Not just any Miss USA but a historic one. That’s who Norfolk received a visit from Wednesday evening.
Sarah Rose Summers, the reigning Miss Nebraska, became the first Nebraskan to win the Miss USA crown since the competition began in 1952.
“It’s pretty darn exciting every time I say I’m the first Miss USA from Nebraska,” Summers said during her appearance at Black Cow Fat Pig in downtown Norfolk. “It brings such honor, pride, joy and humility because it’s taught me to never say never.”
Summers, who is from Papillion, said it was a long-term goal of hers to become Miss Nebraska, but she acknowledged that becoming Miss USA was a dream she never thought was possible.
She also had another long-term goal she set at an early age.
“I was hospitalized at 4 years old, and I knew I always wanted to work at a children’s hospital in some capacity,” she said.
Now both goals have been achieved.
Summers, after graduating from Papillion-La Vista South High School in 2013, attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. While there, she volunteered at the local children’s hospital, where she discovered she wanted to be a child life specialist.
“I found my career through volunteering,” Summers said. “And I told my parents and my adviser, ‘This is what I’m meant to do.’ ”
A child life specialist serves a liaison between doctors and child patients and their families, as well as providing emotional support for children in hospitals and other medical settings.
Summers said in her brief time as Miss USA, she has already been using her child life skills. On July 4, for example, she visited a Washington, D.C., hospital, where she interacted with kids and their families.
“You could see their faces light up, and come out of their shells a little bit,” she said. “Parents also really enjoyed seeing their kids have fun.”
Wednesday’s visit to Norfolk was just one of several scheduled throughout the state this week — her first homecoming trip since winning the Miss USA crown in May. Summers was hosted in Norfolk by Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning, and her state tour is sponsored by Charles Herbster, a Falls City rancher and businessman.
Herbster said to the crowd of about 25 people in Norfolk that he believed from the beginning that Summers would win the Miss USA title.
“We should be so thankful as Nebraskans,” Herbster said.
Also in attendance was Jasmine Fuelberth, a Norfolk native who was the previous Miss Nebraska before Summers won the title. Summers said she has a close relationship with Fuelberth, as Summers passed the crown of Miss Teen Nebraska to Fuelberth, and then Fuelberth eventually passed the crown of Miss Nebraska to Summers.
To honor Summers’ homecoming, Gov. Pete Ricketts proclaimed Wednesday as Sarah Rose Summers Day. Moenning read the proclamation aloud and gave both Summers and Fuelberth keys to the city.
As Miss USA, Summers will represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant this winter. But Summers said she also wants to represent herself, Nebraska and the country by making a difference and helping people, especially children.
“I love people, and I especially love children,” she said. “To get these opportunities all year long touches my heart. I hope to make you all proud in the process.”