Life Comes Full Circle
Event season has arrived! As things begin to open back up, the A Step Ahead staff is fully vaccinated, leading in-person education, and engaging with the communities that we serve once again. At a recent event in Murfreesboro, Community Outreach Specialist, Ashley, was able to reconnect with a team who played a pivotal role in her life. This month we want to share a bit of her story and shed light on the importance of being aware of the resources available in your community and to share those resources with others!
As a 17-year-old senior in high school, Ashley’s dreams for her future were set pretty high. Those dreams came crashing down around her, quite literally, when she was in a car accident halfway through the school year. She sustained multiple injuries including several broken bones and three amputated fingers. This resulted in her being hospitalized for a period of time and having to go through daily intensive physical and occupational therapy for several months. Unfortunately, this also meant missing a good chunk of her senior year.
Teachers, trusted friends, and other students rallied around her to make sure that she was able to graduate on time. With their help she was successful in that journey to graduating with her classmates. However her original plan of going to college after graduation seemed to be disrupted because her journey to recovery was quite expensive. The small college fund she originally had was now dedicated to covering the costs of ambulance and Life Flight rides after the accident, the extended hospital stay, multiple surgeries, check ups, and daily physical and occupational therapy. Since due dates for scholarship applications had long passed, she prepared herself to begin a job hunt rather than going off to college.
It was then that Ashley was approached by a school staff member and given information on Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation, also known as Voc Rehab. Offering a variety of individualized services, Voc Rehab “assists persons with disabilities adjust, navigate, and thrive in a work environment.” After being evaluated and approved, Voc Rehab was able to pay for all four years of Ashley’s higher education and offered assistance in finding a job upon graduation. This was a major turning point for her and the outcome of her future; it was then that she began to understand the importance of knowing what resources are available.
Not only did this experience change her life and allow her to further her education, but it also completely changed the direction in which she was headed. She had originally intended to major in Nursing, however after having such a life altering experience accessing social services she decided to major in Social Work instead. Her recovery and experience with Voc Rehab inspired her to dedicate her time and career to help others learn about and access similar resources. She is now a proud holder of a BSW, Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.
She is 6 years into her BSW career and now works for A Step Ahead where she educates the community on their options and connects them to free resources. The cherry on top of this story is that at a Goodwill Job & Community Resource fair earlier this month, both A Step Ahead and Voc Rehab had tables set up to talk to the community about their services. Not only was Ashley able to thank them for the work that they do, but they were able to see the outcome of their work full circle.
Stories like Ashley’s is exactly why we connect with members and organizations in the community to spread the word about these free resources. Because you never know when someone might be in need or know someone who is and needs help accessing a resource. We want to highlight the importance of sharing with family and friends the resources you may know of, even if they aren’t in need of a particular resource at the time, they may meet someone in the future who does.
It takes a team effort to get through this thing we call ‘Life’ and we can make it so much easier for everyone by simply sharing resources whenever we get the chance. Had the school staff member not reached out to Ashley about a resource in the community, she may not be a part of the A Step Ahead team today.
By: Ashley Hullett