Crusader spirit captures a girl’s heart

Carrying a gift bag full of flower seeds, fertilizer and candy, the “Miracle Girl” walked off the stage and back to her seat. Welcome Week was over, but her new journey as a Crusader had just begun.

Alexis Smith, a freshman at UMHB this year, had an unconventional start to her college experience. What began as a short visit with a friend became a life-changing decision.

Initially, Smith came as moral support for her best friend and fellow freshman, Alexa Billington. The two attended the Welcome Week kick-off together and met Billington’s “family” for the week.

The Hardy Party family welcomed the two girls, oblivious to the fact that only one was a student.

From left to right: Freshmen Alexis Smith and Alexa Billington enjoy a moment together outside of Burt Hall. Smith transferred from ACC. Photo by Katelyn Holm/The Bells.

It was that first night at the university that convinced Smith UMHB was where she belonged.

“I just came with Alexa to help her set up her room,” Smith explained. “But the night I met everyone, the freshmen and our leaders, I just felt so comfortable. Everyone was so nice and friendly. I didn’t tell anyone I wasn’t a student. No one asked. We weren’t trying to keep it a secret. We just avoided it.”

After such a good impression, Smith decided she wanted to join her best friend at the university.

The pair wasted no time, exhausting all options in order to secure Smith a spot in the 2012-2013 school year.

Smith said, “It was the most productive day of our lives. We were sprinting back and forth from financial aid, Hardy, everywhere. I was calling my mom between, updating her on everything going on…. It was so fast. I didn’t really have a time with my family like I would have wanted because I moved in the next day.”

Not only was Smith able to enroll just days before the start of school, she was also able to room with Billington, who explained how God orchestrated each step of the process.

Billington said, “My first roommate wasn’t even old enough to be in college. She had one more year of high school to complete. Then right before school started, my next roommate texted me and said that she couldn’t come. After two failed roommate situations, I was alone. Then Alexis came. It was completely God’s will that she is here now. Everything worked out so perfectly.”

Senior public relations major and co-director of Welcome Week Brooke Morgan heard about the story and couldn’t help telling the rest of the steering committee.

Morgan said, “You could just see the smiles light up on each of our faces when we found out because that was exactly what we wanted to accomplish during Welcome Week. For us, the purpose was for every incoming student to not only enjoy Welcome Week but also to feel a sense of belonging and to start forming the friendships they would have for the rest of their college years and after.”

Morgan continued to express her graditude toward Alexis’ change of heart.

“I’m so happy that Welcome Week caused this life-changing event. We are so glad Alexis decided to stay at UMHB and start her college career off this semester. We put on Welcome Week every year, but to actually hear a story like this just makes all of the hard work worth it,” she said.

Smith’s mother, Robin Smith, supported her daughter through the entire process. She didn’t doubt Alexis because she, too, thought UMHB was the place to be.

Robin Smith said, “It was just like an answer to prayer. I cried, of course, but it was tears of joy. I am just so happy that Alexis is at UMHB.”

After those first few hectic days of moving and decision making, Smith stands firm in her decision to transfer. Now that everyone knows her story, she feels somewhat like a celebrity on campus.

“Everyone knows me as the Miracle Girl now. I love it,” she said.

Billington, too, said that she will remember the experience forever.

“I’m just so happy that I live with my best friend. We are Crusaders for life.”

Author: Katelyn Holm

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