I present to you the most amazing picture in the history of photography:

There She Is: Miss Kearney Jessica Shultis

Let's just say Camilla was a tad excited to see Miss Nebraska Aleah Peters and to try on her crown. This was one of my favorite moments from the weekend, when nine of this year's Miss Nebraska contestants joined Aleah for an Omaha Princess Party as part of our #MissAmericaServes campaign.

There She Is: Miss Kearney Jessica Shultis

So. Much. Sass. I LOVE IT.

This event raised an estimated $250, money that will be used to create care packages for open heart surgery patients through Abriendo Corazones, a mission founded by a medical team at Children's Hospital and Medical Center. An incredible cause very close to my heart, made even better by seeing the looks in these little girls' eyes as they got to meet 'real life princesses'!

Who was your role model growing up? My husband adored sports icons like Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan. I was obsessed with celebrities, from the stars of Beverly Hills 90210 to New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men. Children are sponges and find inspiration everywhere, often zoning in on the people and things they are interested in.

A young woman from small-town Nebraska is a chameleon of sorts when it comes to what 'type' of woman she is... athlete, graduate student, survivor AND 'princess'.

Jessica Shultis

Miss Kearney 2017 Jessica Shultis

"I wholeheartedly believe that if you are going to do something it is essential to give 110%," Jessica told me recently. "I have been involved in athletics my entire life. I believe that greatness is truly constructed when no one is looking. It is the work that you put in behind the scenes that pays off in the long run."

This is Jessica's first and only year competing in the Miss Nebraska Pageant. At 24, she's already filled her resume with accolades from Centura High School, college at both Doane and the University of Nebraska - Lincoln and now graduate school in Doane's Masters program. Jessica is a multi-sport athlete, qualifying for state competition as a high school student and competing as a collegiate basketball player while completing her undergrad degree.

"Basketball has always been a large part of my life," said Jessica. "I recall getting a Little Tikes basketball hoop for my fourth birthday and stomping around the house in my dad's basketball shoes. As a little girl I dreamt of being a professional basketball player. I had the opportunity to play basketball at the youth, junior high, high school, elite and collegiate level. I have been had the opportunity to coach high school basketball. Through basketball, I learned the value of perseverance, positivity and teamwork. As a little girl shooting hoops in my parents' driveway, I never thought that one day the lessons I learned from basketball would help me overcome one of my greatest obstacles: cancer."

Jessica describes a frustrating sophomore year of college, a time filled with countless doctors visits and tests. Her diagnosis: her body is predisposed to form tumors, a condition Jessica says she will face for the rest of her life.

"Without basketball, I'm not sure I would have possessed the mental strength to persevere through the following year," said Jessica.


So when crowned Miss Kearney last fall, Jessica decided to combine the two systems that helped her face her diagnosis: basketball and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. She calls her platform 'Hoops For Hope: Supporting Children's Miracle Network.'

"I am able to coach fundamental camps for today's youth while raising funds to support an amazing cause," said Jessica. "All of the proceeds from the camps directly benefit the children and families at CMNH."

When she's not hosting clinics in cities across Nebraska, Jessica is working on her Master's degree, preparing to explore PhD programs in psychology. She also has two jobs; as a mental health technician at Mental Health Crisis Center in Lincoln and as Cinderella, visiting classrooms and children throughout her community.

"I love to smile and laugh," said Jessica. "I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine. Moreover, I love to make other people smile because life is too short to be anything but happy and if I can be the reason someone smiles then I have done my job as a fellow human being. My goal is to become Miss Nebraska and hopefully Miss America, to transform my statewide fundraiser into a nationwide fundraiser. Both of these titles allow the women to reach countless people and make a significant difference in their lives, which is what I aspire to do. The appearance opportunities also allow young women to gain confidence while promoting a cause that is important to them. This helps young women grow and give back!"

There She Is: Miss Kearney Jessica Shultis

"The Miss America Organization is so much more than a beauty pageant," said Jessica. "It is a scholarship program that encourages young women to achieve greatness both personally and academically. I want to encourage young girls to step outside their comfort zone and compete. I will be forever thankful for this experience."

Maybe your little girl wants to be a princess, too. Maybe she wants to be an Olympian. Maybe she wants to cure cancer.

There She Is: Miss Kearney Jessica Shultis

The thing is.. she doesn't have to choose. Little girls can grow up to be women who do it all.

Miss Kearney Jessica Shultis is proof of that.

"As I have grown up I have discovered who I am and what I want out of life," said Jessica. "My experiences have shaped the woman that I am today and I am extremely comfortable with myself. In a society where media outlets constantly tell women 'they aren't good enough', I believe it is essential to love yourself for who you are."

There She Is: Miss Kearney Jessica Shultis

Click here to follow Miss Kearney 2017 Jessica Shultis on Facebook.

The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska. Follow Miss Nebraska on Twitter and Facebook.

Check out the gallery from last year's Miss Nebraska Pageant:

About Brandi:

Brandi Petersen

Brandi Petersen is a former Omaha television news anchor, the Co-Marketing Director for the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Organization and the author of blog Anchor’s Away.  To read more about this year’s Miss Nebraska Pageant contestants, visit www.brandipetersen.com.