When you grow up with a father in the military, life is anything but conventional. Yet despite moving 12 times in her 19 years of life, Miss COED 2017 semifinalist, Ashley Williams is nothing but grateful. She has an awesome boyfriend (sorry, guys), a supportive family, plays piano, and even speaks Japanese. Say what?!
The sophomore at Creighton University in Nebraska is studying English and Secondary Education. Her dream is to become a high school English teacher, then a professor at a university, then the president of a university, and eventually the Secretary of Education for the Department of Education. Damn. The girl’s got goals.
Read on below to find out more about Ashley’s fascinating life, and be sure to check back daily as we get to know each of our semifinalists a bit better.
Special thank you to Ashley’s father for serving our country and others who are currently serving or have served our nation.
If you could travel anywhere in the world for Spring Break, where would you go?
I would love to travel to Queenstown, New Zealand to ride the world’s longest zip line, hike mountains, go windsurfing, explore caves, bungee jump, and so much more! They don’t call it the “Adventure Capital of the World” for nothing!
Who do you look up to most and why?
I look up to my mom and dad the most. I look up to my mom because she’s the strongest and most selfless person I know; she’s shown me through her perseverance that I can do anything I set my mind to and that it’s okay to pursue the uncertain if you’re passionate about it. I look up to my dad because he genuinely cares about people whether he’s known them since childhood or met them that day; he’s shown me how one single encounter can change a person’s life and that it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of you as long as when you look in the mirror you’re proud of the person you’ve become. Please read the Man in the Glass poem; it’s eye-opening and life changing.
Give your BFF a shoutout! What’s his/her name and how long have you been besties?
It might seem cliche, but my boyfriend, Tanner is my best friend. We met as seniors in high school (I was a transfer student), and we clicked instantly! We met on September 11, 2014 and started dating on March 27, 2015; it’s been 810 days since we met and we’ve been dating for 611 days and we’ve been best friends since day one together. I’ll get sappy for a second and say: Tanner, we’ve stuck together through thick and thin, but there’s no one I’d rather go through all that with than you. I love you!
Do you have any secret talents?
I don’t know if you’d call them secret talents, but I play piano and I can speak Japanese. I don’t play piano for people specifically, mainly as a stress reliever and to have fun with my dad when I’m home. I grew up listening to him play piano. As for speaking Japanese, I’ve lived in Japan for six years so naturally I picked it up and fell in love with the culture; the reason why it’s kind of a secret is because now that I’m back in the U.S., not too many people I know speak Japanese, so I don’t get to display that I can speak it. However, I still talk with all my friends back in Japan!
What’s your most memorable moment at school?
My most memorable moment here at Creighton has been watching our #22 ranked Bluejays defeat the #9 ranked Wisconsin Badgers! Craziest basketball game I’ve ever seen in person, and I honestly don’t have the words to give it the proper recognition. All I can say is, ‘Go Jays!’
While chatting with Ashley, she made a good point that it wasn’t just her father who is serving in the Air Force, but the entire family. Each member has to sacrifice while another member is deployed, and it’s important to not only acknowledge her father for his bravery, but to acknowledge hers, her sister’s, and her mother’s as well. As a result, she is an advocate for the Wounded Warrior Program, specifically, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, which helps both service men and women and their families with whatever it is they may need.
What exactly is the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, and how did you first get involved?
This is directly from their website: “The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2) is a Congressionally-mandated, federally-funded program that provides personalized care, services, and advocacy to seriously or very seriously wounded, ill or injured Total Force recovering service members and their caregivers and families. AFW2 focuses on specific personal and family needs and includes programs that cover a gamut of situations throughout the recovery process and beyond.”
As an Air Force Brat, does this organization hold a special place in your heart?
I’ve been an Air Force brat my whole life, and I’m eternally grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given thanks to traveling all over the world. There is no limit to the amount of recognition and appreciation the members of the Armed Forces deserve, and from the bottom of my heart, all of them are my heroes. Without them, I’d never be able to travel the world, meet people from all backgrounds, connect with other cultures, go to college, become a teacher, and most importantly, I wouldn’t be able to sit down to have a peaceful meal with my family. They give so much of themselves that I truly believe there is nothing we can do to fully repay them for their selflessness and sacrifices; AFW2 is a good start for repaying them for their service.
What’s your favorite part about the organization?
My favorite part about AFW2 is that the program not only takes care of the military member, but their family too. Growing up in a military family, I realized that it isn’t just my father serving, it’s our whole family. Every time I come home for a break, my dad reminds me how proud he is of me and how he wouldn’t be where he is right now without me, my sister, and my mother. Whether it’s a military family or a “normal” family, the one word that matters is “family,” and the fact AFW2 takes the time to care for the family as a whole, is what makes me most proud to support the organization.