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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Flyer Finds Inspiration While Inspiring Change

Araion Bradshaw, B.A. ’20, M.S. ’21, is one of the leading voices for change currently attending the University of Dayton, but she doesn’t have to look very far to find inspiration for what she does.

The second oldest of five girls all with names that start with the letter A, Bradshaw’s parents let her name her youngest sisters. That responsibility meant the girls quickly nabbed a special place in her heart. Even though they aren’t old enough to realize it yet, they help Bradshaw “keep her fires lit” and are two of the reasons Bradshaw continues to shatter ceilings and open doors for others.

“When they were born I didn’t realize how much of an impact they had on my life. ‘Oh, I have little sisters, this is cool,’” Bradshaw says. “But the more I’ve watched them grow, they’ve forced me to grow in ways that probably don’t even make sense to them. Seeing them go through school and grow I want to make sure they never have an [negative] experience that I have had or that I’ve heard of my friends having. I always feel the next generation will make a bigger impact.”

But as she has already shown, Bradshaw isn’t waiting for her sisters to make all the changes in the Flyer community and beyond.

Bradshaw is an Atlantic 10 Conference’s NCAA Woman of the Year Nominee, the reigning conference Defensive Player of the Year and helped lead the Flyers to the 2020-21 Atlantic 10 regular-season championship. Bradshaw also helped found the social justice organization Athletes Driving Change. It’s led by minority, Atlantic 10 Conference women’s basketball players and focuses on creating permanent equality by uniting female athletes across the conference.

Her hard work is just as impressive on the academic side. The 24-year-old already earned her Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Dayton in 2020, then promptly earned her master’s from UD in engineering management in 2021. This fall, she begins working on her Master of Business Administration degree and she will return to play another season of Flyer Women’s Basketball. The COVID-19 pandemic means athletes get another year of NCAA eligibility and Bradshaw isn’t one to waste opportunities.

And while she takes care of business on the court and in the classroom, Bradshaw is one of more than 400 Flyer athletes supported by donors of the Champions & Scholars Fund. Her scholarship helps make sure she gains the education she needs to turn her post-collegiate plans into reality.

“My ultimate goal is to open my own sports complex back home. I want it to be three-tiered with basketball courts on the first floor. The second floor will be for weight-lifting and the third floor is classrooms, computer areas and places for one-on-one meetings. The ultimate goal is to build the complete athlete in one place,” says Bradshaw. “I focused my degree on that sports complex. Building up what it needs to be successful and then attacking that in terms of what degrees I need to make it happen.”

Bradshaw knows she can do it even if she hasn’t seen many others who look like her do it before. And she knows her success will benefit not only her younger sisters.

“It’s not one end goal but at the end of the day I want to look back and say OK, this generation of kids knows their rights and what they can do to make a change. That whether someone likes the way they look or talk or dress, they can compete and provide representation and be the next role model for someone who thinks they could never do that,” says Bradshaw.

Clearly, Bradshaw has big goals but she is building a solid foundation to make it happen. Balancing academics, basketball and her advocacy while learning to make time for herself has taught her a lot. She’s discovered that journaling the week ahead helps keep her on track and knowing what is expected of her helps her meet expectations set by teachers, coaches and herself. She has also learned how to take a time-out.

“Judge Judy is my girl,” she says. “I love to watch stuff that isn’t my everyday thing.”

Eventually, Bradshaw will come to the end of her Flyer journey and the next stage of her future will begin. Whether it’s playing basketball overseas or beginning to build her long-awaited sports complex, Bradshaw has no doubt that her Flyer wings will take her to new heights.

As for the younger sisters watching Bradshaw burn bright, or others just like them, she has some advice.

“Who you are is more than enough for whatever you want to do … Don’t ever dim your light because that not only dims you but also the person next to you.”

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