Tag Archive | sisters

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!

Sister Act

To the world, you may be one person; but to one person, you may be the world.

SISTER.  To all of you who have one, I am envious; what a special bond, to have someone you can always talk to, always relate to, tease and then hug, laugh but still fight, a person that you will be bonded to for life for better or for worse.  That’s pretty darn awesome!

Big sisters have a huge responsibility.  Your little sister is your ‘big brother’, watching every move you make, wanting to emulate everything you do, and if you’re lucky, becoming a mirror of all of your best attributes.  Emma Wilkinson is EXTREMELY lucky; she has had several women in her life playing the role of ‘big sister’, and all have had an enormous impact on the young woman she is becoming.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

The title of ‘little sister’ has been a formative factor in Emma’s life since she  was a young girl growing up in North Platte, the home of the Miss Nebraska pageant.

“I was involved in the Little Sisters Program and I’ve dreamt of being Miss Nebraska ever since,” Emma told me recently.  “My Big Sister was Miss Nebraska 2009 Brittany Jeffers!  I was so lucky to be her Little Sister the year she won!  As I watched my Big Sister dance her heart out on the Miss Nebraska stage, I realized I wanted to be a dancer!”

Emma started dance lessons at the Dance Factory in North Platte, under the direction of Miss Nebraska 1999 Becky Smith-Wagner.

“Today, I’m at the highest level in my studio.  I take ballet, jazz and lyrical,” said Emma.  “My dance teacher, Becky Wagner, has had such an amazing influence on my life.  She has been such an amazing role model for not only for me, but for all of the girls who attend classes at The Dance Factory.”

Every class, and every life lesson Emma learned from these women helped fuel that initial dream to compete for one of our state’s longest standing honors.  This year, Emma couldn’t wait any longer.. and since she isn’t yet old enough to compete for Miss Nebraska, she signed up to compete for the organization’s ‘little sister’ program, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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In her first pageant, Emma was crowned Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2016, giving her the same performance and leadership opportunities both Brittany and Becky pursued years ago.

“Although I love to dance, singing is my passion,” said Emma.  “Ever since I received the lead of Little Red Riding Hood in a musical here at North Platte Community Playhouse, I have been lost in musical theatre and the art of performing.  I went to Texas Arts Project in Austin to gain more passion for singing, dancing and acting.”

Emma, a junior at North Platte High School, is also Vice President of the Nebraska Association of Student Councils (NASC; Emma served as district president last year), a cheerleader, and involved with Key Club and Honor Society.  In addition, every summer she attends Launch, a statewide leadership program.  That organization and Emma’s involvement inspired her personal platform of service as Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen, ‘Breaking Down Barriers: Education To End Stereotyping.’

“I have watched stereotypes drive kids away from exploration of themselves and the communities they inhabit, and instead into molds that high school has predetermined for them,” said Emma.  “It is not impossible to defeat stereotyping.  Simply getting to know each other weakens the barriers.  Making real connections with a classmate is stronger than any stereotype.”

Emma has also been busy making those connections herself, with her Class of 2016 Outstanding Teen sisters.

Together, these girls have been making appearances across the state, trying to have a positive impact on their communities, in addition to the responsibilities and commitments they have made as high school students.

“I am passionate about catalyzing positive change in my school, in my community, and in Nebraska,” said Emma.

Emma credits that drive and desire to form relationship to the sister and bond that stand out from all the rest.

“My biggest role model is my sister, Lily,” said Emma.  “When she was in high school, she was NASC’s state president, and she currently attends Harvard College in Boston.  She truly can do anything she sets her mind to and continues to make me extremely proud.”

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A beautiful sentiment from a little sister.. who will now become the big sister she’s always admired.  The above photo was taken this spring, when Emma was cast as Belle in North Platte High School’s production of Beauty and the Beast.

“That experience was something I will never forget,” said Emma.  “After every show, I loved walking out to greet people who came to watch me.  I will never, ever forget the look on the little girls’ faces when they saw Belle standing right in front of them.  Little did they know, I felt just as honored as they did.”

Perhaps, a preview to this year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, when it will be Emma on stage, looked at and fawned over by countless little girls, dreaming of someday wearing that same crown.

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CLICK HERE to follow Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Emma Wilkinson on Facebook!

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.

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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.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Twin Rivers 2016 Jenni Wahonick!

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County 2016 Allison Baird!

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!

Sister, Sister

I am the oldest of three, with two ‘little’ brothers.  ‘Little’, because now they could crush me if they wanted to, but in a way, I’ll still always be their big sister.

I’ve never longed for a sister, in part, because I am blessed to have such dear friends who have always filled that role for me beautifully.

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But to be a woman and have a sister must be a beautiful thing; sharing secrets, dreams, frustrations, CLOTHES.  To have their support when you need them most, and to help you fly even higher when you soar.

The young woman you’re about to meet has shared a bond with her twin sister since the moment they arrived in the world, a journey now inspiring her individually as one of the state’s most outstanding teenagers.

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MISS KEARNEY CRANE FESTIVAL’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 MERRILEE PRILL

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I was born at Children’s Hospital in Omaha as a micro preemie weighing in at 1 pound 7 ounces and I had a 10-percent chance of survival!”  Merrilee told me recently.  “At 2 years old, [my twin sister and I] were featured on the Children’s Miracle Network telethon.  So, I am Children’s Miracle Network!”

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Merrilee and her sister, Mariclaire, spent four months in the hospital as newborns.  Many deemed them miracle babies since they later only underwent surgery for ear tubes and had no other developmental problems.  This personal story inspired Merrilee’s platform of service ‘Believe the Impossible: Miracles Happen.’

“Because I have experienced this miracle in my own life, I want to inspire others to believe that miracles can happen in their own lives no matter what the circumstances,” said Merrilee.  “This piece of the Miss Nebraska system holds a very special place in my heart!”

One piece of many for not just Merrilee, but the entire Prill family.

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Merrilee’s big sister, Lianna, was Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2012, and just last year, competed for the title of Miss Nebraska (click here to read my profile of Lianna during her time as Miss Crane Festival 2014).  Merrilee’s twin, Mariclaire, was Miss Sandhills’ Outstanding Teen 2013.

“I first got involved in the Miss Nebraska program because my sisters were titleholders,” said Merrilee.  “I experienced challenges while competing for [local titles].  Consequently, winning did not come as quickly for me as it did for my sisters.  Now as I come to the close of my reign as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen, I have been able to sharpen my public speaking and stage presence skills.  These parts of the competition used to terrify me.  Now, I comfortably speak to a crowd of insurance professionals as a keynote speaker, address a crowd of community members at an outdoor festival and convey encouragements to patients at Children’s Hospital.”

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And those visits to Children’s are among Merrilee’s favorite moments as Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s OT.

“My signature project for this program has been decorating over 400 colorful place mats for patient meal trays,” said Merrilee.  “Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces during craft hours just makes my job as a titleholder so gratifying because that makes me feel like I am making an impact by encouraging them that miracles can happen in their lives as it did in mine.”

Among Merrilee’s other top memories this past year include signing nearly 400 autographs for the annual Daddy-Daughter Banquet in Kearney and spending time with her sister queen Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen (click here to to learn more about Allison!).

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“I know the importance of being a positive local role model for young girls,” said Merrilee.  “It was a bonus during my year to share this event and many others with Allison!”

Merrilee is also looking forward to connecting with a few other ‘sisters’.. her fellow outstanding teens from across the state.  She sent me this picture, taken the last time many of these girls were together, at the Crowns and Gowns weekend in North Platte.

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Merrilee striking a pose with Miss Douglas County’s OT 2015 Steffany Lien and Miss Scotts Bluff County’s OT Grace Heggem.

A year’s worth of moments and memories, all leading up to one amazing night.  So many ‘sisters’, biological or otherwise, that will no doubt be in Merrilee Prill’s mind and heart during those moments she takes the stage alone in North Platte.

“I have to say that walking in my evening gown is the most fulfilling part of the competition for me, because that’s the point when I feel the most confident and I feel like I’m on top of the world,” said Merilee.  “Very few teenagers get to do this on such an awesome stage!”

Only 11, in fact, this year.  And of those outstanding girls, one will be crowned Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.  Will it be Merrilee Prill?  Just ask the once 1.5 pound miracle who defied all odds at birth; ANYTHING is possible.

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Follow Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Merrilee Prill on Instagram.

 To contact Merrilee for appearances and events, visit the Miss Kearney/Miss Tri-Cities Pageant on Facebook.

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

For more information about how to become a contestant, email Director Megan Goeke at megan@hellobeautifulbridal.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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PREVIOUS.. Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Cherokee Purviance

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen

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.