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Ashley Badis with her ESPY award
(Photo courtesy: ESPN)

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa student Ashley Badis was honored at the 2023 ESPY awards, held annually by ESPN to honor the top athletes, executives and communities in sports.

Ashley Badis on stage with other ESPY Youth Leadership Award winners
(Photo courtesy: ESPN)

Badis received the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award for her fight for equity in womenʻs high school sports. The School of Life Sciences senior is one of four plaintiffs in a Title IX lawsuit filed against the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education in December 2018, which accuses James Campbell High School and the Oʻahu Interscholastic Association of discrimination against female athletes.

Badis swam and played water polo all four of her years at Campbell High and graduated in 2019. Badis said she and her teammates faced a range of discrimination and unfair conditions compared to their male counterparts. The lawsuit is not seeking damages, but accountability and lasting change for future high school female athletes.

The leadership award, named after the former women’s tennis great, celebrates King’s commitment to leadership and service, and honors high school and college students who use sports to improve their communities. Badis, one of three honorees in 2023, received a one-time college scholarship or a grant to an eligible nonprofit aligned with their work.

“The best way I can describe it was just surreal,” Badis said. “It was such an honor to be on stage receiving an ESPY alongside the top athletes—on the same stage as people getting honored with the other humanitarian awards. Everyone that I met was so amazing and inspirational.”

Focus on future equity placed in spotlight

In October 2022, Badis was featured in a New York Times article about the lawsuit because of its potential national impact. A federal judge had ruled in July 2022 that the case could proceed as a class action suit.

Badis continues her work to increase gender equity in school sports. She recently assisted the Aspen Institute and Society Program with its School Sports Equity Toolkit. The toolkit includes strategies for advocacy, action and change.

Currently pursuing a degree in biology in a pre-medical track at UH Mānoa, Badis hopes to stay in Hawaiʻi and possibly attend the UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine.

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