Women and girls shine at unique beauty pageant

Women and girls shine at unique beauty pageant

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Ten-year-old Brianna Heim poses elegantly for the camera, a bedazzled sash ornamenting her beautiful purple dress. The tiara on Brianna’s head is nearly as bright at the cheerful smile on her face. Sitting close by is Brianna’s service dog Emily, who recently accompanied her on a special trip to Los Angeles to compete in Miss Amazing, a pageant designed for girls and women with special needs.

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Earlier this year, Brianna won the title of Miss Preteen in Utah’s regional Miss Amazing Competition. Brianna, who lives with a speech and motor-skill imparing disorder called glutaric acidemia type 1, attended the National pageant where she participated in the weekend’s activities, including a talent portion, interviews, and an evening gown walk.

Brianna even got to witness the opening ceremony for the 2015 Special Olympics, held in Los Angeles that same weekend. Brianna’s mom says, “(The pageant) is a nice place for these girls to go and be themselves and it doesn’t matter what your disability is.”

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The Miss Amazing Pageant was founded in 2007 by Jordan Somer in Omaha, Nebraska. Now, eight years later, the program has impacted more than 800 girls and women with disabilities all over the nation. Somer explains that Miss Amazing is designed to help young women see their unique capabilities and celebrate their individuality.

Jordan Somer says: “According to a study conducted by The Center for Women Policy Studies, disabled women and girls live at the corner of disability and womanhood. With two minority identities, a double dose of discrimination and stereotyping, and multiple barriers to achieving their life goals. Miss Amazing is looking to change that fact.”

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Several promotional videos on Miss Amazing’s website highlight the joyful energy of the women who participate in this event. They dance, perform on instruments, bond with friends, and are given a platform to articulate their thoughts and to express themselves. These ladies tear up as they are handed trophies, and wave happily as crowns are placed on their heads.

Somers states: “The Miss Amazing Pageants are inspiring a culture that encourages women and people with disabilities to reach their fullest potential.” It’s clear that this is the case when one looks at girls like Brianna and young women like Mikayla Holmgren, individuals who truly are embracing their identity and thriving.

 

TLC star and Oregon-native gets married

TLC star and Oregon-native gets married

Those of us who grew up watching the TLC reality show Little People, Big World were in for a heart-warming thrill with the news of Zach Roloff’s wedding this past weekend.

Zach (25) and his bride, Tori Patton (24), wed at his parent’s farm in Hillsboro, Oregon on Saturday, July 25th. The couple had been engaged for more than a year; the countdown began last May after Zach proposed to Tori in an open field.

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According to People Magazine, the wedding was nature-inspired and took place by a gazebo in front of a specially planted field of wheat. The bride wore an ivory dress with a chiffon-like skirt and a lacy, detailed bodice. Zach was quick to tell People magazine that the 200 guests made him feel a little nervous: “Neither of us are spotlight kind of people.” However, he also said the two of them are “looking forward to setting their lives in motion.”

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Zach, who was born with dwarfism to two parents with dwarfism, has had unique issues to cope with in his lifetime. But despite adversity, and with support from Little People, Big World’s fan base and his supportive family, he has thrived and is now embarking on his own journey with his beautiful new wife.

OPINION: Did any good come out of pool party chaos?

OPINION: Did any good come out of pool party chaos?

Recently a video surfaced on Youtube that rocked cyberspace. Captured on a cell phone, the seven-minute clip shows a crowd of swimsuit-clad youth in a suburban Texas neighborhood, milling around anxiously while several police officers questioned them and forced some onto the ground.

The scene escalated as one particular officer began shouting and cursing at several juveniles, going so far as to throw one fourteen-year-old girl violently to the ground and handcuff her while sitting on her back with his knees. When a few of her friends rushed forward to help, the officer pulled out his gun and ran them off. This video now has more than 12,000,000 views.

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A CNN article delves deeper into the event: some neighbors have come forward to say that the police were called because the kids were partying at the neighborhood pool without permission. Others say the commotion was brought on by a disturbance unrelated to the teens throwing the pool party. No matter what way you look at it, the image of a police officer kneeling on a teen girl leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Can anything good come out of a story like this one?

When I take a step back, I realize that while this incident never should have happened, I am glad it has at least received so much attention. The police officer in question, Eric Casebolt, has been rebuked far and wide across the inter-webs, and thousands have called for the removal of his police badge. Last Monday he did resign from the force after being placed on suspension, and the police chief of the McKinney, Texas police department pronounced Casebolt’s actions “indefensible,” adding that a full investigation will be launched. Television host Bill Maher spoke on the incident, voicing his opinion that this kind of behavior can and should be weeded out. His colleague on the panel added that, “This time we can have the conversation without a body on the ground.”

Situations like this one arise all the time. Unnecessary violence is often facilitated against the unarmed or innocent, whether it be a police man against young girl, an abusive husband against his spouse, or a person of influence against a subordinate. When these events are brought to light, as was this one in Texas, the population has a chance to see inequality and mistreatment in real time, and identify problems and solutions in their own neighborhoods and in their own lives.

Opinion: Video demonstrates rare positive example of Hollywood star

Opinion: Video demonstrates rare positive example of Hollywood star

America loves celebrities. We look to celebrities and media for entertainment and sometimes even to find inspiration. While there’s no shortage of scandal and intrigue in today’s media, there are quite a lot of inspiring celebrities out there spreading positivity. One of my favorite good-guys of 2015 is actor Chris Pratt.

Pratt recently made headlines after he posted a video of himself and his young son, Jack, saying the Pledge of Allegiance together this Memorial Day. Pratt wrote, along with the video: “I’m proud to be American.” The video of Pratt and his son paying respect to their country for Memorial Day has reached over a million people, encouraging us all with its positive message.

Chris Pratt, who is married to actress Anna Ferris, continually sets a solid example with glimpses we get of his personal life and in his public decisions as an actor. Since his role in Marvel’s hit superhero film “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Pratt has made visits to Children’s hospitals in character as Star-Lord, spending quality time with delighted kids and arranging special screenings of the film.

No doubt Chris Pratt’s own life has moved him to reach out to these children; Pratt is open about the difficult birth of his little son. Jack Pratt was born nine weeks early and had to stay in intensive neonatal care until he weighed just over five pounds and could finally be taken home.

At last year’s March of Dimes Celebration of Babies, Pratt said this about being a father: “I’ve done all kinds of cool stuff as an actor,” the box-office heavyweight added. “I’ve gotten to jump out of helicopters and do daring stunts and play baseball in a professional stadium, but none of them mean anything compared to being somebody’s daddy.”

In a world where negativity often overwhelms mainstream media, it’s a wonderful surprise when actors and actresses celebrate the things that matter most: life, love, and family.

We made a difference, we can do it again

We made a difference, we can do it again

I’m new to the legislature.  I’ve spent years looking in from the outside and I was thrilled and humbled to be elected to the legislative assembly where I could actually make a difference.

Some days are worse than others.  Most everything that makes it to the floor, passes.  Much of it is inconsequential, but some of it hurts.  Like carve outs for trial lawyers, or unions.  Or having to fight to get schools funded at a level that’s barely adequate.  I tell myself that elections have consequences, and that we all need to work harder next time.

Some days are better than others.  Like last Friday.

I testified in front of the education committee for a short time in favor of a bill, HB 2830, that would prohibit the Department of Education from requiring school districts to implement Common Core instruction or assessment.  In case you haven’t heard, Common Core is just the latest top-down, cookie-cutter approach to education that won’t work.  If I get my way, it won’t even get a chance.

Last Friday afternoon, after I gave my short testimony, I sat down in the back of the room and watched as fellow citizen after fellow citizen got up and testified in favor of the bill.  Some were School Board members.  Some were parents.  Some were just plain old ordinary citizens.  Many were my friends.  A few more are now my friends.  It was great to watch.

We were lucky to be there.  The chair of the committee didn’t have to let us even have a hearing, but for the last few weeks, my fellow citizens pleaded with the chair for a hearing.  The next step is to have a work session and vote it out of committee to the floor.

If you want the names of some people to pester, members of the House Committee on Education await your emails.  You might politely thank them for hearing testimony on HB 2830 and ask them if they can give it a work session and vote it out to the floor.

You never know.  Your actions might just inspire a legislator who sometimes feels just a little bit overmatched.

State Representative Mike Nearman (R-Independence) is working hard for you on issues like this.  He can be reached at rep.mikenearman@state.or.us.

Enough Seems to Not Be Enough

Enough Seems to Not Be Enough

The real problem in Oregon is that government just doesn’t have enough money.

At least you’d think that’s the problem from listening to Oregon House Democrats.  Never mind that Oregon has the sixth highest gas tax and the 17th highest total automotive taxes and fees among the states.  Disregard the fact that Oregon businesses are hobbled by the effects of the impact of the tax increases imposed by measures 66 and 67.  Apparently this recession was just too much fun for some and we just can’t stand letting the economy expand and grow out of it.

Middle class Oregonians have spent over half a decade laboring under the yoke of a stagnant economy.  After six years of recession – and even longer of Democrat rule – the Governor brags in his fourth inaugural address that we’ve finally gained back the jobs we lost during the Great Recession.  Really?  Is that supposed to be some sort of consolation prize?

What about our crumbling infrastructure?  What “crumbling infrastructure”?  I challenge anyone to drive South through California or just about any other state and let me know when you return – if you return – how the roads compare to Oregon’s.  I’m sure we can improve them, but they’re a far cry from crumbling.

And, if they are in such bad shape, why are we not prioritizing resources and executing simple, necessary fixes with the limited transportation dollars we have?  Instead, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on studies for a temple to light rail.  When the dust settled, we were left without a bridge and a more than $180 million dollar hole in the wallet.

So, here we are in the winter of 2014-15 and the middle class finally gets a break on the price of gas.  Through circumstances not under the control of anyone in this state, Oregon gas prices are teasing the $2.00 a gallon mark.  Thanks to a bit of squabbling at OPEC and some fracking here and there, everyone – rich, poor, individuals, families, and businesses – has been given a graceful lift.  And now the party in power wants to take it away.

We middle class Oregonians finally get the break that we need to get back on our feet and jump start our economy.  And then some want to take it away.  We middle class Oregonians will remember.

State Representative Mike Nearman (R-Independence) is one of those middle class Oregonians that just loves low gas prices.