Ashley is the young adult child of a military father and a devoted mother. She entered our program very reserved, quiet and to herself. She took some time to really pay attention to everyone around her and began to engage in small conversation. Over a short period of time, Ashley began initiating conversations with her peers, asking questions to get to know them, and assisting when they were in need. Unbeknownst to anyone, while Ashley was taking everything in, she was studying every individual to be able to recognize their needs outside of her own. She has mastered those in our COACH family who need physical assistance, as well as emotional support. The best part about Ashley is she never oversteps. She always asks the individual if they would like assistance before attempting to step in and help. She recognizes those who are not as strong with conversation and will engage first to make them feel comfortable. She greets everyone as soon as she comes in contact with them and is very polite and respectful in all her dealings. While doing all of this, Ashley is still able to maintain her boundaries and is the perfect example to all of how to stand your ground.

After being with the COACH Program and participating with the Hampton Mayor’s Book Club, Ashley quietly gained the confidence within herself to take charge. While volunteering one Wednesday morning, I looked up and Ashley was leading everyone by advising where to place the finished books so she could collect them. Once collected, she placed them neatly in the proper boxes and stored the boxes on the shelf. After about 20 minutes, I noticed everyone was calling for her as they finished a stack of books, acknowledging and respecting her position that morning. Ashley developed her own system of going around the tables to collect. She collected stacks of books from groups as soon as they were finished with perfect timing. There was never a point where any group had completed books in their way while trying to label new ones. Ashley single-handedly stopped the confusion that we seem to face when volunteering, and she did it quietly and patiently. Ashley does not seek any recognition. She did not make a fuss or make any announcement that she was taking the lead. She simply saw a need and fulfilled it.

“Ashley is a great example of what the COACH family sets out to be. We are a family who stands by each other and lets every person be the individual they are. We are here to learn from each other, to learn about each other, and to serve together building off of individual strengths and weaknesses. We do not judge each other, we love on each other, and are genuinely happy when someone accomplishes goals they have set on their own. We are not a boastful group. We celebrate our accomplishments for sure, but we love to see others win just as much as we do. While a lot of our COACH family have grown up and gone through schooling together, Ashley came from a completely different region, and fit right in. A number of individuals look up to Ashley. If she is not present, everyone asks about her. The excitement when she is present on Zoom or in-person warms my heart and her smile tells me it warms hers too!”

~ From COACH Mishalei