By Rob Landry | LSU Student
Changing a social cycle is always difficult to initiate, especially when that cycle deals with education.
But LSU graduate student and Miss Black Louisiana USA 2012 contestant Ashley Hebert hopes her pageant platform evokes the kind of change that she believes Louisiana's higher education system needs.
"My platform focuses on improving the state of higher education in Louisiana. Our students are failing and our government and leaders are failing the students."
Hebert, a Lafayette native, has taken a three-pronged approach to changing the state of higher education for African-Americans in the state.
• Inform people about the advantages children that have a pre-kindergarten education get. The LA 4 Pre-kindergarten Evaluation shows children enrolled in pre-K classes test one year ahead in literacy, language and math skills from children not enrolled.
• Making sure mentoring and tutoring sessions are readily available to African-American children in grades K-12.
• Getting the African-American community informed and involved in the political process and the effects it has on education through voter registration sessions.
"I know I'm only one person and I cannot, ‘change the world,'" she says. "So I'm definitely not a world peace pageant queen, but I can most definitely try."
Hebert hosted her first community service project on Oct. 16 in Baton Rouge, Named, "Get Jazzed About Reading," it was was a literacy rally and included celebrity readers, word bingo, a jazz band and information tables and sessions for parents.
In Hebert's eyes, the project was a great success.
"Education is the key and I hope to affect the life of at least one child. I was very blessed to have book donations from the LSU-NAACP Book Drive and every child was able to leave with a book."
Hebert has been involved in politics since she graduated from LSU in 2007. She began working in the Louisiana House of Representatives Fiscal Division before she joined the legislative staff of Speaker of the House, Jim Tucker.
While still working full time at the Capitol, Hebert returned to LSU in the fall of 2010 to pursue her master's in public administration at LSU. She will graduate in December.
Her work ethic has caught the eye of co-workers.
"Not a day goes by where Ashley isn't busy working on something," said Special Assistant to the Speaker Stephanie Durand. "She's always very determined and focused on her task at hand."
"I understand I can preach about how important higher education is for students, but I'm willing to bet my audience will be a tad larger if I say it with a crown on my head. And that's my purpose as queen, to use my status to make a statement and impact."