Ashley is a Girls Inc. of Central Alabama girl living in Birmingham. She is a senior in high school scheduled to graduate in June and is also a member of the Teen Advisory Council of Girls Inc. for 2020.
“I don’t know what it feels like to quarantine or stay in the house all day. I’ve had to come to work every day,” says Ashley, 18, who works at McDonald’s and has not been able to quarantine. Instead, she must continue to show up to her job in order to receive her wages, which her family needs under normal circumstances and even more so amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once Ashley comes home, her responsibilities only multiply. She is currently taking school classes online and attests that even with her work responsibilities she is spending more time doing schoolwork than usual. The year leading up to college has not been what Ashley thought it would be, and that has taken a toll.
“It’s my senior year and if you have ever waited so long for something and you can’t even do it, that’s a hard pill to swallow…I have been struggling with frustration,” she says, referencing those milestones — prom and a graduation ceremony — that under normal circumstances every 12th grader would get to experience but which have been cancelled this year. Ashley was also very much looking forward to the Teen Advisory Council events she would have participated in with Girls Inc., including traveling to Washington, D.C. in May 2020 and meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Ashley puts it simply and straightforwardly: “I am hurt…”
Informed and Encouraged by Girls Inc.
Though these lost opportunities and experiences count for a lot, Ashley is incredibly positive about how Girls Inc. has been a partner and source of support for her. “Teen Advocacy Council has had a tremendous impact on my life during this time,” she says. “Ms. Sonja has emailed me, checking on me and motivating me,” says Ashley, referencing Sonja Breda, the Girls Inc. Advocacy Manager and member of the Girls Inc. public policy team, which advocates for policies and practices that open doors to girls and ensure equality.
On the local level, Ashley’s Girls Inc. organization — Girls Inc. of Central Alabama — has been working tirelessly to get their Virtual Academy up and running while making sure their girls and families are notified of progress and important news. “Girls Inc. has supported me by keeping everyone informed of what’s going on in the world and encouraging us to still be strong, smart, and bold through any situation.”
For Ashley, continuing on during the pandemic as if nothing has changed is clearly not what she would choose, but it is her only option right now. “I am taking care of myself by working,” she says. “My sources of strength are prayers and motivation…I am trying to stay motivated.”
Thanks to Ashley for sharing her story. She is an incredible young woman whose perspective we are proud to share.