October 6, 2005
Cowley Student Government Association president Queen Alalah finalist
As the float carrying the five Queen Alalah finalists strolled past during the Saturday parade, 5-year-old Ashley Bland remembers telling her mother, “I want to be one of them.”
The 19-year-old Cowley College sophomore got her wish, as she is one of the five finalists for Queen Alalah LXXIV. Crowning will take place at 8 p.m. Oct. 28 in the Robert Brown Theatre on Cowley’s Arkansas City campus.
Bland, a 2004 graduate of Ponca City High School, is the daughter of June Finney Hamilton and Dr. Bill Hamilton, both of Ponca City, and Bruce and Sydney Bland of Arkansas City. Older sister Chelsea, 21, was runner-up for Queen Alalah two years ago. Her grandparents are Charles and Ida Finney of Winfield and Alice Bland of Ponca City. Step-grandparents are Bill and Claudia Hamilton of Ponca City.
Bland lived and attended school in Arkansas City until the sixth grade, when she went to Ponca City. She has grown up with Arkalalah and said she’s never missed one.
“My favorite part is the food,” said Bland, a pre-dental hygiene major. “I just like to go from vendor to vendor. I take the map with me and circle my favorite ones.”
When she was notified that she was voted one of the five finalists, Bland couldn’t believe it.
“I just was really, really excited,” she said. “I know my sister had a lot of fun with the process, and I know I’m going to.”
Bland is a busy student at Cowley. She is president of the Student Government Association, vice president of the Math & Science Club, vice president of Phi Theta Kappa, and is a member of Act One Drama Club and Campus Christian Fellowship, and is a Student Ambassador. She lives in the Kimmell Dormitory.
Bland, who plans to transfer to the University of Oklahoma and pursue a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, said she knew early in her high school career that she was going to Cowley first.
“My mom went here and worked here, and Chelsea came here and she said she had the best time and didn’t want to leave,” Bland said. “Now I don’t want to leave.”
Bland said her experience at Cowley had been rewarding.
“I’m very pleased I came here,” she said. “Just meeting new people, who are wonderful and have the same aspects as you, and getting to know the teachers on a one-on-one basis, that has been great. And knowing that all of these people care about you is wonderful.”
Bland said living on campus helped her gain a new perspective about college life.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “We have dry erase boards on our doors. I get messages all the time. I don’t think you can get the same college experience from Cowley if you don’t live in the dorms. You also learn to live with someone other than yourself.”
Bland, who likes to scrapbook, knit (her aunt taught her), and play dodgeball with friends in what Bland and her friends call the CDA (Cowley Dodgeball Association), said her mother has had the most influence on her life.
“She basically pushed me through high school and pushed me to do my best,” Bland said. “She kept on saying to get involved and you’ll have more fun. Mom’s the best.”
Since high school, Bland said she’d become more outgoing.
“I’m quicker to come out of my shell in front of people,” she said. “It’s easier to get up on stage in front of people, like at (New Student) Orientation. In high school, I was very quiet around people I didn’t know.”
Bland said she’d been to two coronations, including Chelsea’s two years ago.
“I never thought of me being up on stage as a finalist, but I guess it was kind of a hope,” Bland said. “Back when I was little and saw the candidates go by on a float, that just seemed like so much fun.”
Some Arkalalah tradition runs in Bland’s family. Her grandmother, Ida Rush Finney, was a visiting queen as Miss Otto in 1952. Her great aunt, Sandra Gammon Rush, was Miss Maple City in 1958. Her aunt Iris Finney Gladd was a Queen Alalah finalist in 1976, and her mother was in the top 10 in 1977. A cousin, Barbara Rush, was Miss Otto in the early 1990s.
Bland is looking forward to going to the parades, the carnival, and walking up town and seeing people.
“On the night of coronation, I’ll be nervous, excited, and just happy to be there,” Bland said. “I just want to have a lot of fun with all of the other candidates and to get to know them better.”