Ashley Horrill recalls her big debut as Miss Kiss My Grass. The Fruitvale resident who went on to be crowned Miss Trail Princess in 2012 not only had to master a speech in front of a crowd but heels and a dress.
The prospective BC Ambassador candidate is now giving back to the program that gave her a start. Her volunteer commitment kicks off tonight when this year’s Trail Ambassador candidates take to the stage for the first time to introduce themselves, their sponsors and receive their official banners and tiaras. Horrill will be on hand to introduce Keandra Billingsley, Trynity Turnbull, Caïa Gagnon, Naomi Savage, Nicole Johnson and Hannah Flickat at the event that starts at 7 p.m. at the KP Hall.
“There is a connection that develops between the candidates and the sponsors and it’s just nice to watch,” said the 20-year-old.
Her connection continues now that the Trail Ambassador Program is sponsoring her bid to become a provincial ambassador.
This will be Trail’s third ambassador to go after the higher title with Carley Henniger and Cheyanne Friess winning the provincial title in 2012 and 2014 respectively.
The B.C. program is open to young men or women between 17 and 24 years old who have held an ambassador or royal title in the province.
The program promotes motivation, self-esteem and education with money fundraised awarded to candidates through bursaries. Program organizers also go after post-secondary scholarships at appropriate schools based on studies of interest.
Horrill works at Ricki’s in Waneta Plaza and does substitute work at Beaver Valley Nursery, all while attending Selkirk College’s Early Childhood Education program. She aspires to go back to school and earn her inclusive care certificate so she can work with children who have special needs before going after a degree in child and youth care.
“I just want to boost my confidence even more and just be even more a part of the Greater Trail community,” she said. “I really love this area, and I feel like just having it recognized at a provincial level through somebody who wants to promote it is very important, and it could actually bring people in.”
After she officially is launched into the program in April, Horrill will be out wearing her recognizable banner that will note her candidacy. She plans on volunteering and prepping for pageant week, where she’ll be quizzed on general knowledge of B.C. and current events, and expected to do a speech about herself, her community and set up a table on Trail to further entice and educate people on where she’s from.
“After I retired from being Trail’s princess in 2013 I made the decision that it’s something that I really wanted to do because it’s an opportunity that not a lot of people get to have and I was just lucky enough to have this amazing opportunity,” she said.
“Right now I’m just in it for the experience. I mean it would be great if I’m crowned BC Ambassador but I’m not focused on winning, I just want to do a good job and represent Trail once again and see where it goes.”
The journey is the best part of the process; she said, recalling what she gained from the local program. She entered as a shy teen who never even tried on a dress or walked in heels and exited a crowned, poised young leader. She’s having a hard time believing she’s back at it now, even if it’s just on the sidelines in a mentor role.
“I feel like I’m so old now compared to the girls who are running,” she shared. “But I know some of the girls who are the ambassadors (Timberlyn Miles, Gina Oostlander and Serena Deadmarsh) and I know some of the girls who are running now and I just adore them.
“I think they are fabulous, and I just love that I can be that person who can come in and say, ‘Hey, this program helped me and I know it’s going to help you.’”
Horrill said the Trail Ambassador progrm pointed her in the right direction and gave her the confidence needed to represent her community.
“It’s definitely not a beauty pageant because we learn so much more, we learn how to carry ourselves and present ourselves and to just be confident and accept ourselves for who we are,” she said. “And we develop a sense of positive body image.”
Her passion continues to be working with young girls on developing a positive outlook. She continues to work with the Trail chapter of I AM THAT GIRL and she intends to focus some volunteer effort on the group as part of her bid for the provincial title.
I AM THAT GIRL helps girls transform self-doubt into self-love by providing a safe space to connect and have honest conversations about things that matter.
“My work with the group has really been life changing,” admits Horrill. “I feel like it’s affected me the same way but also in a different way than the Trail Ambassador Program has.”
She waits eagerly to do the honours of introducing this year’s candidates and to officially announce running for BC Ambassador.
Trail Ambassador program coordinator Michelle Epp wishes people could see the candidates’ progress in terms of confidence and public speaking. She is eager for the debut which really sets the program in motion.
“The girls are usually feeling either nervous or excited at this stage,” she said. “They would probably tell you that they’re not ready, but they will blow themselves away on Friday night.”