“A voice for education.”
That’s how Ashli Turner hopes to be seen as she takes the stage as the Missouri Representative for the Aug. 11-12 2018 Miss Black USA pageant in Washington, D.C.
Turner, who graduated from Missouri Southern’s Criminal Justice program in 2012, says her college education is an issue that she takes very seriously.
“I was the first in my family to graduate from college,” says Turner. “In urban communities, the value in getting an education isn’t always recognized. Both of my parents dropped out of high school, so going to college is a big deal when you come from that kind of environment. It takes hard work and commitment. I want to use this platform to be the best example I could be for the teens I mentor, and others.”
The Kansas City native will fly to the nation’s capital several days early to participate in a number of appearances, including a visit with state delegates and a trip to the White House. The two-day pageant will consist of a talent show, an interview with a panel of judges, a series of on-stage questions and an evening gown and fitness competition.
Using her platform to tout the benefits of education comes in part from the pride she takes from her experiences at Missouri Southern.
Having lost her home in the 2011 tornado, she says members of the Criminal Justice faculty helped her through a very difficult time.
“I came to see them not just as instructors but as family,” she says. “It was [them] going above and beyond, and my love for Joplin really grew. I get offended when I see other colleges use a lion as their mascot.”
Turner says she has temporarily put her work on her Master’s in Criminal Justice on hold, but hopes to complete it soon. Her long-term goal is to apply for a position with the FBI.
“I tested for it once already but didn’t get in,” she says. “It’s very challenging to get in and become an agent, but that’s my ultimate goal.”
Her reign as Miss Black Missouri will come to an end this fall, and it has been a rewarding experience, she says. She has worked with the Show Me Shoes Foundation, which helps young girls in need go to prom in style. Turner has also spoken at Kansas City-area public schools and participated in events designed to give women encouragement and confidence.
“A quote I’ve always loved says that we respond best to people we can relate to, and that’s where you make your greatest impact,” Turner says.