Recent service trip to Ghana enables Ashley Pichardo ’13 to grow as a leader.
Meaghan Haugh

Almost from the start of her freshman year at Rider, Ashley Pichardo ’13 has been a visible leader among her peers. A Global Multinational Studies major with a concentration in Chinese, Pichardo possesses a distinctive leadership quality that has enabled her to effect change within the University community and beyond.

Borrowing from Rider’s Community Values Statement, Pichardo believes and lives the motto, “true leadership is derived from service to others.” In addition to her roles as president of the Latin American Student Organization and vice president of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Inc., she is a Senior Bonner Intern for the Rider Bonner Community Scholars Program. As a Bonner volunteer, Pichardo spent the last year and a half tutoring and mentoring children at El Centro, a multifamily community support and building program specifically focused on meeting the needs of Latino families in Mercer County.

“My mom instilled in me that you need to help others and be kind to others,” Pichardo said. “My involvement in community service has transformed what I want to do in my career.”

Pichardo, who has visited family in Ecuador numerous times, and also traveled to Costa Rica and Spain, plans to work in a field where she can perform service and travel. She would like to join the Peace Corps and eventually become a Foreign Service Officer.

Recently, Pichardo had the opportunity to blend her interests in service to others with global studies. Last spring she participated in a unique service abroad program to West African nation of Ghana through AHA International. There, she took classes about the country’s culture, language and history, and volunteered at the Beacon House, an orphanage for children with HIV, tuberculosis and sickle-cell anemia, a disease passed down through families in which red blood cells form an abnormal crescent shape. The fragile, sickle-shaped cells deliver less oxygen to the body’s tissues, and can also become lodged in small blood vessels, or break into pieces that interrupt healthy blood flow.

At the orphanage, Pichardo relied on her experience at El Centro, where she conducted “circle time” with the preschool-age children and ran arts-and-crafts activities for the grade school students. She also assisted in the organization’s media communications by creating videos, brochures and press releases to market the orphanage.

During her trip, Pichardo also had a chance to explore the area. She visited Cape Coast, Kumasi and Accra, the capital of and largest city in Ghana. She also took a canopy walk through the rain forest and went to a crocodile reservoir.

As a whole, Pichardo said the trip enabled her to learn more about herself as a leader and an individual. She was also able to learn more Ghana’s culture.

“As a leader, it’s important to learn about the population you want to help,” Pichardo said. “Just knowing I’m making an impact on someone’s life is humbling. I’m able to experience life at a different level.”