Erica Sage McCarthy, an education major at Old Dominion University, was recently crowned Ms. District of Columbia at the International Junior Miss Pageant.
The event, held in Frederick, Md., is the state preliminary within the International Junior Miss program. This year, McCarthy participated in the interview, fun fashion and evening gown categories.
With the title, she is eligible to compete in the 2020 finals in Texas this summer.
Eighteen states participate in the International Junior Miss Scholarship Program, which is designed to encourage positive achievement for young women ages 4 to 24.
McCarthy entered her first pageant as a teen in 2008. She said pageants offer a number of benefits, including communication skills from experience in public speaking and interviews. She believes these events help women to gain confidence, create lifelong friends and provide a platform to promote charitable ideas and organizations.
McCarthy's focus is on youth mentoring, particularly with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and local juvenile detention centers. She has donated over 4,000 hours of community service.
"I am a survivor of poverty and know what it's like to grow up with an incarcerated parent and relatives who struggle with addiction," she said. "I had to be a rock to my younger sisters, who are now both pursuing higher education to become a teacher and a nurse. This has influenced me to serve as a role model to youth."
At ODU, McCarthy is leading the first recruitment of a new chapter of Omega Phi Alpha, a national service sorority that focuses on service, leadership and sisterhood.
After graduation McCarthy plans to pursue educational leadership to work as a secondary administrator.