Friday, October 29, 2010

The Most Rewarding Experiences in Life

"Everybody Can Be Great, Because Everybody Can Serve" - Martin Luther King, Jr.

My parents always made it a point to encourage and emphasize the importance of community service and volunteering to help others. Over the past few years especially, I began to grasp the significance of serving others - after all, it is the perfect anecdote to feeling small and insignificant in this world. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so rightly stated, everybody can serve. It is so incredible to know that everybody, no matter what age or background, can make a difference in the lives of others... even my young little self. This past week has included some super fun service projects that I thought I'd just share a little about.

In Scottsbluff County, there is a program called Meals on Wheels, and one called Shopping for Seniors. I recently joined and started my first day on Tuesday! Meals on Wheels is a program that delivers meals to the homebound, elderly, and disabled. Volunteers each take a route that takes about an hour to make the deliveries. This is such a wonderful service to those who would not otherwise be getting the proper nutrition they need each day. Shopping for Seniors is a program where volunteers call those who are not able to do their own grocery shopping, take down their grocery list, and then shop for it for them. Our local grocery store here in Scottsbluff, Plaza Foods Co-op, then delivers the groceries. Both of these programs are vital to many people in the area, and I am so excited to now be a regular volunteer with these programs!

On Monday, I went to Longfellow Elementary, here in Scottsbluff, to help kindergarteners and first graders carve pumpkins for the local Zoo's "Spooktacular" - a Halloween event. We had so much fun as they drew out their designs, and then we worked together to pull out the goo and seeds (I usually ended up doing most of that!) and carving out the faces. Pictures from that day will be coming soon on my Facebook page!

Thursday was the community soup kitchen, so a couple friends and I headed over to the local First Presbyterian Church to help serve a sloppy-joe dinner to a crowd of hungry people. It is always so incredible to see their appreciation for the food, and remember just how blessed we all are.

A couple months ago, I began sponsoring a little girl from Peru named Azumy, through World Vision. Then, when I attended the Women of Faith conference, I found a little boy named Heh, from Myanmar, and "adopted" him as well. Even though I'm not allowed to have children, or I'll be disqualified from the Miss America program, I guess I found a "loophole" here! (: After all, I do like to call them my children!
Through World Vision, it only takes $35 a month to take care of a little boy or girl- what a tiny sacrifice to make when it could save the life of a child on the other side of the world. It is so much fun to send them letters and hear back from them, and I just recently sent over some coloring supplies and stickers for Christmas. It's just amazing that every person can so easily change someone's life! If you are at all interested in finding more information about this, just go to - there are many ways in which you can start making a difference today.

Although it is hard to believe the holiday season is around the corner, it's true - Christmas is only about eight weeks away! One of the greatest and most fun projects to be a part of this Christmas is Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan's Purse. Each year, over 8 million children receive shoe boxes full of essential needs, plus toys and other things, for Christmas through this program. It's so easy to participate, too!
You can go to and find complete instructions on how to pack a shoe box, and then either mail it their national offices, or find your nearest collection center. We have one right here in Scottsbluff, so I'm getting started right away! You can put coloring supplies, hygiene items, toys, and candy in a regular shoe box, wrap it if you'd like, put a label on it to indicate whether it's for a boy or girl, and what age group, (found at the website) and then mail it or drop it off at a collection center! It's a great activity to include the whole family in - I can remember all of my brothers and sisters going to the store with my parents to load up a cart with these items. I loved picking out all sorts of things for kids my age who I knew were in a country far away, but loved Christmas all the same.
We would go home and I would fill and wrap as many boxes as I could, thinking about the little girls across the world for whom this would most likely be the only present they received on Christmas. Knowing that by doing something so small, you are making all the difference in the world for someone you may never know, is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

Each of us is not great or wonderful in any way, of our own merit, but we CAN by great, because each and every one of us can serve others, even in some small way.

Striving to Serve,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nothing to Do or See in Nebraska? Think Again!

When I was growing up in Western Nebraska, I simply couldn't wait to move out of the state, and I loved that our annual family vacations were always to far-away states such as California or Florida. Over the past few years, however, I have grown to absolutely love this beautiful Mid-Western state I call home. It took quite a while for me to even realize how much I was missing out on; I had lived here for over ten years before I had even visited the capitol, and (I'm ashamed to say) I have yet to make it to a Husker game! Now, as I zip back and forth across the state, I am continually finding more and more interesting and amazing places that I had never even known about.

A couple weeks ago, the Miss America Organization launched "Miss America Brands," a clothing line inspired by Miss America. They sent each state titleholder a tee-shirt to take a photograph in somewhere in their state. As I considered where I'd like my photo, I realized I couldn't pick just one place to "mark" Nebraska. I took the picture in that shirt in front of Chimney Rock, but decided to start a photo log of all the other beautiful Nebraska spots that make our home so unique.

Last weekend, on the way to Chadron, I stopped by Car Henge, an amazing replica of Stone Henge, only in cars, in Alliance. There are also several other sculptures around the area, all very interesting. Car Henge is a free attraction, and is the only one of its kind in America! They have a website for the site, including Car Henge souvenirs and gear: Such a neat place!

Then, when I got home, I stopped near the sign for the Scottsbluff National Monument, (the monument is practically my front yard) a beautiful summit that frames the valley. There is a mile of biking trail from my house to the Visitors' Center, and then a two-mile walking trail that I love to run on in the summer and fall. There is also a road for driving that goes almost all the way to the top, and then short walking trails you can take to the summit. The Monument has always been one of my favorite places, and was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail. Also, the city of Scottsbluff received its name because an explorer by the name of Scott lost his group while up on the Monument, and died there. Just a little bit of history for you! (:

For the next seven months, I will continue visiting Nebraska tourism spots and logging them with pictures while I travel the state. I'm starting an album on my Facebook page for this, called "Tour Nebraska with Miss Nebraska." I know there are so many incredible places in our state, so if you have gone somewhere amazing that I need to visit, please let me know! I'm so excited to show others all that Nebraska has to offer and that we truly have "The Good Life."

Your Nebraska Explorer,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Miss Chadron/Miss Northwest

Congratulations to Nicki Windham, our new Miss Chadron, and Mariah Cook, our new Miss Northwest! All nine contestants did a fantastic job, and the competition was tough! This year was a special one for the Miss Chadron/Northwest pageant, as Linda Teahon and Brenda Bump, the fabulous directors of twenty years, stepped down. It was a wonderful anniversary celebration, with information about each past titleholder and what they were up to currently. It was incredible to see that every one of the forty past titleholders have graduated college and are now making wonderful lives for themselves. This is the power and tradition of the Miss America system: helping young women achieve their goals and go above and beyond the status quo. Linda and Brenda were instrumental in making this happen in the Chadron/Northwest Nebraska area, and they will be missed, but their legacy is in the many girls whom they have made a lasting impact on. Thank you, Linda and Brenda, for your hard work and dedication, and to all the volunteers around the state for the work you do at the local, state, and national levels. This program would not be here without you, and I know my life would not be the same without the undying support and encouragement you provide.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Family is Always There to Keep You Grounded

This past weekend I had the chance to take a little family time, as seven of us (my sister Sarah couldn't come home from college in Indiana for the weekend) loaded into our big white van, and headed out to Wichita, Kansas. My parents were both raised there, and most of our relatives are still in that area, so our bi-annual family reunion on my dad's side was held in Hope, Kansas again this year. We went to visit my Uncle Fred in the hospital in Wichita, as he crashed a couple weeks ago during a dirt-bike race and broke several ribs and both hips. He's doing a lot better, and was laughing too much(as always) for his ribs. My brother Jerod and his wife also came down to meet us there, so my dad and brothers had the chance to meet him for the first time! We went out to dinner, as it was also my younger brother Adam's birthday- he's the big 13 now!

The next day we spent time with all the relatives at the family reunion - it was so great to be able to see everyone again! With about a nine hour drive each way, our family sure got a lot of quality time in that van! It was a pretty short weekend, as we drove back home on Sunday so the kids could get to school on Monday, but it was a much-needed mini-vacation with the people who keep me grounded. I am so lucky to have such an amazing and supportive family who always shower me with all the love I could ever need. I am so very thankful for not only my family, but also for every person who has taken me as their family, and is just as encouraging and loving. You are truly my family as well, and I love each and every one of you! This fall, don't forget the people in your life who have always been there for you, and remind you who you are and where you've come from. We have so much to be thankful for!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Taking a Year Off School, But Not a Year Off Learning!

I have not always been an inquisitive person, but over the years I have really grown to LOVE learning. There's just so much out there in this world, and having only had 17 years to learn about it, I still have a very long way to go! So although this year has included taking a break from school, I really think I'm learning more than I ever learned throughout a year of schooling!

For those who don't know, my future plans (God willing) include obtaining a degree in Government: American Politics and Policy at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, and then going on to Law School. I hope to become an attorney and then a judge, and eventually become involved in the political arena; my highest goals being to become President or a Supreme Court Justice. (Somewhere along the way, I'd like to try out being a flight attendant and truck driver, and own a ranch and then a clothing store, but that's secondary to the larger picture of the law/government/political realm) Because of this, I am very interested in politics, and despite not yet being old enough to vote, I love staying up on the issues and learning more about our government, so I've been finding some great opportunities to do this.

A couple weeks ago, I attended a "Common Sense and the Constitution" seminar in Hastings, by speaker Glenn Freeman. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, make sure you go! He is absolutely amazing, and really brought it back to basics with the foundation of our country: the Constitution. Frustrated with our current state of affairs? It's because we have wandered away from the Constitution. If you haven't done so recently, read through it, and carefully examine it; it's pretty incredible some of the things you find!

Also, a couple days ago I attended a Liberty Rally in Gering with my dad, where several local politicians running for different elections were speaking. It was great to hear some ideas and opinions, and to see what is important to the Western part of Nebraska this election. Afterward, I got a photo op with some students from Gering High School, where I attended my Junior year. It was great to see some students who were engaged and interested in the people and jobs that really control every area of our lives; I hope more and more young people begin to realize that and get involved!

Yesterday, I was off to North Platte for the Community Domestic Violence Intervention Program luncheon. I had the opportunity to sing there, as well as listen to some powerful speakers who were very passionate about the cause of domestic violence intervention. As a society, we have begun to think less and less of fights in relationships, and ignore sexist or demeaning comments, when we should be taking these things seriously. Here are 9 ways everyone can help prevent domestic violence, shared by Tonya Folk of the CDVIP:
1) Be a knowledgeable source of information about domestic violence services available in your community
2) Believe that domestic violence is unacceptable and say it out loud
3) Do not laugh at sexist jokes
4) Call 911 when witnessing, visually or auditory, an abusive situation
5) Reach out and partner with your local domestic violence programs for awareness events and/or fundraisers
6) Talk to your family and friends about ways you can help end domestic violence
7) Help to schedule a training to educate your company's employees about domestic violence
8) Teach boys and girls to respect each other and that there is no excuse for domestic violence
9) Model the behavior you expect in society

Today, I had my second session of Leadership Scottsbluff, and learned so much about not only Panhandle issues, but Nebraska issues in general. In case it isn't obvious, we live in a primarily agricultural state. Just making sure you understand that, in case you've never driven across the state... kidding, kidding! We all know that, but it was very interesting to learn about ground and surface water: things that affect agriculture in so many ways. Also, Jess Peterson, the United States Cattlemen's Association, Exec. Vice President, spoke about issues involving cattle and the industry there, another very important issue to the state of Nebraska. As a side note, Jess was named Mr. Montana this year! Crazy coincidence that was pretty cool, so we had to get a picture! (:

All in all, as each day goes by, I really am learning something new every day... or, some twenty new things each day, really! It is just so great to learn more and more about this great state we live in, and I'm really starting to appreciate the unique strengths we bring to the country as a whole. Think Nebraska is a nothing to see, nothing to do, boring place? Go ahead, do some research, and take a look... I think you'd be surprised at what you find!

Proud to be a Nebraskan,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County

Tonight was the Miss Omaha and Douglas County pageant, held in Omaha. It was so much fun to see such outstanding girls compete in such a close competition. All of the ladies did a fantastic job, and Brittany Jeffers and I had the honor of being emcees for the evening. Our Outstanding Teen, Staci Craighead sang the song she sang for America's Outstanding Teen, and I got to sing for special entertainment as well. Outgoing queens Nicky Haverland and Amber Lieder presented awards and crowns at the end, so I got to help them there as well. A big congratulations to Kayla Batt, the new Miss Omaha, and Mindy Schreiber, the new Miss Douglas County! These girls did a terrific job and I am so excited for them to compete at Miss Nebraska next year, as I know they will be amazing! Best of luck to these two in the coming year!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

September Wrap-up

Can you believe it's already October? I certainly can't! September flew by, and now we're down to only three months until Miss America! How exciting! Well, the past week has been a lot of fun, as my older sister Angela and I flew to Houston, Texas for a few days for Miss America prep including work with a personal trainer, a make-up artist, and wardrobe consultation. We were quite efficient, and I checked off a lot of "to-do's" in those few days before flying back to Denver. As the product of all that efficient shopping however, my suitcase was 18 pounds overweight on the flight home, so I had to stuff almost 20 pounds of clothes in my carry-on bag and lug it around! Note to all travelers: If planning on shopping at destination, pack light so as to have room on the return trip. (:

Right after that, I zipped across the state to spend a couple days in Hastings and Grand Island. I had the opportunity to be part of the Harvest of Harmony pageant and parade, which were loads of fun! There were thirty-five great girls competing in the pageant, who had been nominated from schools all over the area. They were judged on their resumes and interviews, and then wore their beautiful gowns for the evening presentation and reception. The morning of the parade was a pretty chilly fall morning, and having only brought a short-sleeved ensemble, I quickly learned to have a spare jacket from now on. This is Nebraska after all! What was I thinking? Especially now that it's October, we can start having snow, rain, or a tornado... all in the same day. That's our good ol' Nebraska!

But as I drive back and forth across the length of the state, I'm becoming entirely convinced there is no place more beautiful! There is simply no substitute for riding the rolling hills on a cool fall day, with the sun shining brightly; passing a herd of horses in a clearing, surrounded by trees in beautiful hues of brown, orange, and red; or following a stretch of ripe fields, waving in the light breeze. Go ahead - get outside and enjoy it!...while it lasts!

Happy October!