Bachelor of Arts in Social Science, 2009
Restaurant Supervisor and Aspiring Art Curator Assistant
"It is always possible, at any age, to begin living the type of lives that we have all imagined for ourselves."
Ashley Randazzo grew up in a small mountain town in Northern California with her mom and two older brothers. From an early age, Ashley was fascinated with the world and hooked on school. Her passion for learning and discovering the world around her kept her active and bright.
But it was also commonplace for Ashley to stand in line with her mom at the local food bank to receive anything edible they could offer. Working three jobs to support her three children, Ashley's mom did what she could to provide for her family, but it was often too much for her. She turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with her disappointment, her depression and to get over the succession of abusive relationships she found herself in. "Those days were so lonely," Ashley recounts. "I remember having the feeling of being askew from the rest of the world that I knew. I would go to school and listen to other children's stories about spending time with their parents. I wondered if because my family never played board games or had family outings together that it meant I was somehow abnormal, that I led a less meaningful life than the kid with the snack pack in her lunch. Seems silly now to have ever doubted my family and for having been so concerned about fitting in with a world that was really no better than mine, just different."
This remarkable attitude from this remarkable 21 year old woman has helped guide her to Ashford University where she is pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Social Science with an emphasis in psychology and a pathway to teacher certification.
Her journey to Ashford University hasn't been easy, but it's been filled with life lessons that many people never learn. "I lied on a work permit when I was 12 to get a job as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant. I worked there for more than a year and one evening, a young child waved at me innocently showing me her missing front tooth. Her mother scoffed in disgust at my meager appearance and told her daughter not to talk to the help.' I could have been angry at this women's remark, but I wasn't, in fact I thanked her and quit that same night. I decided that I would not succumb to merely existing, but would rather succeed past anyone else's expectations and thrive in the life I was given. Although I always excelled in school, I never truly thought about what I wanted to be, how I wanted to contribute myself to the world, and then all of a sudden I knew, and I have never looked back. I want to be a teacher so that I can be a part of people's lives and help them to achieve their own goals of success."
To help get herself there, Ashley took a job as a caregiver for five years. "I learned about sorrow, compassion, and how to make the most of the time that we are given. It helped lead me to focus on psychology and the study of human behavior. I dedicated myself to figuring out the nature of the human condition and to pay attention to the research potential all around me, from my mother's increasing dependence on drugs to my brothers' odd sense of apathy for life, from my patients' acceptance of their nearing end to my fellow female classmates' concerns for things like lip gloss and shoes. I try not to judge, but simply try to see it through their eyes and discover why we all seem so different, yet all come from the same source: love."
Having graduated from high school and with some community college credits, Ashley began to research her higher education options. "I researched a lot of different schools and all were too expensive, too far away, and not as prestigious as I wanted for my degree. I found Ashford University and everything about it was a perfect fit. I needed to work full-time, so the online coursework was really appealing, and although Ashford is not cheap, as no college is, it is certainly more affordable than most. I received most of my help from Lisa Kenter, an enrollment advisor, who walked me through the process, answered my endless array of questions, and refused to let me fall through the financial aid system cracks."
Fortunately, Ashley was also able to transfer in all 60 of her community college credits to help accelerate her program track. And although the financial burden has, at times, been difficult to manage, Ashley knows that she is on the right path to help herself and to inspire others. "It is my hope to inspire my mother through the success of my academics by showing that even when you are told that you cannot succeed because your dreams are too great or because there is too much against you, it is still possible to create change and to conquer the fears that we shelter within ourselves, and that it is always possible, at any age, to begin living the type of lives that we have all imagined for ourselves."
Ashley hopes to eventually teach psychology and mythology in a community college setting after earning a Master's degree. "I feel a great need to serve the students attending a community college because without access to my local community college I would never have been able to pursue my academic goals."
As she nears her 6 month wedding anniversary, Ashley counts on the support of her husband to maintain her drive to achieve success. She finds that one of her greatest challenges is to not get overwhelmed with all the activity in her life. "I work as a customer service representative 40 hours a week and I have my husband and family that I must care for, and then I have my school to do. I enjoy the busy-ness of it all, but I must continually reassess my priorities and remember to stop and just breathe for a moment and maybe enjoy the sunshine (or the rain)."
The determination and perseverance of Ashley Randazzo is something to be admired and encouraged. She has taken the opportunity of education, despite her challenging childhood, to create the world she wants to be part of. "I have learned to not only hope for a better world, but to be the one who is working to create it. To all those who consider Ashford University to help them achieve their goals I implore you to do so, as it is only when we choose to further ourselves that we can affect the outside world in a meaningful way. I promise that if you want it bad enough, you will always surpass your own expectations."
Ashley is now 24 and lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She graduated with her Bachelor's degree from Ashford University in November 2009, and she has received promotions at work since then. She is currently a supervisor for Starbucks, and has also joined a performing arts troop called "The Philadelphia Experiment," where she performs as a fire spinner. Ashley has also begun to research apprenticeships so that she can become a curator assistant at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.