After promoting her platform "Dream Big With Ashley," which focuses on making dreams come true for people with disabilities, Ashley Moates was elected Miss Auburn 2017.
Moates, junior in communication disorders, said her platform was inspired by her family's first-hand experience with Down syndrome and how it has affected her sister.
"I had no idea this would happen, but I'm so overwhelmed and overjoyed for the support I received," Moates said. "But it wasn't for me. It was for my sister and all the people just like her that deserve to have all of the same opportunities you and I have right here at Auburn, the place we love so much. They deserve that same dream."
Faith Webb, Miss Auburn Top Five candidate, said she wanted to congratulate Ashley as she's become a friend to her since their nomination back in November.
"I'm thrilled for my sweet friend Ashley as she takes on the role of Miss Auburn," Webb said. "She's an incredible girl with a passion for students with disabilities, and I know that she'll shine her light to Auburn by advocating for their inclusion."
Webb said she's gained a new appreciation for the Auburn student body as she never felt judged for sharing the story behind her platform.
"I made lots of new friends, and I strengthened existing friendships," Webb said. "I gained perspective and an even deeper affection for Auburn and its people."
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There are several different dreams Moates said she wants to make a reality for disabled people at Auburn.
"Whether it’s leading a cheer with Auburn Cheerleaders, riding a horse alongside an Auburn Equestrian or performing alongside the Auburn University Singers, my goal is to discover their passions and make their Auburn dreams come true," Moates said. "I’ve had a passion for people with disabilities since my younger sister, Anna, was born with Down Syndrome, which has drastically impacted my life in the best way."
Moates said one thing she wanted to stress throughout her campaign was that people with disabilities are not defined by their disability.
"I want students to realize that people with disabilities are just like you and me, and that their disability is only a characteristic of who they are, not a definition," Moates said. "What better way to encourage this awareness than by increasing the frequency of interactions with these beautiful people right here on Auburn’s campus."
Speaking with other people with disabled loved ones was a standout throughout her campaign week, Moates said.
"Honestly just getting to talk to people on the concourse that came up to me and told me that they had a sister, or brother, or cousin, or next door neighbor, or someone they had known in high school, or they themselves were a special education major and that's why my platform meant so much for them," Moates said. "Other people said before my sister they'd never gotten to meet someone with a disability, and it really changed their perception, which is one of my goals for this week."
Moates said the first thing she'd like to do is connect with the people involved with Best Buddies.
"I want to work with Best Buddies to find out the dreams of everyone in Best Buddies to start out with and start making those come true," Moates said.
Her long-term goal is to create programs at Auburn to provide opportunities for people with disabilities, Moates said.
"Ultimately, I want to develop a collegiate program here at Auburn University for people with disabilities that will give them a college experience as wonderful as ours, thriving under a tailored curriculum," Moates said. "My dream is that my intelligent, talented, sassy sister Anna, and others like her will have the opportunity to achieve their ultimate Auburn dreams."
Moates said she's thankful for the amount of support she and her platform received throughout the campaign.
"I just appreciate everyone that voted for me and wanted to help make more dreams come true," Moates said.
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