- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - The newly crowned Miss Arkansas said Sunday she plans to promote higher education during her yearlong reign to help “break the cycle of disadvantage” where it exists in her home state.

Ashton Campbell, 20, of Hindsville, was crowned Miss Arkansas on Saturday night at the Miss Arkansas Scholarship Pageant in Hot Springs. Campbell said she was competing for the first time in the pageant and did not expect to walk away with the crown.

“It was so exciting,” Campbell said. “My experience was amazing. I was trying to soak in every second.”

Campbell won a $20,000 scholarship and more than $75,000 in awards, wardrobe, transportation and gifts - resources the University of Arkansas junior said she will use to help pay for her college education and enter graduate school. She is studying business administration with a focus on resource management.

She will also represent Arkansas at the 2015 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. But Campbell said the biggest reward will be her ability to use what she has learned in the classroom to promote her platform of higher education, including colleges, universities and vocational-technical training.

“As Miss Arkansas, I’m going to be able to use that,” Campbell said.

She said she developed her platform from one of the college classes she has taken that focused on public policy and social work, where she became aware of the problem of childhood poverty.

“I thought that the best way to try to combat these situations was higher education,” Campbell said. She said obtaining the knowledge and skills needed to prepare people for good jobs will help “break the cycle of disadvantage.”

Campbell, who won Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen in 2011, said she has been involved in the Miss America program for six years. But there were still some surprises as she took part in the competitive pageant against nine other finalists for the title.

“I didn’t expect such camaraderie among the contestants,” Campbell said. “I didn’t really expect everyone to get along as well as they did.”

Campbell said the competition also provided a taste of what it will be like when she enters the business world and conducts interviews instead of responds to them.

“As a professional, I will be interviewing people for the job,” she said. “I’ll be sitting on the other side.”

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