Miss Florida pageant winner Ashley Cariño acknowledged this week that God is the reason she is where she is today.
“I was raised in the Church,” Cariño, the second runner-up of the recent Miss USA contest, shared in an interview Tuesday with CBN’s “PrayerLink.”
The Puerto Rican native, who moved to Florida when she was 5, stressed that life is about serving God despite the challenges that come our way.
“For me, God has always been my stepping stone. Religion and faith have been an important part of my life, and I know I am not where I am today if it wasn’t for Him,” the 27-year-old testified.
She added that her New Year’s resolution has always been “for God to give me new opportunities and this year, I actually asked that.”
“I had already signed up for Miss Florida USA. But instead of asking, ‘God, I want to win Miss Florida USA,’ I was just asking for opportunities,” she said. “He delivered an abundance of that.”
“God has opened doors to so many opportunities. It’s just been a whirlwind,” Cariño continued.
One of the things God has blessed Cariño with is a bigger platform to launch anti-bullying campaigns.
Cariño said she was bullied in middle school and high school because she wore a back brace due to scoliosis. But it was the love and support of her parents that got her through that difficult time. Ever since she has dedicated her platform to speaking out against bullying.
“I experienced emotional abuse — to name-calling, to pushing — and it escalated to physical abuse,” she revealed during a press conference earlier this month with the Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez addressing an incident that happened at a high school in her hometown.
“But what helped me is the support of my parents … that they didn’t chuck it up to simply child’s play. The reality is that bullying can have serious effects.”
Cariño, who works as a psychosocial rehabilitator, is partnering with Osceola County School District to implement an anti-bullying campaign in classrooms.
“Not every child has the same coping mechanism. So it is important that as parents and as teachers, we don’t just consider this child’s play or a rite of passage,” she explained. “At our school systems, we will have zero tolerance for bullying.”
With aspirations to one day work for NASA, Miss Florida, who studied aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida, was asked during the CBN interview to respond to those in the scientific field who dispute God and faith.
“Science is man-made. It’s an explanation that we’ve created for natural phenomenons. For me, science is there to test our faith. It’s definitely not there to dispute the existence of God. That is something that I always tell people … to remember that science is something that man has created for explanations as to what’s going on in the world.”
Crowned Miss Florida earlier this year, Cariño has publicly praised God for her blessings.
“I look back on my life and this past year and I can’t believe how incredibly blessed I have been,” Cariño wrote in an Instagram on her birthday in August. “Not only have I had the great fortune to share my life with my amazing family and friends, but I have been able to see this year turn my dreams into reality, and I know the best is yet to come!”
“I want to thank God for all He has done for me, for His unconditional love and outpour of blessings,” she continued. “[B]ecause of Him wherever I go my steps are sure; I don’t need sight because I walk by faith.”