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Miss Kansas’ Teen 2023 stresses the importance of promoting good mental health

Beth Golay
Miss Kansas’ Teen 2023, Erin Rolfe, in lobby next to KMUW radio station. The 17-year-old will make an appearances across Kansas promoting mental wellness. Rolfe will compete in the Miss America’s Teen early next year.

Miss Kansas’ Teen 2023 Erin Rolfe uses her platform to promote mental health.

A 17-year-old pageant winner named Erin Rolfe is on a mission to uplift mental wellness across Kansas. She received a proclamation from the City of Wichita on Tuesday recognizing June 11 as Minority Mental Health Day. For this edition of In The Mix, Carla Eckels sat down with Rolfe to talk about the importance of promoting good mental health.

Interview Highlights

What was it like when they put that crown on your head?

I was in such a state of shock, I think back on it. And it's just like, wow. My jaw, if you see the video from when I was crowned, I was literally on the floor. I was so excited and it was really amazing just to see all my hard work come to fruition and really just to be able to have the crown is such an honor.

Share a bit about yourself.

Courtesy photo
Rolfe was awarded $6,500 in cash scholarships from the competition to apply toward her education.

I'm Miss Kansas’ Teen 2023; I was just crowned in March and it's been so much fun so far. I've done a lot of different things ... I sing and perform for my talent; I sang a classical operatic piece. I'm going to be a rising senior at Wichita Collegiate School, and I play soccer.

Your community service initiative is Mental Wellness. It starts with you. Why did you choose to focus on mental wellness?

My community service initiative comes from me having anxiety and how music and singing and performing has been an outlet for me to really help with that. So I encourage you to find an outlet or activity that can help you stay mentally happy and healthy as well. Whether that be riding a bike, watching a movie, going for a walk, just something that can help you in those times that are stressful.

You are a 4.0 student at Wichita Collegiate, you are proficient in French, and you love to play soccer ... and you are classically trained. Is there a certain kind of music that influences you? What do you do to maintain your own self-care?

I love all types of music and just performing is my favorite thing ever! I'm going to be in a couple of shows this summer I'm doing a lot of stuff with Music Theater Wichita, and I love to sing opera as well which is very unique — I think it's sometimes a forgotten gem. Also, I love pop, I love R&B — I love it all. I sometimes go for runs, just listening to music is a great way for me to clear my mind and help me with my mental health.

Let's talk some more about your platform.

Recently, I went up to Johnson County at the National Alliance for Mental Illness Walk, where I got to talk about my platform and how mental health is important for everyone. And then I also hosted a fashion show at a local senior home because during my research about mental health, I've learned that a lot of seniors experience depression and anxiety, especially those in senior homes. So we went in — me and a few of the other girls I competed with — and we did a fashion show just to kind of brighten up their day. ...I just hosted a benefit concert at the Botanica Gardens a few weeks ago and all the funds raised from the concert went to local mental health organizations. And it was really fun to kind of connect my community service initiative with music ... as well as raising funds for mental health organizations.

It's National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and I'm curious because a lot of times African Americans really feel like there's a stigma with mental health care and may not seek treatment. What are your thoughts about that?

Yes, mental health is important for everyone and it's really important to understand that it's okay to not be okay. And if you need to reach out for help, it's okay to do that. Whether it be to a friend or a family member or a teacher — whoever you feel comfortable ... talking to about it. It's important that every single person is taking care of themselves and their mental health when they need to.

Courtesy photo
Erin Rolfe, Miss Kansas' Teen 2023, talks with seniors after the fashion show she hosted.

You recently received a proclamation from the City of Wichita.

Yes, the proclamation was to make July 11 Minority Mental Health Day for this year, and it happened with the Wichita City Council. It was very rewarding to spread awareness about minority mental health because a lot of minorities struggle with mental health and sometimes there can be a stigma around it so, it's really important to make people aware.

How are you preparing to compete in Miss America's Teen pageant?

I've been doing mock interviews every Monday to get back into the groove of interviewing and making sure I'm going to be right on track for Miss America's Teen. I've also been meeting with our gown sponsor, Small Town Couture in Pratt. We've been working on figuring out a gown and talking about my community initiative because we are really trying to take it to the next level and also picking out my talent song is a big thing, and really trying to make sure I'm going to be prepared.

Who influences you?

My parents [John and Felicia Rolfe] are one of the biggest influences in my life. They've taught me so ... many life lessons. One of the things is to treat others how you want to be treated and to be kind to everyone, no matter who they are where they come from.

You are heading into your senior year and visiting colleges this summer including in New York. What do you say to all the young girls who aspire to do what you are doing?

Just go for whatever you desire. That's one of things that I have done. Sometimes it can be scary to try new things and to take risks but that's one of the things that's benefited me the most is like auditioning for stuff and really going big — going big or going home, really [Laughs].

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.