Monday, Jun 24, 2019
Ashley Minter '19 overcame financial and personal struggles in obtaining a college education
by Susan Hammond
At the beginning of her journey to attain a college education, Ashley Minter '19 looked ahead and saw nothing but obstacles. “I could not afford to travel away to school, live on campus, and pay for tuition and books,” she says.
In 2009 she enrolled at Mercer County Community College even though she and her family were confronting the after-effects of the 2008 financial crisis. At the same time, Minter was also formally diagnosed with clinical depression.
She did not let her struggles prevent her from moving forward.
In 2013, Minter applied to Rider University because the College of Continuing Studies (CCS) options allowed her to work full-time while taking two classes each semester. “Wanting to help myself and help others, I declared psychology as my major, with a minor in social work,” Minter says.
Now a college graduate, Minter was one of three student speakers invited to share their academic experiences in Washington, D.C., at the release of the 2019 Indicators of Higher Education Equity Report, which tracks college entrance and completion by family income, socioeconomic status, and race and ethnicity. Each student detailed the obstacles they faced in earning their degree to the Pell Institute at the National Press Club.
“Do not let life swallow your dreams and aspirations," Minter said. "Over these 10 years, I have gained the gift of tenacity, mastered the art of perseverance and earned the life experience to achieve my goals.”
Minter was invited to speak in Washington after she caught the attention of Maureen Hoyler, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education. Hoyler heard her speak at the 25th-anniversary celebration of Rider's Student Support Services (SSS).
“After hearing Ashley speak, I knew that her story — which is so very common — had to be shared at the national level," Hoyler says. "Her success is a testament to the fact that low-income, first-generation students often need a combination of support — financial, academic and personal — in order to achieve their educational goals.”
After the presentation, Jackasha Wiley, president-elect of The Association for Equality and Excellence in Education, accompanied Minter to Capitol Hill. There, Minter had the opportunity to attend meetings with Sen. Robert Menendez's aide Josh Sanders and Sen. Cory Booker's aide Nia Lesesne to discuss potential ways to continue to support first-generation, low-income students, as well as her experiences with TRIO Programs and Student Support Services at Rider.
Minter benefited from both academic and personal counseling from SSS and TRIO. “We have been helping her with whatever life struggles and challenges she has been faced with," Assistant Director Dana Lopes recalls. "Together we developed plans and ways to make things work.”
In April, SSS awarded Ashley with the Perseverance Award, which honors students for their hard work, optimism and drive in pursuit of achieving their academic goals.
Minter received other support from Rider as well. She was a recipient of the Charlotte Newcombe Scholarship, which awards funds to college women aged 25 and older who have earned at least 60 credits towards a bachelor’s degree. Angela Gonzalez-Walker, CCS assistant dean, provided Minter with the necessary academic advising to guide her through her course load. At the encouragement of the CCS staff, Minter also earned scholarships to help alleviate tuition costs.
By sharing her story, Minter hopes to encourage policymakers to consider reforms that will improve accessibility to higher education for underprivileged students. She intends to earn a master’s to become a licensed clinical social worker and is motivated to advocate for students in need.