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President's Club scholar soars to new heights

Ashley Smith
July 17, 2013

After her mother lost her job and her family lost their home, Ashley Smith was left scrambling to find a place to live and a way to support herself. Left alone after her mother went to live with relatives, she began working full-time at restaurants and was forced to drop out of Scottsdale Community College.

She intended to pay off her debt before returning to school, but barely had enough to pay for living expenses. “I felt like a hamster on a wheel since I was working so hard, and felt like I was making no progress,” she says.

It wasn’t until one day at work when her boss belittled her that she realized she deserved a better life.

“I remember afterwards, I was rolling silverware, as I had thousands of times before, and feeling so frustrated by the situation because I deserved to be treated better,” Smith says. “I decided I was going to go back to school rather than just be upset. It was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back. I didn't care how hard or expensive it would be because I knew it would be worth it in the end.”

She did not have the convenience of owning a vehicle and spent days riding the light rail to Tempe in order to complete the ASU admissions process. She found help completing her FAFSA and took math refresher courses.

“I wouldn't let my debt or lack of finances be a reason to hold me back any longer. Literally within a couple weeks I had completed the application process to ASU and I couldn't be happier I did,” she says.

Smith is now soaring to new heights at Arizona State University. She received a scholarship from the ASU Foundation President’s Club, which is helping her to pursue a degree in air traffic management at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

“The more I learned, the more I knew air traffic controlling was for me,” says Smith, who had always loved the field of aviation. “I like that it is a fast-paced, challenging career that requires you to be at your best at all times.”

She is also a Barrett, The Honors College student and is a member of Women in Science and Engineering. The group recently held an event called Homeless for a Night, during which all its members slept in a box. After that experience, she started volunteering for Stand Up for Kids, which helps homeless, young adults pursue a better future. One of the homeless people who attended was someone she had worked with previously. Seeing that person there made a great impact on her life.

Being a President’s Club scholar has eased her financial worries and enhanced her confidence. It will allow her to focus on her studies and help her to maintain a 4.0 GPA. “After persevering to get to where I am today, it feels incredible to be recognized for my strengths and potential. I am going into my second year at ASU with much more confidence than my first,” she says.

While the President’s Club's primary focus is transforming education by supporting ASU President Michael M. Crow through intellectual and financial resources, the group also supports funds, separate from those directed to Crow, that provide scholarships to a select group of students.

Smith is excited to attend upcoming President’s Club events and meet its members. All have inspired her and expressed great enthusiasm about helping students. “It makes me very happy to know that there are others in my community who are so invested in the future of ASU and its students,” she says.

Patricia Oliverio-Lauderdale
ASU Foundation for A New American University