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miss nebraska’s OUTSTANDING TEEN

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THE JOURNEY is just beginning for Nebraska’s outgoing Outstanding Teen, STACI CRAIGHEAD, but the legacy she has established is one that will continue to inspire others long after her reign is over. Staci has been confronted with her share of obstacles, but instead of letting them hold her back, she uses them as a reminder not to give up. Her goal as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen was to “help teens remember that while our lives may not be what we envisioned, we can be successful in spite
of difficulties.”

Staci won the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in June of 2010, but this is not her first crown. She started competing in pageants at the age of 12 and in 2006 won her first title as Miss Nebraska PreTeen, National American Miss. A year later, she followed that with a win as Miss Nebraska Junior Teen, American Coed Pageant, but her achievements are not limited to the world of pageantry.

All of Staci’s accomplishments are rooted in her determination to succeed. She stresses that “tenacity is always going to get me where I want to go because I will never give up on anything that will help me achieve my goals.” Such willpower is influenced by the memory of her father, Michael, who passed away in 2007 from cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile ducts of the liver.

Her father’s passing occurred during her reign as Miss Nebraska Preteen, but his absence has not prevented Staci from persevering. Instead, she has channeled the loss toward helping others by increasing awareness and connecting with families affected by cholangiocarcinoma. In 2009, she started working with the CHOLANGIOCARCINOMA FOUNDATION in honor of her father.

Through her work with the foundation and through her position as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, she has become inspired to start a website geared to teenagers who have been affected by cholangiocarcinoma. The website will provide teens the resources they need to connect with others who are dealing with similar circumstances. Staci acknowledges that “since this is such a rare form of cancer, it’s really hard for kids to be able to talk to people that actually know what they’re going through,” she said of the website that will provide comfort and strength to those who need it. She plans to continue to work with the foundation and hopes to have her website up and running soon.

The loss of her father has created opportunities for Staci and her mother to bond in new ways as they work together to raise awareness about cholangiocarcinoma as they find meaning and purpose in loss. One such occasion was afforded the duo as they presented at WHOLE WOMAN’S DAY in November of 2007. In their seminar, “Walking Through the Fire,” they spoke out about their sense of loss with Mike’s passing, and how they are learning to deal with grief. Sharing such a moment impacted both of them and helped bring them “through the fire” together.

Along with her work at the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, Staci shares her vocal talents at various events. Last summer, Staci found a life-changing opportunity to tour seven countries in 18 days with the Midwest Honor Choir. She performanced in some of Europe’s most famous cathedrals, but it was singing at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris that really inspired Staci. “At the end of our performance we all stood there listening to the 10-second reverb and that really impacted me. That was a major moment where I knew singing is what I wanted
to do for the rest of my life.”


That moment was such an epiphany for Staci that she had a change of heart regarding her plans to attend the University of Kansas, where she had planned to major in psychiatry. Instead she wants to focus on a degree in vocal music performance at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with an eye to musical theatre.

She also credits her decision to Miss America’s Outstanding Teen organization as having given her the edge she needs to ensure that nothing stands in the way of her success.

Staci is still a teenager and, like most teenagers, spends time with friends who have become a huge support system. She has learned and now stresses the importance of the people in her life. Through struggles and triumphs, she has come to realize that the “real lesson in life is to never take anything or anyone you have for granted.”

For Staci, the most meaningful thing she takes away from her experience as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen is a “sense of impact.” Although the time she has spent in the pageant system has been productive, she is “riding the fence” when it comes to competing in 2012. Staci recently graduated from Westside High School. With college on the horizon, she anticipates a doubly busy year ahead and has yet to decide if she’ll pursue a fourth crown.

In just seventeen years, Staci has accomplished numerous achievements and has laid a foundation for what could become an incredible future. Her experiences in the pageant world have taught her that “success is not the key to happiness; happiness is the key to succ­­­­ess.” All along the way, she has demonstrated just how deserving she is of the title she held for the past year– Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

-end- metroMAGAZINE




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