BLOG: Spread Your Wings and FLY
Written by Ashley Vollrath, Miss Virginia USA 2018 Contestant
Imagine, if you will, a tall, lanky and awkward girl understandably unaware of how much she truly means to the world. Most of us would agree these adjectives describe millions of teenage girls worldwide. Adolescence could be described as difficult by most, and coming from a girl who spent years doubting herself I feel difficult is an understatement. We each encounter moments in our lives when we contemplate self-worth and personal value, some later than others. As humans we encounter 70,000 thoughts in one day, yes I said 70,000, and about 80% of those are negative. Teenagers in today's society, especially when considering social media and technological advances, face negativity more than ever before.
Growing up I encountered several hardships, let’s face it, who doesn't? As a product of teenage pregnancy my mom and I were forced to grow up together. I lived in 3 different states before I had turned 4 years old due to my mom’s military responsibilities and experienced divorce first hand. My struggle with academics began in kindergarten. It’s hard to understand how one might fail finger painting, and basic addition, but I was not up to par with all of my peers. I failed kindergarten and experienced defeat at just five years old. You heard me right, I failed kindergarten! When I mention this now most people laugh, and more often than not, my response is "yeah, I must not have understood Sesame Street like most my friends." Understandably, deep down I felt like a failure, and I knew it was more than just not understanding Sesame Street. As a 22-year-old college student I look back on all of the obstacles I faced. The jokes were often used to hide my lack of confidence.
After failing kindergarten, I found myself in countless doctors’ offices. I was tested over and over for learning disabilities and it was eventually determined that I had a mild form of Dyscalculia. Although the severity of my problem was considered very mild, the diagnosis gave me an understanding why I had struggled so early on. Over time I have learned to adapt but I have never really felt as academically gifted as many of my peers. After many years of fighting for below average grades in high school I began the college application process. While discussing my options post-graduation my high school guidance counselor actually said to me, "Ashley, I don't think you will ever get into a four-year university." Her words hit me like a ton of bricks, but that discussion could be considered one of the most impactful moments of my entire life. Looking back, I am thankful for that moment, although it was tough to hear. It was at that moment that I decided to prove her wrong, and it was at that moment that I decided it was never too late. Three years later I am now attending one of the top schools in the state of Virginia, Virginia Tech, where I will be receiving my degree in multimedia journalism with a minor in international studies this coming spring with a 3.2 GPA. My grades are still seemingly average but I have worked very hard to receive them. I thank God every single day that I began believing in myself, even when others didn’t, and never gave up. As C.S. Lewis once said, “hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destinations,” and I believe this quote 100%.
It is my dream to land a job, post-graduation, as a sports broadcaster, in a large market, bringing sports content to the television screen every night. It is my motto that “our past can create colorful futures.” Thanks to my hard work and amazing education at Virginia Tech, I was offered an internship in sports broadcasting relocating me temporarily to Boston, MA this summer. I will be competing for my dream job of Miss Virginia, USA this year, and my initiative is to inspire teenagers to never ever give up, no matter what hand they have been dealt. My campaign, "Spread Your Wings and F(forever)- L(love)- Y(yourself),” is meant to encourage and motivate teens to reach for the stars and never let anyone get in their way by (F)orever (L)oving (Y)ourself. I hope to reach as many teenagers as possible, sharing my struggle to success story, while encouraging them to never give up. The joy is truly in the journey.