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Asha Dawkins, a 16-year-old junior at Mauldin High School, really is amazing – and she has proof.

Asha was recently named South Carolina Miss Amazing Teen, and in just a few weeks, she will represent the state at the 2018 National Miss Amazing Pageant in Chicago. The program’s mission is to provide opportunities for girls and women with disabilities to build self-confidence through the skills learned in pageantry.

Life is not without challenges for Asha, but her parents, Robert and Janice Dawkins, have always supported her efforts to challenge herself and live without limits.

“She was diagnosed at 3 years old with autism,” Janice Dawkins said. “She’s very active in different sports with Special Olympics, in basketball and swimming. She has also been invited to be on Mauldin High School’s swim team this year.”

Off the field and out of the pool, Asha excels in music. She plays clarinet, piano and drums. Asha was also part of a theater therapy program for young people with autism spectrum disorders and she took part in a play the group recently performed.

“I put her in different music classes,” Janice Dawkins said. “Some people think people with autism are savants, but she really works hard with her music. She has a determination. She never quits.”

Engaging socially can be a bigger challenge at times, but Asha gained confidence through taking part in the pageant.

“She’s very friendly, but it’s hard for her to meet kids her age,” Janice Dawkins said. “It’s good that she is able to do music and practice. That’s her biggest struggle – to find kids her age to talk with.”

The pageant really gave Asha a chance to shine.

“I liked when I went on stage and I played the clarinet,” she said. “I had on a beautiful dress.”

Asha is thrilled to be heading to Chicago and that she “did great” in the statewide pageant.

“We’re really excited about it,” Robert Dawkins said. “She put in a lot of work. We always pushed her to reach her full potential. All the kids were just fantastic. Any one of them could have represented the state. They had to talk about themselves. She seemed to take it all in stride like it was nothing. We see where hard work and perseverance pays off.”

Robert Dawkins credits his wife’s focus on Asha’s activities and therapies that have helped bring out her talents and strengths.

“My wife just never gave up,” he said. “If she couldn’t get it started here, she would go a different direction. All that hard work is paying off.”

As for Asha, her mother said she is very proud of the young woman she has become.

“She has a beautiful disposition,” she said. “She always rises above the situation.”

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