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Nicole S. Rowe
Administrative Assistant, Public Relations
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This June, Maria Cahill walked into the second Miss America-affiliated pageant she’d ever participated in, and walked out Miss Delaware 2011.
Cahill, a 20-year-old Marketing major at Wilmington University, was shocked by the decision. “It was unreal, especially considering how fast everything happened,” she said. “I prepared as well as I could for Miss Delaware, but at the end of the day, you never expect to be the one left standing. It was an absolutely surreal experience.”
Her first pageant through the Miss America organization was in December, when she entered the Miss Rehoboth Beach 2011 competition, and won. “I did not know anyone when I first started doing pageants,” said Cahill. “I was contacted to do…Miss Rehoboth Beach…[and] after researching the Miss America Organization, the emphasis that was placed on scholarships and contestants’ talent really appealed to me. I competed in the pageant the next weekend and the rest is history!”
After winning Miss Rehoboth Beach, Cahill qualified for the Miss Delaware pageant. At first, the idea of competing for the coveted title was a bit nerve-racking for the novice contestant, but she was not new to the stage. Cahill is a World Championship Irish Dancer, competing nationally and internationally, already placing twice in the World Championships in Ireland and Scotland. “It was a little intimidating going up against girls that were trying for the 3rd time or had been competing in pageants for over 5 years…but at the end of the day, I was doing the best I could do, all while making friends and having fun.”
Outside of her life as Miss Delaware, Cahill is your fairly typical college student. “I am by no means a typical ‘pageant girl,’” she explains. “I eat Big Macs like it's my job, I love sports and I love video games.” Still, education is important to Cahill. College, she says, “Has taught me to be responsible for myself,” a lesson she has brought to her work as Miss Delaware.
“Education is such a huge part of the Miss Delaware Organization as well as the Miss America Organization,” she commented. “Not only do I get to speak in schools about my platform, Project 16-26: Drive Safe, Drive Smart, but I get to speak to younger children about the importance of education, true character, and being yourself. In this world that is so focused on the problems that we face, I hope to give an image that positivity in everything that we do, a good education, and a strong group of family and friends is everything.”
Cahill transferred to Wilmington University during her junior year. She was impressed by the University’s small class sizes, personalized attention; flexible schedules and various course formats. “I wanted something more personalized, and after visiting Wilmington University, I knew that this was the place for me,” says Cahill. “[Wilmington University] has allowed me to work while still attending...school. I believe that Wilmington University will help me achieve the big dreams that I have.”
With 7 brothers and sisters, Cahill knows there are a lot of learners to come. “I am the second oldest…so there are a lot of kids coming up the ranks for college,” she said. “My parents have absolutely loved what I have gotten out of Wilmington University in just one semester, so they have even joked around that none of the others have a choice in where to go. It is to Wilmington University!”
Outside the classroom, her work as Miss Delaware, and prior to that, Miss Rehoboth Beach, has impacted her greatly. “I have learned so much about myself,” she exclaims. “It started when my friend died in a car accident while texting and driving and my sister almost [died] in a car accident a couple weeks later.” This inspired Cahill to choose her platform, Project 16-26: Drive Safe, a program that concentrates on the importance of safe driving to young drivers, focusing especially on the dangers of texting and driving.
“I have learned that life is a gift,” says Cahill. “It can be taken from you at any moment. Spend each day giving of yourself, becoming a role model for others in everything that you do, and never compromising who you are for anyone.”
Maria Cahill will compete in the Miss America pageant on Saturday, January 14, 2012 in Las Vegas, NV. The event will be broadcast live on ABC.
Wilmington University wishes Maria Cahill the best of luck, and will be cheering her on with Wildcat pride!
Published: Monday, August 8, 2011 - New Castle, DE