Steve Smith continues friendship with teen he helped years ago

Steve Smith continues friendship with teen he helped years ago

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Aubrey Bridges’ Dream On 3 experience in 2016 is something hard to forget. This Gaston County high school senior had former NFL star Steve Smith take her to her prom. They ate dinner, rode in a limo, danced and, surprise, she was crowned prom queen.

Over three years later, the two are still friends.

“All these obstacles that she has been through. The high expectations her family has put on her. The fact that she has met them all. That’s how we should know her. That’s the label I think she deserves. ‘Aubrey. The Girl Who Has Overcome the Challenges’. Not ‘Aubrey. The Autistic Girl’,” Steve said when they first met.

You can find that 2016 WBTV story here.

Turns out that one night, and friendship with Steve, has continued to push Aubrey to set goals and continue to go after her future, too. I checked back in with Aubrey and asked her to send me a video update of what she’s accomplished since graduation.

“Hi, Molly. It is good to hear from you and I miss you! Since the prom, I have presented at conferences about my story and how to help students with autism,” Aubrey said.

Turns out, she has been quite busy. Not only was she accepted and graduated to Winthrop University Think College, a two-year college program for individuals with disabilities, but she has been inspiring others who live with uphill medical battles, speaking around the country about inclusion.

“I also got to go to Boston to present at the National Principals Conference for NASSP. I work at Tryon. I work in the library and put in Coke codes to raise money. I teach sign to the den class. This is a class for students with autism to be included in regular classes. I love to travel and am going to Disney,” Aubrey said.

Her friendship with Steve has never waned.

“I have volunteered at Steve Smith’s 5k race in Strike Out Domestic Violence each year since prom. I like Steve because he is fun and helped me, so I like to help him. I can’t wait to see him February 15th for Strike Out Domestic Violence,” Aubrey said.

Next week, Aubrey will also be conducting a webinar for the Milken Educator Award Organization. She’s partnering with the 2017 recipient of the award, Meghan Lefevers (Aubrey’s former teacher!), to speak on autism awareness and inclusion.

Aubrey’s volunteers at her local library by shelving books and raising funds for classroom supplies needed at Tryon Elementary School in Gaston County, and teaches a class mixed with students who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and non-disabled children. All adds up to how one special moment, and being given a shot and feeling included, can change a life forever.

To find more of our Dream On 3 stories, go to www.wbtv.com/dreamon3.

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