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Erika was born and raised in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and graduated from Urbana High School. Having grown up surrounded by the Orange and Blue, Erika decided to attend college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she majored in Political Science. She graduated from the U of I in 2001 as a Phi Beta Kappa inductee and a Chancellor’s Scholar.
Erika then applied to and was accepted by several law schools, including Harvard Law School. Lacking the funds, however, to pay for law school, Erika decided to compete in the Miss America Organization to attempt to earn the scholarship money necessary to pay for law school. Erika went on to be crowned Miss Illinois 2002 and Miss America 2003, earning thousands of dollars in scholarships along the way. Upon graduating from law school, Erika worked as an attorney in the litigation groups of Sidley Austin LLP and Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C. Erika currently is an attorney at Meyer Capel, Champaign County’s largest law firm. Erika also serves on the board of directors of Prison Fellowship, the national outreach to prisoners and their families founded by the late Chuck Colson. Erika has presented faith-based messages in prisons such as Louisiana State Penitentiary (the men’s maximum security prison also known as “Angola”) and Central California Women's Facility, speaking to women on California’s death row. Additionally, Erika is a spokesperson for Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree, a program that provides Christmas gifts to children who have an incarcerated parent. Erika was honored by Athena International as its 2011 Global ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award Recipient. Erika lives in Urbana and is the doting Auntie of one adorable niece and two high-energy nephews.
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