Ashly joined Reality Changers as a 10th grader in 2006 and graduated from Reality Changers in 2008 as a senior at Madison High School. Since then, she has stayed in touch, coming back to visit, work, or volunteer with Reality Changers when she’s in San Diego. She says, “I always felt like it was a safe space. Reality Changers has opened so many doors and opportunities for me. I’m happy to keep those friendships and be a part of its growth.”
When Ashly graduated from Madison High School she moved on to Duke University all by herself. The first day she landed in Durham was the first day she had even visited campus. It was not the move she had expected, having originally committed to UC Berkeley, but when Duke offered her a full ride it was an offer she couldn’t resist. In 2011 Ashly studied abroad in Germany, and graduated in 2012 with dual bachelor’s degrees in International Comparative Studies and German.
After graduation and working a bit back home, Ashly followed her passion for international relations and German, moving to Germany (Bavaria) to teach English with the Duke-Schondorf Exchange Program for a year. Afterwards, she transitioned to Berlin to pursue a master’s in South and Southeast Asian studies to deepen her interests in international relations. In 2021, Ashly moved back to San Diego to be with family and pursue a career change.
Ashly reflects, “Reality Changers has been and will continue to be a huge part of academic and career life. Reality Changers has always been there even beyond high school. I’m proud as a first-generation college student to have a bachelor’s and master’s degree, in addition to learning another language and gaining international experience by living in Berlin and Belfast.”
Ashly continues to make a difference, hoping to use her experiences in her next venture to highlight underrepresented voices in media and film. She says, “I’m proud of reaching goals and working for the American and Mexican embassy. I’m proud that I have learned so much and gathered so many connections, met so many people, and heard about their experiences.”
Now, she is working on securing a job in Hollywood doing Global Publicity for heavy hitting film agencies like HBO, Paramount, and Universal. In thinking about her impact and the next generation she says, “It’s so cool and inspiring to see young people reaching for their dreams and achieving even more than we were able to achieve. They are taking the tools they have and pushing themselves forward.”
When asked if it is important for Reality Changers’ work to continue, Ashly says, “Absolutely. Reality Changers helps students gain confidence and understand what the corporate and academic world is like. The biggest thing Reality Changers helped me understand is how the world works after high school and college, and It’s been pivotal. Every person in the organization has made a change in the lives of first-generation college students.”
Reality Changers is lucky to have alumni like Ashly in our community. She is taking on new challenges every day, while encouraging those in her footsteps to achieve new heights. Ashly is the definition of an agent of change, and we are excited for all that is in store for her!
Ashly’s responses have been edited for clarity.