OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — She was Miss Omaha then Miss Nebraska. This week, Morgan Holen is vying to become the next Miss America.
"So much of Miss America through the years has been what people see in the final night of competition, but being Miss America is really a job. A 365 day-a-year job," said Holen.
Miss America typically travels to a different state every few days to connect along with her social impact initiative. Holen's is strengths-based mentoring.
"So I advocate for mentoring at the state level, but also through legislation, policy at the national level through national organizations like mentor and teammates at home."
The person who lit that spark is familiar to many people in Omaha.
Kitty Lee taught dance for several decades but also taught Holen something else.
"She was 80 years old, still touching her toes, still teaching acrobats and dance class. Taught me that the word 'can't' is not in my vocabulary. I'd have to do 20 push-ups if she heard it in her class."
Once Holen enrolled at UNL, she got involved with a mentoring organization that further shaped her commitment. Holen earned her bachelor's degree last spring, then became a certified Gallup strengths coach.
To commemorate its 100th anniversary, the Miss America organization has doubled the winning scholarship to $100,000.
Holen would use that money toward her master's in business administration which she's working on right now.
Holen is comfortable in this space. Her mom, Jodi Miller, was Miss Nebraska in 1988 and volunteered for the organization for 20 years. Holen first joined the 50 other women in September at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Resort, the site of the Miss America pageant, for a gala, parade and other festivities.
Holen enters the final round this week, reflecting on some of her experiences from across Nebraska.
"We are a diverse state. We're made up of a lot of different people and backgrounds. I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to serve the state of Nebraska and can only be grateful and thankful that I have the opportunity to represent them here."
If you'd like to tune in, the competition starts Thursday at 7 p.m.
Miss America is streaming live on Peacock. Visit missamerica.org for more.
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