Ashton Martin stands at a podium to give a speech.

Ashton Martin ’20 speaks during the 2019 Fall Banquet

Many Morehead-Cains embrace unexpected journeys during their careers as scholars and alumni. Take Ashton Martin ’20, for example. She never imagined becoming Student Body President.

The Roxboro, North Carolina, native is modest about her leadership skills and honest about her mistakes. It was Ashton’s friends who saw her drive to help other students and urged her to run for office. So while some students spend years mapping out their Student Body President campaigns, she decided to run only days before the race started.

The rest is history.

Now Ashton’s Carolina story includes creating a peer support network as part of a mental health initiative on campus, working to make textbook prices more affordable for students, and installing a polling place to make voting more accessible for students, faculty, and staff. That’s in addition to the typical stuff: Coker Aboretum on a spring day, the crunching of leaves underneath her feet in the fall, and the thrill of the 2017 men’s basketball national championship.

“I wouldn’t have been able to come here without the Morehead-Cain,” Ashton said. “None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for them.”

Ashton is grateful, lighthearted, and funny. She is also serious. She knows she has an opportunity to make a difference.

“People should be unafraid to do the right thing, even if that means choosing the more difficult or unpopular path,” Ashton said. “And once you make that decision, you need to stand by it.”

Ashton’s life as student body president pulls her in every direction. With a mile-high stack of bills to sign and a long list of commitments, she sometimes wishes she could retreat to her first Morehead-Cain summer with the National Outdoor Leadership School. The idea of sitting in nature offers a sharp contrast to her busy life as a student leader.

But her work—and the Carolina blue walls of her office—snap her back to reality. That, and the promise of good that’s yet to come.

“Being a Tar Heel really means taking every opportunity that comes my way because this is the greatest place on earth.”