Tag Archive | Washington DC

Enjoying Life’s Journey

I LOVE to travel!!! Every time my family explores a new place, we put a pushpin in that city or country on our big, world map. Every place is unique, with its own defining traits and memories.

 

The Dominican Republic, always on ‘island’ time. South Dakota, the ease and simplicity of good friends and campsites. Hawaii, a place so beautiful I think God himself used it as a personal canvas. Phoenix, home of Spring Training, aka sheer happiness: BASEBALL. My paradise: Cancun, water so blue it captivates you.. you can’t look away, and you never want to.

I want to see it all. I want to walk the same fields in England Queen Elizabeth did in 1560. I want to climb Skellig Michael, the iconic Irish island Rey visits in Star Wars. I want to see South Africa, New Zealand, Denmark, Tahiti… and Harry Potter World in Orlando.

Travel is expensive. I miss my kids every single moment we’re apart if they don’t join us. But the moment I land after an adventure, I’m ready to choose a new destination and do it again. There are 7.6 billion people on our planet. Our globe includes endless oceans, 195 countries, nearly 7,000 different languages. In the United States alone, every city has it’s own sound, feel, people, food and pace. This isn’t the stuff of fairy tales or movies.. this is REAL. This is our world. We each only have one life… I want to fill it with as many experiences as possible.

At just 14 years old.. Rachel Young also has her passport ready.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I believe a problem facing our youth today is the lack of experiences they get,” Rachel told me. “Most kids don’t get to travel the world or see many interesting places. It’s so important that the youth of today see other cultures and learn about the history of the world.”

Rachel’s had great inspiration, encouraging her mindset through example. She was a Little Sister to Miss Nebraska finalist Steffani Jiroux, who has spent time dancing and modeling in cities across the world including Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Rome.

with STeffani

“When I was a Little Sister for the Miss Nebraska Organization, I got the opportunity to take a deeper look into what being Miss Nebraska really meant,” said Rachel. “I became inspired by all the contestants, including my Big Sister Steffani, to follow in their footprints. I’ve always wanted little girls to look up to me in a positive way, as I did to my Big Sister and the rest of the contestants. They really ignited my passion for performing and competing in these pageants.”

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Rachel was crowned Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen 2018 in February. Just as she saw her mentors share their talents at Miss Nebraska, Rachel was provided more opportunities to sing, a passion she’s been fine-tuning for several years.

“When I graduate in 2022, I really want to go to Juilliard in New York City and be on Broadway,” said Rachel, currently  student at Adams Middle School in North Platte. “I get to perform in front of people that will help me ready my goal of getting on Broadway. I can also get scholarship money from these pageants to be able to afford to go to Juilliard.”

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Rachel is also using her title to encourage her peers to find their passions, whatever they may be.

“My platform is ‘Express Yourself, The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities’,” said Rachel. “I talk about joining activities and how you can benefit from them to kids of all ages. I talk to different groups and try to get kids involved in school. With high schoolers, they can get scholarships and go to college through these activities. I post things on my social media and try to talk to as many people as I can about it.”

Ask Rachel and she’ll tell you service is key for any Miss Nebraska titleholder.

 

“You should put others before yourself, especially when you have something to offer others to benefit them,” said Rachel. “Most [titleholders] don’t serve because they are required to. Most girls love to serve their communities and help others, this just gives them more chances to inspire people and help out.”

 

 

Even at this young age, Rachel knows she can lead others. People like her vocal coach, Nikki Schmidt, (“She is one of the most reassuring people in my life; she is busy, but somehow she always has room to help me learn and grow”), and the Miss Nebraska contestants she met as a little girl taught her that someone is always watching.. and it’s up to you what you show them.

“My favorite part has been the reaction of kids and how their faces light up when I come and talk to them and visit them,” said Rachel. “Little kids think it’s the coolest thing in the world when young ladies with crowns and sashes come take an interest in them. You are being an inspiration to these kids and it reminds you why you were chosen to have the title you do.”

Rachel will take that reminder on her next adventure.. to Omaha later this month, where she’ll compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. Her current cover photo on Facebook perfectly describes her outlook, one that translates to this journey and most others we may all embark on throughout our lives.

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“My goal is to have fun, meet as many people I can that will help me benefit in the future, meet new friends, and do the very best I can,” said Rachel. “I am a very empathetic person and I care about everyone. I love volunteering and meeting new people. If you have fun, that’s a win right there. I can’t wait to see what this year will bring me.”

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To follow Miss Twin Rivers’ Outstanding Teen Rachel Young on Facebook, click here.

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska State Fair Courtney Pelland

NEXT.. Miss Sandhills Outstanding Teen Olivia Terwey

Memorial Day

Early 2003. I was a student at UNL, and planned to meet my good friend Adrian for lunch. Many of you know him as KETV’s award winning anchor & reporter Adrian Whitsett; I’ve called him ‘friend’ since our high school days at Papillion-La Vista.

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Then, Adrian was enlisted in the Marines and had spent time across the US and in Japan. I don’t remember where we were or what we were doing that day back in Papillion, but I remember at one point, him telling me that he would probably be leaving soon. He couldn’t tell me where he was going or when, but just wanted to let me know.

March 20, I was lying on the couch in my parents basement swollen like a chipmunk after having my wisdom teeth removed, when network news broke in; the United States was invading Iraq. I pointed to the TV and said ‘hey!!’ and realized that was what Adrian was talking about.. he was there.

While I attended candlelight vigils for our troops and wrote Adrian letters from the comfort of my Omaha apartment, my friend was on the front lines of a war-torn, unstable country thousands of miles away. He eventually lost hearing in one of his ears from firing high-power weapons; he cleaned himself in the 120-degree+ Iraqi heat with Wet Wipes; he saw and experienced terrible things most of us will never even think of. Adrian came home that August. Thousands of brave Americans did not.

Army Pvt. Kenny Nalley of Hamburg, Iowa. He was 19 and wanted to be police officer.

Marine Lance Cpl Shane E. Kielion of Omaha. He died the same day his son, Shane Jr., was born.

Army National Guardsman Spc. Joshua Ford of Pender, just 20. The same explosion that killed him claimed the leg of one of his fellow soldiers, a man who bravely stood to salute his fallen brother at their return ceremony.

A Nebraska woman has spent countless hours volunteering and uniting people across the state, ensuring we remember these brave men and women on Memorial Day and ever other day.

Miss Heartland 2017 Allison Tietjen

“My grandfather was a Marine during the Korean War, and was very proud of the years he served his country,” Allison told me recently. “When he passed away, I knew I wanted to do something to honor him and everything he stood for. That is when I first got involved with the Nebraska Honor Flights.”

Vietnam Honor Flight (2016)

The Honor Flights are massive cooperative efforts to fly veterans to Washington DC, at no charge to them, to see the monuments and tributes built for them and the friends they have lost in war or since conflict. They are organized by Patriotic Productions; founders Bill and Evonne Williams are literally angels on earth, devoting their lives to this cause and to their traveling Remembering Our Fallen exhibit, a tribute to every single man and woman who has died serving our country since 9/11.

In 2014, Allison spearheaded efforts in her tiny hometown of Chester, Nebraska to raise $500, the cost to send one Korean veteran to DC on an Honor Flight. They raised $4,000.. and Patriotic Productions asked Allison to join them as a guardian, a trip she also talked about when I interviewed her in 2015.

Korean Honor Flight (2014)

“It was an amazing and humbling experience that truly set me on a lifelong path to honor and respect these men and women,” said Allison. “Since this first Honor Flight, I [have helped] with the Gold Star Kids Honor Flight. This was a weekend dedicated to families who have lost a loved one in combat. To hear these little kids talk about their heroes with such optimism, hope and love was something very special.”

This mission, which she dubs ‘United We Stand: Honoring Our Military’, was Allison’s personal platform of service when she held two local Miss Nebraska titles in 2014 and 2015. She didn’t compete in 2016, but never stopped focusing on this important cause.

“The year I took off I was able to raise over $14,000 for the Vietnam Honor Flight and serve as a guardian for the second time,” said Allison. “I made over 300 ‘Bracelets for the Brave’, used as a fundraiser for a Kindergarten class to raise money for our veterans.”

So why compete again for Miss Nebraska, when she was accomplishing so very much as Miss Allison Tietjen?

Miss Heartland

“This fall, I was looking through Facebook and noticed a message that was never opened,” said Allison. “It was sent May 2015. The message was from a mother who just sent her son off to the Marines. She had received one of my ‘Bracelets for the Brave’ and told me how much that meant to her. She thanked me for thinking of her and wished me well as I competed for Miss Nebraska. At that moment I realized that all of this isn’t about me. It is about those mothers who know that Miss Heartland cares about them and their sons/daughters who are going off to serve our country. It is about the veterans who smile when Miss Heartland shakes their hand and tells them they are appreciated by myself and students across Nebraska. What clicked for me is I finally understood what the ‘power of the crown’ really means, and it’s why I competed for Miss Heartland and I’m working towards Miss Nebraska.”

Allison, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student, has reached out to schools across the state to spread her message of patriotism and appreciation.

“I have students write Thank You notes to our active military and veterans,” said Allison. “I sent them to a non-profit called A Million Thanks that will send them to US service members all over the world. I have collected 300 so far and my goal is 700 by June, and 20,000 as Miss Nebraska.”

Remember that last goal Allison set and crushed? She is on pace to raise 60-times that initial $500 she had hoped for.

“I sent an email out to as many elementary, middle and high school principals as I could, detailing what an Honor Flight is and how they can get involved,” said Allison. “I described what my school and community did, and with just emailing, I was able to help start eight school fundraisers that raised a total of over $14,000. This year, I sent out another mass email and have around six schools that I know of raising money. In total, schools across Nebraska have raised $30,000 for Honor Flights in the last two years!”

Allison credits the Miss Nebraska Organization for showing her another way to serve her country, as well as helping her find a purpose and passion. She also volunteers through her sorority, Alpha Phi, Girl Scouts, and her church, University Lutheran Chapel, where she plays piano.

Ihop

“I always tell students I’m speaking to, ‘find what you love, discover your talents and strengths, and ind how you can use those strengths and passions to serve others.’ Being Miss Nebraska is not alway a glamorous job. I want people to know that behind the makeup and beautiful gowns are just a bunch of strong-willed, determined women who are working to make this world a better place.”

Africa

For this woman, that won’t stop if she doesn’t win the Miss Nebraska crown. She’s proven that twice now. When the lights turned off and the crowds went home, Allison proved her power. She studied abroad in Africa. She went skydiving. She took care of her body and mind (“piano is my therapy”). She was motivated to make every day better than the last for herself and everyone around her.

Every time a man or woman signs that paper, puts on that uniform, and leaves all of our comforts to PROTECT everything we know, they are ensuring we have another beautiful day. Another opportunity to wake up in America and do anything we set our mind to.

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Adrian, an American hero, was home to sing at my wedding eight years ago. I cannot wait to watch him marry his best friend and love, Emily, this October.

We take so much for granted. We take every day for granted, we take our freedom for granted. We never say thank you enough to the men and women, and their families, who sacrifice so much to make that possible.. so we can say what we please, do as we please, and work to become whatever we want to be..

..even Miss Nebraska. And if she wins, Allison hopes to say thank you to as many service members and their families as she can.

“I am the small town farmer’s daughter, but I am able to walk into a room full of strangers, clearly speak, share my story and take control of the room,” said Allison. “I understand what it means to give back and serve others without hesitation. I know how to put your heart and soul into something and be a part of something so much bigger than yourself. I truly believe that we live in one of the greatest countries on earth and that is because of the men and women who have served for us.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about Patriotic Productions, the Remembering Our Fallen exhibit and the Nebraska Honor Flights.

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Click here to follow Miss Heartland 2017 Allison Tietjen on Facebook!

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALLISON?

CLICK HERE * 2015 * All-American Girl

CLICK HERE * 2014* Where The Heart Is

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 Gering 2017 Alayna Wilson

NEXT.. Miss Scotts Bluff County 2017 Nikki-Catrina Anderson

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!