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January 15, 2021

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Miss Ohio visits with ILR participants

Erica Gelhaus, Miss Ohio 2009, presented at the Bluffton University Institute for Learning in Retirement's (ILR) Christmas brunch, Dec. 9. She is a senior vocal performance major at Otterbein College and will compete in the Miss America pageant in January 2010.

Through all the pageants and responsibilities of being Miss Ohio, Gelhaus has learned to remain true to herself. "One of the most valuable lessons I've learned is to let go of the pressure and be myself," said Gelhaus. "That is when you can really succeed." Gelhaus also shared her singing talent with ILR participants. She answered questions, sang holiday carols and spent time talking with those attending the brunch.

Gelhaus did not grow up participating in pageants. She began competing in the Miss America Scholarship Program as a senior in high school to earn money to attend college. As the oldest of six children, Gelhaus knew that paying for college was going to be a struggle. Along with the scholarships she received, Gelhaus was excited about the Miss America program's focus on community service.

As a senior at St. Henry High School, Gelhaus started an Athletes Promoting Excellence reading program. She saw her youngest sister struggling to read and wanted to ignite a passion for reading like many young students had a passion for sports. With the help of high school athletes, a reading program was established at the library that is still going on today. High school athletes mentor a child throughout the school year. Being part of the Miss America program has also allowed Gelhaus to promote reading through her platform, "Turning the Page for Children's Literacy."

She qualified for the Miss Ohio pageant in 2007 and was the first runner-up. She went on to win the 2007 Miss National Sweetheart Pageant, a pageant for all first runner-ups throughout the country, at the age of 19. During her junior year of college at Otterbein, Gelhaus won the Miss Ohio 2009 title.

As Miss Ohio, Gelhaus travels across the state talking with students, promoting literacy programs and sharing her story. "I had one goal: go to college. Being a participant in the Miss America Scholarship Program has allowed me to do that," said Gelhaus, who will graduate from Otterbein in May.