Lakeland Scholarship Competition Contestant Crowned Miss Polk County 2022
by James Coulter
Eryn Grace LaLonde started competing in the Miss America organization her freshmen year of high school. She and her mother were looking for scholarship opportunities when they discovered a county fair pageant with a $500 scholarship. She did not win her first year competing or even her second year. But her third year competing in 2015, she finally won Miss Manatee County’s Outstanding Teen.
Since then, her career as a pageant contestant skyrocketed. She has been awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships. These scholarships have allowed her to obtain her master’s degree in healthcare administration and pursue her PHD.
“That spiraled into everything happening today from the connections that I made, and [I have been] really falling in love with an organization that does more than promote beauty,” LaLonde said. “The organization is so giving, and you get to meet so many individuals along the journey that it is setting you up for the future.”
LaLonde was crowned Miss Polk County during its competition at the Polk Theater in Downtown Lakeland two weeks ago. She is now eligible to compete at Miss Florida 2022 this June at the RP Funding Center. If she were to win that competition, she will be able to compete in the Miss America competition in December.
Nearly two weeks after being crowned, LaLonde has already set up meetings with the Lakeland mayor, several city commissioners, and even the Honorable Sheriff Grady Judd. She has gained many sponsors to help her on her journey, from providing her facials to giving her radio show appearances, and she has high expectations moving forward.
“Marketing myself has always come easy,” she said. “I have always been out there with marketing and public relations, so I am good with marketing myself.”
As someone who has been competing in pageants since she was in high school, she has learned that the secret to success is not trying to meet the expectations of other people, but rather, to be herself and not let the opinions of others bother her.
“[At the pageant], it is only the opinion of five judges on that specific day,” she said. “I had to [determine] how can I be the best version of myself and present it to the individuals who are electing me for that title…That is what I did for Polk County. I went in as Eryn. I did not go in as [a] Miss Florida who looks like her or tried to impersonate someone that I think the organization wants. I went in as myself and own all of my accomplishments.”
Having won more than $200,000 in scholarships during her career has allowed her to attend college debt-free. She wants other girls to be awarded the same opportunity, which is why her social impact initiative is, “Operation Success, Planning and Paying for Higher Education.” Her initiative helps students apply for scholarships that are readily available and teaches them how they can better obtain them.
“So many of them are not taught how to write a resume or apply for scholarships so they don’t,” she said. “Last year, $4.1 million in scholarship funds in Southwest Florida went unawarded in scholarships, but students in Florida took out $98.3 billion in student loan debt. So, trying to make an impact on high schoolers or even college students in their 50s and 60s, and they will help you apply for scholarships and alleviate student loan debt.”
So far, she has helped students apply for more than $37,000 in scholarships. This year alone, she helped four students in sixdifferent states apply for over $200,000 in scholarships. She hopes to continue inspiring more young girls, both on and off the stage, in the near future.
“That is why I compete, it helps me to get an education debt free without taking out of my scholarship savings, and that ties into my personal platform,” she said. “[It’s] just going into schools and educating students that you don’t have to take out loans to go to college. It does not need to be expensive.”
Learn more about LaLonde on her Instagram (Eryn.LaLonde) and Facebook (Eryn LaLonde Miss Polk County 2022), and her website at: ErynLalonde.com