Proving that hard work and a positive attitude pay off, a Fort Worth swimmer who was once homeless is headed to the World Games in Abu Dhabi in March.
"I describe my life as blissful,” Ashton Smith said. “I describe my life as excellent."
But a year ago, she found herself visiting the homeless shelters on Lancaster Avenue for hot meals.
"The food was awesome,” she said.
Without a home of her own, she depended on friends for help, bouncing from couch to couch.
"(It was) very hard, very difficult, and very tough,” she said. “Because you didn't know where your next meal would come from or certain things you wouldn't know."
When her grandmother died, Smith lost her only form of financial support but was left with something just as important.
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"She just told me to keep at it, keep striving, and do what I can to never give up what I wanted to do, which was swimming,” Smith said.
Growing up in Waxahachie, Smith swam her whole life.
Now, with help from Fort Worth Housing Solutions, she's getting government money to pay for her own apartment.
And you'll often find her at the downtown YMCA, pushing herself for hours a day.
"I think about every time I jump in the water how can I be the best at this?” she said. “What can I do to improve my times each day?"
Last year, the 32-year-old went to Seattle to participate in the Special Olympics for people with intellectual disabilities.
She won gold.
"Yeah you want to win a medal but you also want to do your best,” she said.
And now, she's looking forward to going to the World Games in the United Arab Emirates.
"I'm very excited to represent my country,” she said.
It’s a new experience for her.
And for everyone else, it’s a lesson about hard work, persistence, and positive thinking.
"What people can learn from my experiences is to never give up on your dreams, whatever that is, your dreams and your hopes,” she said. "And always have a fighting attitude, whatever comes your way."