Tag Archive | veterans

Takin’ Care Of Business

To all of the readers who have followed my blog for awhile now, THANK YOU.  And perhaps you have noticed something different here at Anchor’s Away… sponsors!  I’m not in the blogging business to strike it rich, but now topping 328,000 views and counting (what?!?!), ad revenue is something I’ve aimed to explore for quite some time now.  This is a new venture for me… and I’ve learned a) it’s really hard to ask someone for money and b) it’s really easy to say NO.  I am so very grateful to my friends and Omaha area business owners supporting me through advertising on my blog, and I ask you to take a few moments to check out their amazing services and products on the righthand side of your screen!

This world is certainly an art to be mastered.  Fiscal support is often imperative to our goals and objectives in business, life… and even in the quest to become Miss Nebraska.  Every dollar invested in our program through scholarships, cash sponsorships and donations directly benefits the young women taking part across our state.  It’s a message a Papillion woman is delivering directly to as many people as she can.

Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick

“My goal as a titleholder in this organization is to meet as many people as I can and to help change the stigma that comes with ‘pageantry’,” Jenni told me recently.  “I strive to be kind, intelligent and passionate about serving.  I hope the people I meet are left feeling that the Miss America Organization is much more than just women in swimsuits.  It is also my goal to use the credibility of my crown to help in every way I am able – whether this is educating, giving my time, or just putting a smile on someone’s face.”

For this young woman, pageants are not just something that take place every few months to win a tiara for the trophy case.  This is Jenni’s second Miss Nebraska local title, meaning for 13 months and counting, she’s been on-the-go nonstop speaking, serving and advocating for the causes important to her.

She spent her Valentine’s Day delivering surprises to veterans.  She’s delivered food to those in need on the holidays.  She’s helped Shriners raise money.  When I interviewed Jenni last year (click here to read more!) she told me she’d volunteered for more than 40 organizations in about four years time.  Jenni did all of this while attending the University of Central Missouri with a 4.0 cumulative GPA.

“The Miss America Organization has been an excellent networking tool for me but I think the biggest thing I have gained is a sense of purpose,” said Jenni.  “I have a better understanding of how my words and actions influence others, which makes me more deliberate in what I say and do.  I have always participated in service work, and viewed myself as a leader in my community.  However, being a titleholder gives me more credibility and I feel I am able to make more of an impact.”

From the beginning, Jenni has connected with and focused on two groups in particular.. children and people with special needs.

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Jenni reading at Autism Action Partnership’s night at the Omaha Children’s Museum.  Click here to learn more!

“My platform, ‘Celebrating Abilities in the Differently Abled’ is a product of my experiences working with the special needs community for the past 10 years,” said Jenni.  “I began helping the special education classroom in 8th grade as a way of getting out of PE.  That class ended up being my favorite part of the day.  I loved how I could escape my own worries and focus all my attention and love on someone else.  Whether I’ve been a teacher, a camp counselor or working at a group home, I’ve noticed there is an emphasis on what a person with a disability can’t do.  Instead, I’ve found it to be more productive to focus on their strengths.  Everyone has abilities and everyone has disabilities.  It makes more sense to simply appreciate a person for who they are.”

Jenni The Word day

And when it comes to kids, Jenni adores every little nugget she comes in contact with, often as her alter ego, Cinderella.

Jenni princess

“I feel that I have a unique outlook on what it really means to wear a crown because of my experience as a princess character at the Omaha Children’s Museum,” said Jenni.  “When I am in a ball gown and tiara, children hang on to every word I say.  One day, a mother of one of my regular visitors at the museum pulled me aside to thank me for complimenting her child’s glasses.  She said at first her daughter hated the glasses, but after hearing me compliment them a few times, she thought they were great.  That is when I realized how much power I had to influence a child’s life.  An opportunity like this should never be wasted.  I she a responsibility to use this power to teach children and make them feel special.”

Jenni will combine those passions in her chosen career; she graduated top of her class in December with a degree in Special Education.  That field has also inspired her talent for the Miss Nebraska stage, a slam poetry performance summarizing her passion for teaching.

“I am a teacher because I made a choice to be and I have a high GPA because I’m passionate about that choice so I work hard,” said Jenni.  “When I present my talent, it never fails that someone comes up to me after to let me know hat my words resonated with them.  People will tell me that they are a teacher too, or that their mom was a teacher for 40 years and would have loved to hear it.  Performing a talent with meaning is empowering and I love how it feels to make a difference.”

It’s all about connection.. and that is where Miss Nebraska State Fair Jenni Wahonick truly shines.

Jenni Alpha Sigma Alpha

For every appearance she’s made, Jenni has taken the opportunity and extended that exposure tenfold through social media, spreading her messages about inclusion, education and the value of community service and encouraging others to do the same.

Jenni veterans

Those Valentines Jenni delivered to veterans?  They were supplied by a local business.. one of countless donations and sponsors Jenni has secured through marketing her title.  Asking for help is never easy, but this gal is a flesh and blood kickstarter campaign proving that when you support a Miss Nebraska contestant you’re not enabling a beauty queen, you’re investing in a young woman’s impact on the world.

“This organization makes me a better person.  Every aspect of competition makes me a more well-rounded, healthy individual,” said Jenni.  “I make healthier decisions and appreciate my body for what it can do.  I take time every day to educate myself about what is going on in the world around me.  I am more aware and confident of who I am, and I am better able to articulate that in a professional setting.  I am excited to wake up and make a difference every day.”

In 2016, Miss Nebraska contestants were awarded $39,700 in cash awards, more than $25,000 in college scholarships offered, and more than $25,000 in gifts and services.  That’s in addition to what is offered at the local level, and what Miss Nebraska is eligible for at Miss America.  All of that happens thanks to incredible businesses and donors across Nebraska, selfless volunteers who bring them into our world, and incredible women like Jenni Wahonick who give them something (and someone) to believe in.  She may not have an MBA (and darn proud of her Education major!) but this girl is taking care of business in her final push before taking the Miss Nebraska stage.

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Photo courtesy Rachel Evans

“When asked which point of the Miss America Crown is my favorite, I have a really hard time deciding between service and scholarship,” Jenni wrote on Facebook last week.  “As a special education teacher, I have found the most value in my life helping others. I also think scholarship is so important though. Not just getting good grades, but loving the process of learning and growth. We are so blessed to live in a country where we are provided an education. We are able to explore ideas like philosophy, art and psychology. How incredible is that? I’m so grateful for my education and the opportunities I’ve had to help others.”

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To follow Miss Nebraska State Fair 2017 Jenni Wahonick on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JENNI?

CLICK HERE * 2016 * #MonarchsForLife

For more information about the Miss Nebraska State Fair/Miss Heartland Pageant or to become a contestant, email Directors Chelsey Jungck at cjungck@statefair.org or Shelley Penner at sa_penner@hotmail.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 Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Alex Nervig

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Haylee Umble

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!

 

Special Feature: Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell

My dad told me once, ‘if you love what you do, it never feels like work.  Every day, you go to do something you enjoy, and you just get paid for it!’

I’ve been interviewing and writing about Miss Nebraska contestants for three years now.  Many have said they are competing for a JOB.  You’re about to meet a young woman proving every single day that is EXACTLY what this honor is.

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Photo courtesy Matt Boyd Photography and the Miss America Organization

Betty Cantrell is Miss America 2016.  To anyone who thinks all beauty queens do is wave their hands and smile.. STEP BACK.

“A normal day for me is getting up super early, putting on a lot of makeup, making sure my hair looks nice, and doing a full day of events,” Betty told me earlier this month.  “Usually a full day is about 12 hours; I’m always ready to crash by the end of the day.”

Betty’s journey to Miss America started in 2013, when she entered a local pageant in her home state, hoping to become Miss Georgia.  Betty finished as 1st or 2nd runner-up three times before winning a local title, and went on to place 2nd runner up at the 2014 Miss Georgia Pageant.  Betty tried again just weeks later, becoming Miss Warner Robins 2015.  Representing her hometown, Betty was crowned Miss Georgia 2015, winning $15,000 in scholarship money and a ticket to compete at Miss America.

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Photo courtesy Matt Boyd Photography

“I decided to begin competing in pageants for the scholarship opportunities offered by the Miss America Organization and because I love to sing and I really enjoyed competing in talent competitions,” said Betty.  “I just really loved everything this organization stood for: Scholarship, Service, Style and Success. (Those are the four points of the crown, the 4 S’s.)”

Betty had less than three months to prepare for Miss America; she tells me she prepped the same as she did for Miss Georgia (just stressed out a little bit more.)  Immediately, she caught the attention of the Twitterverse that follows Miss America, and everyone following the chatter at home, by winning one of only 3 preliminary talent awards with her powerful vocal performance of ‘Tu? Tu? Piccolo iddio!’ from Madama Butterfly.

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Photo courtesy The Miss America Organization/Bruce V. Boyajian; CLICK HERE to watch Betty’s performance!

“I loved winning preliminary talent at Miss America,” said Betty.  “If I hadn’t won the competition, winning talent would have been enough for me.  I love to perform, so being validated on my talent on a national level was amazing.  I also made SOOO many friends at Miss America and I’m so grateful for those friendships because I know they will last forever.”

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The 2016 Miss America Pageant titleholders surprising Betty with a birthday treat; she celebrated her 21st birthday while she competed at Miss America. (Photo courtesy the Miss America Organization)

FINALS NIGHT.. with approximately 7-million people watching across the country, Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell was crowned Miss America 2016.  She is only the 2nd Georgia representative to win the title, taking home $52,000 in scholarship money.

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Photo courtesy The Miss America Organization/Bruce V. Boyajian

“I couldn’t believe that I had just won,” said Betty.  “I was so thankful to the judges for picking me and for seeing through my imperfections.  They saw that I’m the real deal and could be a good role model for young people everywhere.”

Those ‘imperfections’…. during her final moments before she won the title, Betty took on a complicated question on stage regarding ‘Deflategate’, and had a minor trip in her evening gown.

First, let’s take a step back.  How many times have you tripped in the office, at the mall, or anywhere else… we all do it!  Second, all of the Top 7 finalists at this year’s competition were put on the spot about some of the hottest topics and issues we face today.. and they had courage under fire in front of 7-MILLION people!

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Photo courtesy the Miss America Organization

Still, haters gonna hate.. and Betty (like many Miss Americas before her) faced almost immediate criticism that the judges made the wrong choice.  Despite an overwhelming, and sometimes hateful social and mainstream media storm, Betty IMMEDIATELY got to work, ready to make a difference as Miss America 2016.

 Literally, from New York to LA, Betty Cantrell set out to cover the country and impact as many people as possible.  She accepted countless interviews, she visited the New York Stock Exchange, she rubbed elbows with Hollywood celebrities, and always made time for the children that matter to her most, pediatric patients in Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“I always love doing events with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals,” Betty told me.  “CMNH is the official platform of the organization and I love kids, so anytime I get to work with them is just awesome.”

Then in December, just three months into her reign, Betty did something jaw-dropping..

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..she chopped off all the long, gorgeous hair so many associate with beauty queens.  With Miss America.  Betty did it to donate to pediatric cancer patients who needed it, and with that, inspired countless teens and women after her to follow her lead.

Betty Cantrell has advocated for farmers and 4H.  She’s taken part in the USO tour, singing for men and women around the world serving our country.  She’s performed for school after school after school, dazzling children everywhere with her INCREDIBLE rendition of ‘Let It Go’.

And in a time where people seem to increasingly have a negative connotation of pageants, Betty Cantrell has brought the Miss America brand back into the forefront.  She’s spoken and performed in front of the Georgia legislature.  She’s drawn 65,000 followers on Twitter.  She’s presented and/or performed at some of the country’s biggest events and awards shows, making friends with some of America’s most popular performers.

Red carpet photo courtesy Getty Images

“My favorite appearances so far have been the CMA’s and the ACM awards shows,” said Betty, who was also featured in People Magazine’s Best Dressed list after the events.  “I’m an aspiring country singer, so hanging out with all of the country artists I look up to is always pretty thrilling.”

Every time someone sees Miss America at a respected event, I’d argue that’s one more person who might think ‘hmm, what’s this Miss America thing all about?’ and maybe find out a little more about the thousands of young women competing, earning thousands in scholarships, and making a difference in their communities.  Betty, for example, partnered early on with Team FNV to promote her platform ‘Healthy Children, Strong America.’  Joining her mission.. actresses Jessica Alba and Kristen Bell, NBA star Stephen Curry and singer Nick Jonas.

“I have now partnered with the American Farm Bureau to help spread the word about kids eating healthy, exercising, and learning about where their food comes from!” said Betty.

The one thing NOT mentioned in my interview with Betty… a break.  Because she rarely gets one.  As Nebraska prepares to crown a new titleholder in just weeks, Miss America 2016 is preparing to hand over her crown, and resume life as simply, Betty Cantrell.

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“I am looking forward to having a normal life again!” said Betty.  “My plan is to move to Nashville and work on my country singing career.”  (Click here to follow Betty’s new professional account on Twitter!)

Maybe you’ve watched Miss America your whole life.  Maybe you’ve tried to AVOID Miss America your whole life.. not wanting to feed into a culture that subjects women to swimsuits, high heels and objectification.

If you’re the latter, Betty Cantrell has a message for you.

“This is a fun and philanthropic way to be a role model and earn scholarships to further your education,” said Betty.  (Quick recap: Betty, a Mercer University student, has made more than $67,000 in scholarships competing in the Miss America Organization.)  “Another reason to compete is for the friendships you make that will last a lifetime.  I was skeptical at first, too, but when I really learned what the organization is all about, I was so happy I chose to be involved.”

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To the women hoping to become Miss Nebraska.. dreaming of becoming the woman Betty crowns Miss America in just three short months, a reminder.

“My number one piece of advice to every contestant in every state is just to be yourself,” said Betty.  “Show those judges what makes you special and unique.  Be confidently and unapologetically, you!”

And Miss America 2016 has no apologies.  She’s a farm girl, a Georgia peach, perfectly imperfect, a Mercer Bear, a country star-in-the-making, a daughter, granddaughter, and friend.  She is Baciliky Andris ‘Betty’ Cantrell, a girl given a name meaning’royalty’.. a woman showing her country what being a queen is all about.

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“I want people to remember me as the different Miss America,” said Betty.  “The Miss America who didn’t care what the haters had to say.  The one who chopped off her hair and donated it.  The one who grew up on a farm and became Miss America.  I just want people to remember me as a Miss America that changed the stigma of what Miss America is and should be, forever.”

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My sincere thanks to Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell for taking the time for our interview, and to  the Miss America Organization’s Chelsea Mineur for facilitating this!

To learn more about Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell, click each link to follow

on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram.  You can also CLICK HERE to visit the Miss America Organization Facebook page for a full list of resources and information about Betty and the program.  The 2017 Miss America Pageant takes place September 11 on ABC!

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CLICK HERE to meet the 2016 Miss Nebraska Pageant contestants!

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

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Sheridan Blanco!

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien!

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-American Girl

If you’ve been reading about each of this year’s Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants, THANK YOU!! And perhaps you’ve noticed, even questioned why, many of these local titleholders do not live in or have ties to the areas they are representing.  How does that work??

Today’s featured titleholder is a PERFECT example.  Her hometown of Chester, Nebraska, sitting right on the Nebraska/Kansas border, had an estimated 232 people at the time of the 2010 census.  2.1% of those were between the ages of 18-24.  Half of those, young ladies.  That’s two and a half women eligible to compete for Miss America.  Kinda hard to have a local pageant with 2.5 contestants.. leaving talented, driven young women with dreams of Miss America looking outside of town.

This young lady looked north.

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MISS KEARNEY CRANE FESTIVAL 2015 ALLISON TIETJEN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I joke that since there is no Miss Chester, Miss Kearney is for sure the next best thing,” Allison told me recently.  “I have tried to make the trip to Kearney for appearances as often as I can.”

Veterans Day

And Allison has traveled much farther than that now very familiar 2-hour road trip.  Click here: last year as Miss Heartland 2014, Allison told me about her trip to Washington DC with a plane of Vietnam War veterans as part of a Nebraska honor flight.  Supporting and spreading awareness of American veterans is important to Allison, the focus of her personal platform ‘United We Stand: Remembering Our Veteran Heroes’.

“It really is the reason why I am competing today, knowing that I can truly help students understand and appreciate the service and commitment of our US military,” said Allison.  “I want to help kids have an overall sense of gratitude towards our military.”

Flags  Mrs. Simpsons

Allison has visited a number of schools, each time ready with a ‘lesson plan’ to give kids a hands-on experience that will also benefit veterans.  Allison calls it the Miss Crane Festival Flag Challenge.

“First, I have an open discussion with students over the military branches,” said Allison.  “Then, while we are making flags, I ask them what they think the American flag represents and what our flag means to them.  On the back of their flag I ask all the students to write a thank you note to a veteran, and this is where I challenge them to give it to a veteran.  I always ask the students to share with me if they deliver a flag and I have been amazed by the responses I have received back.”

Daddy Daughter Date  Girl Scouts

Allison, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student active with Alpha Phi, also earned the Gold Award with Girl Scouts, the highest rank a female scout can achieve (comparable to the elite Eagle Scout ranking for male scouts.) She continues to volunteer with and advocate for the organization.

“Girl Scouts has been such a huge part of my life growing up that I want to encourage as many young girls I can to not only join, but to stay involved with it even when they get older,” said Allison.  “Girl Scouts and the Miss America Organization truly have the same goals in mind: creating great female leaders and community service.”

Pipe Cleaner Crowns  Dance Marathon CMD

Allison considers all of this community service a privilege, not a chore.  In her interview with me, she talked about raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network, and playing piano for the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home using phrases like ‘I get to.’  While you can see in these pictures and feel from Allison’s stories the impact she’s likely having, she describes her own growth as a person as immeasurable.

“Competing for Miss Nebraska has been one of the best decisions I have ever made,” said Allison.  “Miss Nebraska and the Miss America Organization are relevant because [they] truly change young women’s lives in a positive way.  Overall, our year of service and experiences outweigh any scholarship that we will receive, although those are really amazing as well!”

Hockey Game

Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen (R) with Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen Merrilee Prill

Allison’s advice to anyone following her journey is find what you love and put it to good use.  When her small town of 232 didn’t have a road to Miss America, she found one that did.  But make no mistake; Allison will always find her path back the ‘Village of Quilts’, the ‘Gateway to Nebraska’.  I think it’s a safe bet no matter what title is on her sash, Chester, Nebraska will always call Miss Kearney Crane Festival, Girl Scout, champion for veterans, Allison Tietjen, THEIR Miss America.

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(Photo courtesy Russtanna Photography)

Follow Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen

on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Facebook.

To contact Allison about appearances and events, and for more information on the Miss Kearney Crane Festival Pageant click here to visit the organization on Facebook.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Directors Megan Goeke and Jenna Lukasiewitz at 308-708-0678 or by email at megan@hellobeautifulbridal.com.

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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.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Omaha 2015 Megan Gould

NEXT.. Miss Sandhills 2015 Kate Lynne Duncan

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

All Hail The Queen

THERE SHE IS…

For the last month and a half, I’ve introduced you to all 19 young women competing for the title of Miss Nebraska in LESS THAN THREE WEEKS.

HUNDREDS of hours of service.  THOUSANDS of dollars raised for charity.

Most, if not all of these women, told me how much they’ve grown as people by participating in the Miss America Organization.  You can see it in their pictures; the smiles on their faces as little girls proudly wear their crowns.  Side by side with children and adults alike, who for a moment, felt extra special.  Performing on stage in front of hundreds, cheered on by the people who love them most.  THOSE are the moments that make all of this incomparable.

But behind the scenes, THIS IS WORK.  These women, especially in these final weeks leading up to Miss Nebraska, ARE WORKING THEIR TAILS OFF to be the absolute BEST they can be for this competition.  In the studio.  In the gym.  They are making sure they are as aware as possible of the world around them and fine tuning their public speaking skills.  IT’S GO TIME.

At the end of the day, is it all worth it?  The countless hours serving without a paycheck.  The scratchy throats, sore muscles and tired fingers with the risk of no crown at the end.  The stress of juggling school.. and jobs.. and duties as a local titleholder. Is it all worth it?

This young woman says ABSOLUTELY.

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Miss Nebraska 2013 JaCee Pilkington

One year ago, I compiled a slideshow for KETV.com showcasing the Miss Nebraska contestants.  I asked each woman to send me her favorite photos and things about herself she wanted our viewers and readers to know.  JaCee was among the first to respond to me.  Her answers were articulate, her goals clear.  She was DETERMINED to become Miss Nebraska.

Crowning

“Being Miss Nebraska is by far the most challenging yet rewarding experience I’ve ever had in my life,” JaCee told me recently.  “Although many have a skewed view of what being Miss Nebraska is really like, it is first and foremost a job. I managed to put 50,000 miles on my car and traveled everywhere from Valentine to McCook, and Scottsbluff to Omaha.  I’ve made it my goal to touch as many individuals across this state as I possibly can.”

Did she accomplish that? See for yourself.

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JaCee invited me to check out her Facebook page and choose whichever photos I liked best.  WHAT YOU SEE DOES NOT EVEN SCRATCH THE SURFACE.  There are literally hundreds of pictures, snapshots of countless moments in schools, at events, with one child or 500, smiling, offering hugs, the list goes on and on and on.

“Whether it was through my platform [Operation Remember Me], the Children’s Miracle Network, or the Miss Nebraska Organization as a whole, I wanted to make this year about seeing Miss Nebraska as a real, tangible, down-to-Earth girl,” said JaCee.

JaCee says travel has been the best part of her job, learning what makes the state so special.  (“Wilber is Czech, Stromsburg is Swede, and O’Neill is Irish.  Just a little Nebraska trivia for you,” said JaCee.)  One of her most exciting trips came in September, when JaCee traveled to Atlantic City to represent Nebraska at the Miss America pageant.

Click here to watch JaCee’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ Miss America video!

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“Miss America was such a surreal experience,” said JaCee.  “I gained 51 other sisters away from the experience and friendships that will last. My favorite moment in particular was singing my talent on the Miss America stage.  You hit that last note and look out and think, ‘Dang, this is so freaking cool.’  It was almost two weeks filled with excitement, anxiety, stress, and happiness all at the same time.  I’m also elated to know the Miss America Organization is evolving as we’ve now crowned our first Indian American Miss America.”

SO LET’S SUM UP… months preparing for Miss Nebraska, then winning Miss Nebraska.  Three short months preparing for Miss America, then competing at Miss America.  What next?!?!

EVERYTHING.

“Miss Nebraska is by far the hardest yet most rewarding job I’ve ever held,” said JaCee.  “You are driving a majority of the time, by yourself, to an appearance that you just learned the name of last night.  You are constantly adapting to the environment around you.  Heck, one week I had to [revise] one speech, six different ways, in one week to fit each appearance.  Although the job can be difficult at times, it is what you make it.  You can be doing an appearance literally every day of the week if you want to be.  However, it is your responsibility to put yourself out there, network your butt off, and make it happen.  Nobody will do that for you.”

security at Kimball schools with Warren Kearney's Park Elementary

It will truly be the end of an era on June 7, when JaCee crowns the next Miss Nebraska.  She’s not only served our state for the last year, she also served as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2009.

“I’m feeling very content at this point,” said JaCee.  “It is sad, don’t get me wrong.  Who wouldn’t want to say they’re Miss Nebraska?  I am excited to be moving on to the next chapter in my life, though.  Right after I give up my crown I will be heading to Mexico to serve on a mission trip.  Later I will continue to finish my degree at Doane College with hopes to continue in public policy and the business consulting world.”

Could we see Senator Pilkington down the road?  (Prior to becoming Miss Nebraska, JaCee worked for Senator Mike Johanns and continues to stay active in local politics.)

“I view Nebraska in a completely different light now,” said JaCee.  “To be honest, when I graduated the first place I was headed was DC.  Now, I realize the opportunity Nebraska has to offer.  You can make an incredible impact within this state and I cannot see myself anywhere else at this point.”

little sister JaLee puppy

JaCee’s got good reason to stay close to home; her little sister, JaLee, just graduated high school, she’s got a sweet puppy at home to look after, and yes, gentlemen, she’s got a boyfriend.

She’s got one more big trip on her schedule; to hand off her crown to the next Miss Nebraska.

“I mainly want people to know how relevant and impactful the job of Miss Nebraska really is,” said JaCee.  “I understand that many already have preconceived notions about ‘beauty pageants’ but I can assure you that she’s more than a pretty face.  The women who compete in this organization are extremely driven, hard-working, intelligent, and compassionate individuals who are looking to make a difference in this world.  I pray that whoever is blessed with this opportunity this coming month will take full advantage of all it has to offer: the connections, opportunities, and lives that can be changed.”

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Connect with Miss Nebraska 2013, JaCee Pilkington

on Twitter, and on Instagram

JaCee hopes you’ll also check out the Miss Nebraska pageant on Facebook and online

The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH A SPECIAL KETV CHRONICLE FEATURING 10 OF THE 19 YOUNG WOMEN COMPETING FOR MISS NEBRASKA.

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PREVIOUS POST.. Miss Scotts Bluff County, Brittli Sell

Where The Heart Is

You’d think that after 13 years in news, I’d have built up an immunity to some of the emotional stories we share every night.

Not so much.

When we showed our viewers the Honor Flight late last month allowing 460 Korean War veterans to visit their memorial in Washington DC, I almost lost it ON AIR.  I was overwhelmed seeing these brave men seeing the gratitude and appreciation they deserved for fighting for our country.  For so long, they had been forgotten; not anymore.  As their tears flowed, so did mine.

Watch KETV’s story on the Korean War Honor Flight, from photojournalist Andrew Ozaki

I’m not alone.  One of the young women competing in the Miss Nebraska pageant this summer has made it her mission to recognize our heroes.

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Miss Heartland, Allison Tietjen

Allison was one of the volunteers who not only raised money for the Honor Flight, she accompanied them as a guardian.

“It gave me a much greater understanding of the incredible sacrifices these men and women have given and the little recognition they got in return,” Allison told me.  “As Miss Nebraska, I want to encourage schools and youth organizations to raise money so another Honor Flight can happen.”

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Allison accompanying Nebraska veterans during March’s Honor Flight to Washington DC

To promote her ‘United We Stand: Remembering Our Heroes’ platform, Allison has also spoken at local women’s clubs, school organizations and Girl Scout troops.  She’s done all of this in addition to her senior year schedule at Thayer Central High School, where she was crowned Homecoming Queen the same month she was named Miss Heartland.

“I completely understand why girls participate in the Miss Nebraska/America organization,” said Allison.  “Yes, the scholarships are wonderful, but the experiences and memories you take away from the service work you do are beyond any scholarship.”

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These appearances have also given Allison an opportunity to showcase her favorite part of the competition.

“Who doesn’t love walking on stage in a swimsuit?! I am joking,” Allison said. “I started playing piano at a young age and have loved it ever since!  In the past, I have always worked on playing for church, so playing more upbeat songs for pageants has been a blast.  Almost every group or organization I speak to as Miss Heartland asks me to play for them, and I never turn down an opportunity.”

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From Chester, Nebraska.. to Washington DC.. to North Platte.

Allison has already had quite the journey. There’s still room in her heart for more.

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Connect with Miss Heartland, Allison Tietjen

on Twitter and on Instagram

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The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.

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