As a child, schoolwork was not Ashley's top priority. She was more concerned about keeping her siblings fed and safe. Her perception of education changed in her teens when her foster mother enrolled her in the Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy. Now, at 19, she is a college sophomore.
Ashley shares more of her story in the animated video "Ashley: Unlocking the Road to Education."
Ashley entered the foster care system at age 7 and is still in it as part of the extended foster care program. She says that this extra period of support has helped her concentrate on her studies. She's currently majoring in health studies and is considering a minor in either psychology or business.
"I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of different people in different parts of the medical field, and to see and hear their journey," says Ashley, who considers this one of her motivations for her area of study.
Ashley's academic career benefited in part from her participation in the Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy, where, as a high school student, she was able to spend a month living on UCLA's campus while taking courses. She says that programs like this help teach youth how to navigate their way through college.
"I know a lot of friends who are in the system and they're struggling in college," she says. "But for me, I never had that experience because I was fortunate enough to be in programs like these."
Ashley is interested in pursuing nursing and giving back to the community that has helped her thrive.
"I would like to try to recruit more people for the programs that I was involved in," she says. "I would also like to become a counselor for a lot of the programs that I was involved in."
Bruin Guardian Scholar Academy: Bruin Guardian Scholar Academy supports foster youth in their educational pursuits through a multi-pronged approach. The program offers mentorship, online high school classes and a four-week residential summer session, as well as access to resources on UCLA's campus.
iFoster: A nationwide organization, iFoster offers resources and support in education and employment opportunities for young people in the foster care system. Through iFoster, youth may also acquire necessities, like glasses and computers, that might otherwise be inaccessible.