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Pingree Grove, Ill. College Grad Wins Nationwide Competition
Will Sing National Anthem at Ashford University Commencement Ceremony on May 5

Thousands of Ashford University graduates and guests from across the country will be at the commencement ceremony on May 5. Only one will perform the national anthem.

Leanne Leite, earning a bachelor of arts degree in business administration, is the winner of a nationwide Ashford University competition to open the graduation event with her rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.

Students submitted audition videos which were then evaluated by the Ashford University commencement committee for clarity, musicality, melody, intervals and ease in relating to the audience. Top selections were posted to the Ashford University Facebook page where students, alumni and guests voted for their favorite. Leite garnered the most "likes."

Leite, 28, began singing when she was only three years old. "I’ve been singing most of my life,”

said Leite. “From church choir to early college years, I was always in some form of organized choral group. It’s just something I love to do.”

When Leite heard about the competition to sing at the Ashford University commencement, she instantly decided to participate. "Ten years ago I sang the national anthem at my high school graduation so, when I learned about the contest, I knew I had to enter. I just thought it would be the coolest thing to sing at both of my graduations. I’m so honored to have been chosen by the school and my peers,” said Leite.

A non-traditional student, Leite took online classes while working full time at a local Chase Bank and taking care of her three children, Addison, 5, Kayla, 3 and Aubrey, 9 months. She plans to utilize her degree to advance her professional career and move into a management position.

Leite, who has never been to the Ashford University campus, will be traveling to Clinton, Iowa for the very first time. She looks forward to experiencing the traditional campus and sharing the accomplishments with her husband of eight years, Stephen, her children, friends and fans. No doubt, it will be a proud occasion when she takes the stage to not only sing, but to also don a cap and gown and receive her diploma.

To view Leanne Leite’s award-winning national anthem audition video, go to:


About Ashford University

Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.