153140677609468_554554451475662624_n 11009927_10153297863244468_9064757604388017788_n

Megan has also shared each facet of her program on social media.  Using Miss Nebraska 2014 Facebook page (now nearing 1,350 followers), and Instagram (with more than 4,500 followers) Megan posts scripture, diet and workout tips and simply inspiring thoughts, along with a steady stream of photos showcasing her ‘days in the life’ of Miss Nebraska.

10522554_10153073391484468_4883159991723314573_n

‘{BE ENCOURAGED!} I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. (Ephesians 1:16-23 NLT)’

 11054363_10153221727939468_4350742033901549155_n

‘Mar 7, 2014 | {4 hours of sleep} + [5 games (hours) of reffereeing 5th grade boys bball at 8:30am] + {1 small nap} + [my amazing cousins engagement party] = In Bed By 10:45pm and Miss Night Owl is now Miss Sleepy Nebraska 2014.’

10409119_10153016963129468_4481863591711821937_n

‘Day 9 is all about Abs, Abs, Abs!!! And are made in the kitchen folks! Your hormones and adrenal glands also have a lot to do with storage of fat around your middle section- here are a few quick bullet points to help! As always, if you have questions feel free to DM me!’

Megan has also secured sponsorships during her year as Miss Nebraska with private companies including Deep South Pout clothing, Envy Tans By Tammy, Max Muscle, Meal Solutions, and Smart Girl Style.  More so, she’s expanded and further solidified Miss Nebraska’s reach; in politics, visiting the state legislature, meeting Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, and singing the national anthem before a major Republican party event this spring.

10997504_10153142546394468_5593862298241894729_n 11149540_10153306142439468_9147173514706619014_n 11182325_10153306364004468_5610980715642278777_n

Megan has also appeared on television news across the state, participated in radio interviews, and has taken part in numerous fundraisers and events across the state, often with hundreds or thousands in attendance.  She’ll perform for one of her biggest crowds yet in just weeks, singing the national anthem for 30,000+ at the College World Series.  Click here to listen to her audition!

   11014996_851137444924504_7048003457490581841_n

CLICK HERE TO SEE KETV’S STORY WITH MEGAN, SEPTEMBER 2014

CLICK HERE TO READ MY FEATURE ON MEGAN & MISS IOWA ALY OLSON BEFORE MISS AMERICA

CLICK HERE TO READ ONE OF MEGAN’S FIRST INTERVIEWS, WITH KETV, AFTER WINNING MISS NEBRASKA

Still, Megan wanted more.  She told me several times leading up to Miss America she intended to win; her experience was no doubt memorable, but not all positive. An unflattering camera angle of Megan, seated behind ABC’s Miss America host, made national headlines.  Megan’s post on Facebook shortly after, ‘liked’ more than 400 times, spoke VOLUMES about her character and confidence.

‘Despite all the explosion of media recently- there are apparently pictures of me in a swimsuit even I didn’t even know existed! Hilariously, these show clearly more than the one accidental second caught on national television! Haha. To everyone- I have laughed about this and moved on! I am a strong woman of character, and confident in who I truly am and where I am going! I guess I am also quite definitely a true basketball player at heart and forgot for a second that I wasn’t on the bench ready for coach to tell me to get in the game! (Lesson learned…) obviously- this In no way means I am anything less than a person of extremely high moral standards. If you know me, you know that. Here’s to the future aiming to be the best Miss Nebraska yet! God can turn any situation for good, and hey- I’m excited to see how even this ends up being an outlet for my TRUE message: helping people to love, accept, grow, and transform themselves through the eyes of wellness education from the inside out! Spirit, Soul, and Body! I have even MORE of a reason now to advocate for my cause! #missnebraska#missnebraska14 #lifestyleandfitness #fitness #laugh#teammegan #tbw #wellness #missne

“I choose to BE overcome by a circumstance, or take it by the horns and OWN it, overcome IT myself,” Megan told me.  She remains focused on her positive take-aways from Miss America.

1924376_10152764813524468_5164696875358766084_n 10612886_10152752615909468_3759116529886017118_n 10614354_10152737015074468_407930206667969520_n

“It was so amazing to get to sing on the Miss America stage, and it’s a time I’ll never forget,” said Megan.  “I am so blessed to have a network of 52 sisters that I bonded with at Miss America and still talk to literally every, single day.  We’re go-getters, we don’t take no for an answer, and we work for every dream in our hearts.  Watch out, world!  In ten years, we will have conquered wherever we land.  The CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, beautiful, intelligent, confident women broadcasting on television or ESPN, future famous musicians, teachers, educators, Super-Moms, and leaders alike, will be women who competed.”

1528457_10153330598784468_4001957353938301047_n

How do you measure a year? How do you define Miss Nebraska?

“This job has abundantly transformed my life for the better this year, and most importantly, grown ME as a young woman,” said Megan.  “I’m honored that every, single day, I woke up with the responsibility of being a role model for people of every age, gender, background, status, and walk of life and I don’t take it lightly.  It’s exactly that: a responsibility.  It’s my duty and my job.”

 63776_10152943635809468_1248827805601911314_n 10694266_10204114873605992_1941805769550149608_o 10868185_10152964288239468_6218682129646963070_n 10931331_1609262552638484_6425752149751886489_n 11129894_10153286625699468_4248919279103529109_n GIRLS STATE OGALALLA FUN FEST

Megan Swanson’s chapter in the History of Miss Nebraska will end this Saturday night, as she passes her crown on to a woman who was in her place one year ago.  She will return to Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue her Commercial Voice Major.  Megan will continue to write and produce music, and pursue her family ministry through their church and via their new website (click here to check out We Are Swanson).

“Knowing who we are is the foundation of everything we become,” said Megan.  “I believe any role model must first know who they are and where they’re going, or they can’t lead!  I think that’s what makes me different.  My laser focus in on not just speaking for 30 minutes or an hour, but leaving a lasting impact, creating new leaders, helping people change their path and start walking towards the person they were created to be; first recognizing what makes them special, and then operating in those gifts.”

522066_1575363746028365_6856259686010735442_n

(Photo courtesy Midwest Photo Pro)

  “When I go to schools, I get to look students in the eyes and genuinely convince them that all things are possible.  All future hopes and wishes are possible,” said Megan.  “Through hard work, trust, a stubborn perseverance and faith, God blossomed this caterpillar into a beautiful, young lady butterfly.  Confident. Strong. Firm in her goals and identity and ready to take on the world.  What’s holding you back?  What excuse are you taking as truth?  Run. Run towards your dream every day.  Because even if you’re at 0, and your goal is at 100, 1 + 1+ 1 eventually = 100.”

Follow Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson

on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram

Click here to read a special profile on Megan and ‘predictions’ for the Class of 2015 from the nationally popular Pageant Junkies!

***

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 Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen

THANK YOU, SINCERELY, FOR FOLLOWING THIS YEAR’S SERIES ON THE 2015 MISS NEBRASKA AND MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN CONTESTANTS!

GOOD LUCK, LADIES!!!

Click here for my recap of the 2015 Miss Nebraska & Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant

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