This week in North Platte the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant is under way. What does that have to do with the outdoors one might ask? I was fortunate enough to find the answer to that question myself. Three of the contestants in the pageant wanted to further their knowledge and skills about the outdoors as part of an award they can earn for the pageant.
Miss Nebraska Pageant, contestants not only showcase their knowledge, education, talent, beauty and a platform, they also have many chances to gain experiences that will further them in the pageant and for their bright futures.
One of these experiences is known as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Adventurous Journey award that the contestants can earn.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s award was founded in 1956 by Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh of the United Kingdom. The award is an international award and is given out in 144 countries – the award has impacted over 8 million young people across the globe. The Miss Nebraska Pageant is one of several partners of the Duke of Edinburgh award.
There are three levels to the award – each successive level requires a greater degree of commitment from those achieving it.
The bronze level is for those 14 and older. The minimum period of participation is 6 months. Silver is for those 15 and older and also requires a minimum period of participation of 6 months. And finally the gold level is for those 16 to 25 with the greatest degree of commitment, 12 months.
Along with three levels there is four sections of the award that allow young people the chance to broaden their own personal accomplishments, learn about themselves and other new skills and to serve others; the four sections of the award are service, skills, fitness, and expedition.
For the Adventurous Journey portion of the award the pageant contestants followed the guidelines of the award by working together as a team; they learned new skills and became safe and efficient with their newly learned skills, and they were taught an understanding of the environment – all while making decisions together on their journey.
My journey with the pageant contestants began with an email from Maris Schad of North Platte, who helps the contestants by advising and assisting them to participate in the award. Maris wondered if I knew of anyone that could help the girls with a weekend of outdoor experiences – of course I knew someone that would love to help. After a few emails between Maris, the three contestants that would be participating and I, the weekend was set up and we were ready to go.
After introductions between Mariclaire Prill (Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen contestant), Mindy Schreiber (Miss State Fair), Steffani Jiroux (Miss Lincoln) and I (I felt left out so had to put something here LOL!), the first item on the agenda was kayaking. You simply cannot have an outdoor adventure without kayaking. We kayaked a small pond so the young women could acclimate themselves to kayaking. Learning how to get in and out without tipping, paddling techniques and balance in the boat are all important parts of kayaking.
Mariclaire and Mindy took off in the kayaks with ease, Steffani on the other hand was a little reluctant, but she got out on the water regardless. She had a water related incident when she was younger that has made her uneasy on the water. But before long, Steffani was out paddling the entire pond. We were all very proud of her – to overcome a fear and to be bold enough to take on the challenge of her fear.
During the adventurous journey weekend the young women also experienced trap and skeet shooting at the Lincoln County Wildlife Gun Club. Gene Nelson helped to coach the contestants and taught them safety, how to use a shotgun, load it and fire it at a moving blue rock.
Mindy was a great shot – she is an outdoors girl and is experienced with shotgun shooting. She was comfortable learning skeet and trap. Steffani also hit targets and became at ease with the shotgun – she also had a blast. Steffani had never experienced gun safety before and was open to learning a new concept. “I do believe it is important to know how to safely conduct yourself around a firearm. I took away a new respect for guns and the knowledge of how to handle them properly, in a very safe manner”, she said.
We also shot .22 rifles and a .380 handgun during the weekend adventure. Mariclaire was all over the .22 rifle shooting; she had found a new niche’, hitting the target time and time again. Mariclaire quoted, “The journey helped me overcome the fear of shooting a gun; at the end of our visit I was more comfortable and confident so I could actually shoot the target.”
Learning about the environment is part of the award, so we hiked over the sand, through the trees and down to the river to learn about how all of these different ecosystems work and what inhabits them. Along the way we learned about some of the different plants and their uses, invasive plants like phramites and Russian olive trees, and how the river fluctuates from year to year.
The Contestants also learned fishing skills, how to tie their fishing line, how to use live bait, casting and having fun while fishing. All the girls caught fish, which is always great. Smiles were on each of their faces when they landed a bluegill or largemouth bass, even the large weed that Mindy hooked gave us all a chuckle and a new memory. Mariclaire even kissed a bass, unlike a frog it didn’t turn into a prince, but it was sure fun watching her as she puckered up!
For the evening meal Samantha Brown-Fhuere assisted us with Dutch oven cooking. None of the contestants had ever cooked with a Dutch oven before – it was a great learning experience had by all. The young women stated that they would definitely like to try cooking like that again. The food was great and plentiful, there is nothing like a meal and dessert from a Dutch oven.
Then the rain and storms hit, so the bonfire and smores we had planned was out of the question for the evening. Taking advantage of our situation, we had time for girl talk, laughing together and getting to know one another a little better.
Each of the girls was grateful for having the chance to learn new and exciting skills in the outdoors and to experience the new skills with each other.
“Going on the adventurous journey as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award was an experience I would encourage every individual to take part in. The requirements for the award can teach one many valuable life lessons, such as the value of commitment and further discovery of who you are as a person. The adventurous journey was an absolute blast and reminded me of the beauty in the little things of being outdoors. I am grateful for the experience I had”, Mindy said with a big smile on her face.
Learning new skills and gaining new knowledge is what this weekend was all about. I am so proud of each of these young women – they tried new things, kept an open mind about everything and took steps to overcome things that they previously had worries about or had not ever tried before. I am happy for the new experience myself!
Julie Geiser out of North Platte, is a public information officer for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Regional Editor for NEBRASKAland magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com or 308-535-8025.