‘It’s just surreal’: Homecoming royalty recounts journey
After an eventful homecoming court process, journalism senior Auyana Aird and sports administration senior Austin Craig have been crowned this year’s Homecoming Queen and King.
The University’s newest royalty have different reasons for running but both are proud of their accomplishments and success, and they both hope to inspire people through their wins.
While Aird’s mom was her first supporter, last year’s Homecoming Queen Asa Lewis helped give the final push Aird needed to run.
“I started thinking about how much I love the campus and love the University,” Aird said. “I thought it’d be cool to run and represent the university in that way. And also, other people were kind of rooting for me.”
Aird’s purpose of running shifted along with her campaign when she lost her brother to suicide, as she wanted to become an advocate for mental health. Ultimately, she wants to give people a sense of belonging and help guide them toward resources that will benefit them.
“That’s one of the reasons why it was so important to me, to be able to have this platform and be put in a position to possibly help someone else because that’s the worst thing in life to go through,” Aird said.
Wanting to serve as an inspiration to others who have struggled with themselves, Craig decided to run for Homecoming King. The newly crowned king enlisted his Zeta Zeta Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. brothers to help.
“I knew that when I ran, it was going to be something bigger than myself,” Craig said.
Coming from a small town, Craig’s brothers helped guide him and get him to where he is today.
“They were so wise that I was able to take something from all their experiences,” Craig said. “I got shown the pathway, I just had to put in the work.”
As a freshman, Craig would attend UH football games and sit at the top of the bleachers, where he could look over the city and school. Remembering these moments as he was crowned homecoming king made the event feel like his life had come full-circle.
“I was shy my freshman year so being able to get to this point, it’s just surreal to me,” Craig said.
When campaigning, both Aird and Craig enjoyed the opportunity to speak to the vast community on campus.
“I started as an orientation leader in the summer so during our campaigning – the two weeks we had, I had to channel that inner spirit,” Craig said. “Being able to walk up to somebody I didn’t know and become a familiar face.”
Aird also noted the countless hours that were spent campaigning and how enjoyable it was to be able to connect with different people throughout the university. For Aird, homecoming is important because it allows current and former students to come together and reflect on how the university has helped them.
“It just feels like one big happy family and I feel like the school sets up Homecoming Week and homecoming in a way that really gives you a sense of feeling or community and family as to what UH really means, even beyond graduation,” Aird said.
For Craig, it’s more of a time for brotherhood and for alumni to help guide him.
“For me, it’s a time I get to see brothers that I haven’t seen in years,” Craig said. “Brothers who are coming back to the chapter since they left and graduated so I’ve been able to see them again and fellowship with them means a lot.”
Aird is the service chair for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. — making this the second year in a row that a member represented by the sorority has won.
Despite her heavy involvement with Alpha Kappa Alpha, Aird is also the president of the UH chapter of the Association of Black Journalists. She also holds leadership roles within CoogTV and Coog Radio, while also interning with the athletics department.
“I think what balances it out is that I enjoy doing these things and I know at the end of the day, it’s helping me,” Aird said. “Every skill I’m improving or learning is gonna help me in the long run. So these organizations now, it’s like a skill that I need before I graduate.”
Craig also has his fair share of involvement as the vice president of the Zeta Zeta Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma and working as a residential advisor, along with previously working as an orientation leader and with the football team.
“We try to provide programs and support services in terms of if they need to go to LAUNCH, CAPS, everything that encompasses the well-being of the students,” Craig said.
Although both Aird and Craig have heavy involvement with a variety of student organizations and are dedicated to helping their fellow students, their support systems and organizations helped them achieve their goals.
“I’m just grateful and overwhelmed and appreciate all the love and support,” Aird said.