Ashley Thomas

Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2016
Double major in Criminology and Psychology
Wakefield High School 2010

"I am motivated by being the first not to get pregnant at a young age, the first to graduate from high school with an advanced diploma, the first to go to college and get a degree and the first to make a change in the Thomas family." With extra financial support from POE, Ashley made the Dean's List her senior year and is following her dream of becoming a forensic psychologist.

Ashley recently expressed her gratitude to POE. "Applying to the Pursuit of Excellence scholarship program has helped me immensely. It was not just a scholarship program to me, I had more of a personal experience. Since my family situation is not ideal, they became my backbone, my support. They believed in me when no one else did, they were even there when I was getting unmotivated and had doubt. I believe POE sees the potential in the underdogs, therefore they aim to provide support in reaching your dreams."  Below is Ashley’s essay she wrote when applying to POE.

“At four years old, I was taken to the park once by my parents. They told me, ‘Ashley, go and play, don't go anywhere else because we will be right here the whole time.’ I was ordered to keep my mouth shut or something bad would happen to me. I was in an unfamiliar place where people were loud and rude. If I was in their way, they would push me. I felt scared and uncomfortable. To me, they looked dangerous. I went to go play by myself. As the day went by, I became very hungry and my parents were nowhere to be found! It got dark and I got hungrier. It got cold. I got more scared. I went and hid in the tube that they had at the park because all the kids my age had left. A group of teenagers were talking as I was in the tube. I heard scary sounds. I remembered those sounds from a television show. They were guns popping off from random directions. Instead of playing with kids my age, I had to be alone. I was forgotten in a park while my parents and their friends were doing drugs and getting drunk.

At 6 years old, I was living with my grandparents along with my uncle, aunt, sister, and father. Then November 8th, 1998 came. It seemed like a normal Sunday. I would wake up to the smell of my grandparents making breakfast. Then I would go play with my aunt, uncle, and sister. My dad would stay downstairs. I would check on him every few minutes. By this time, I believed my dad was clear of drugs. My mom was living in D.C. and because of her drug history, she was, and still is, not allowed to take care of my sister and me. Worried about my dad, I went to check on him and things didn't seem right. I would see my dad fall in and out of life. His eyes were so low I think he couldn't see me. I said, ‘Daddy, Daddy, are you okay?’ No response. He was sitting on the floor and I was on his lap trying to keep him alive. He wouldn't respond so I propped his head on a pillow thinking it would help him breathe, then I said, "Stay in there, dad, I love you, don't go!" I ran as fast as I could to get some help. I said, ‘Help! My dad is dying!" My father died in front of me. I was taken in by the most controlling woman I have ever met, my grandmother. I joined sports, clubs, and leadership roles so I could stay out of the house and escape all the verbal abuse. ‘Can I go to the school play?" "WHEN YOU'RE 18, YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!’ ‘I have so much homework to do, can I skip church tonight?’ ‘YOU NEED TO SERVE JEHOVAH. DON'T WORRY ABOUT GETTING A DEGREE BECAUSE MANY PEOPLE AREN'T GETTING THE JOBS THEY WANT. THEY ARE WORKING AT TACO BELL AND SUCH. ‘Can I walk the dog?’ ‘YOU'RE NOT 18. IF YOU WALK THE DOG, IMMA' CALL THE COPS ON YOU AND GET YOU TAKEN AWAY!’

I take care of my now 80 year-old grandmother who is my guardian. I clean the house and go to church, etc. I am always busy.  When I get home, I'm so busy to the point that the only way I could do my homework would be in school. It is my responsibility to take care of the financial problems we had, so I had to get a job.  My grandma would pick church over school and homework; but I'm still able to maintain a C average. Since my family has nothing to be proud of, I hope I can finally be the one they can talk highly of. I believe there is no excuse for people who do nothing in their life. I have endured many hardships, including negative messages, such as, ‘You are the ugliest and fattest kid ever!’ I continue to fight for what I want and what I think is right. Though I have been through a lot as a kid, I am happy my grandma took me in because if she didn't, I don't know where I would be at this point. My life has been an experience I will never forget and it has made me who I am today.

Having the opportunity to continue my education at a school would be an honor and a blessing. This will provide an opportunity to get a bachelors degree in psychology and criminal justice so I can be eligible for my career choices- a humane law enforcement officer or a forensic psychologist.  Both of these careers tend to those who do not have a voice. I feel like I was put on this earth to help out those in need and by attending college, I am a step closer to my goal. I really don't have the support to continue my education but being the first not to get pregnant at a young age, the first to graduate from high school with an advanced diploma, the first to go to college and get a degree and the first to make a change in the Thomas family keeps me motivated.”

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