Meet Ashlee

I’ve never met anybody who’s judged me.

Grades

“I’ve never met anybody who’s judged me.”

When I was a junior, I was expelled.

Grades

“When I was a junior, I was expelled.”

I didn't know what I wanted to do.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I didn't know what I wanted to do.”

I don’t really put myself out there a lot.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I don’t really put myself out there a lot.”

I’m proud to say that I’m doing very well.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I’m very proud to say that I’m doing very well.”

I went to school for practically nothing.

Cost

“I went to school for practically nothing.”

Money is out there to help you—just look.

Cost

“Money is out there to help you—just look.”

It was stressful but rewarding in the end.

Cost

“It was stressful but rewarding in the end.”

I wanted to be a teacher.

Cost

“I wanted to be a teacher.”

I just assumed I wasn’t going to go.

Cost

“I just assumed I wasn’t going to go.”

It hits you at once.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“It hits you at once.”

I wasn’t sure what to do.

Cost

“I wasn’t sure what to do.”

Everything was in fine print.

Cost

“Everything was in fine print.”

I was a quiet freshman but now I'm outgoing.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I was a quiet freshman but now I'm outgoing.”

I had to deal with a lot all at once.

Responsibilities

“I had to deal with a lot all at once.”

I stayed close to home so my parents could visit.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I stayed close to home so my parents could visit.”

It pretty much gave me a full ride.

Cost

“It pretty much gave me a full ride.”

People are willing to help if you ask them.

Cost

“People are willing to help if you ask them.”

I was intimidated since I was undocumented.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I was intimidated since I was undocumented.”

My father did not want to help me.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“My father did not want to help me.”

I have a good chance of becoming more stable.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“I have a good chance of becoming more stable.”

Leaving the reservation is a huge step.

Feeling Overwhelmed

“Leaving the reservation is a huge step.”

Meet Ashlee

 

He was difficult — in a good way.
Ashlee recalls an eye-opening talk with her art teacher.
Everything was in fine print. (00:52)
Ashlee describes her feelings about applying for aid and paying back college loans.
Everything was in fine print.
Now Playing
He was difficult — in a good way. (00:40)
Ashlee recalls an eye-opening talk with her art teacher.
He was difficult — in a good way.
Now Playing

Snapshot

Year in college
Sophomore
Major
Art
Family income
$20,000–$40,000
College
Public two-year college
Published yearly in-state tuition and fees
$3,108
Financial aid received
Federal Pell Grant, unsubsidized Stafford Loan
Favorite artist
Gustav Klimt
Dream job
Freelance artist, clothing designer, musician, graphic designer, photographer ... the sky’s the limit!
Ashlee wasn’t sure she was “college material” and took some time off after high school. When she did decide to go, she had to find funding.
Her obstacle 

After Ashlee’s high school graduation, her classmates got ready for college but she started looking for jobs. “I didn't think I was smart enough,” she says.

She also lacked a blueprint to guide her: Her parents never went to college. “My mother has had a job since [she was] 14. She didn’t make much and we sometimes had an empty fridge.”

How she overcame it 

After two years of waiting tables for low pay, Ashlee reconsidered her future. “I didn’t want to have a predictable life and not contribute anything,” she says. “Once the recession hit and I saw that my life wasn’t growing, I decided to give college a chance.”

Ashlee describes the application and financial aid process as “mind-boggling” and “stressful” — especially since she had to figure out most of it on her own.

She enrolled in a community college and got some help from the financial aid office there. They helped her apply for a federal grant, but she didn't receive enough to cover the full cost of tuition, so she applied for loans. The process took months, but Ashlee stuck with it.

Life at college 

Ashlee’s college experience began with placement tests; from these she learned that she needed to refresh her skills in order to succeed in college. So along with core college-level classes, she took learning support classes in reading and math.

She also found a passion for art, which she describes as “free of boundaries. It’s the purest gift. Once you get a utensil in your hand, the paper becomes your universe.” Ashlee plans to transfer to a four-year college, where she can major in fine art and explore related fields like graphic design, fashion design and illustration.

She's happy to be back in school developing her interests and expanding her horizons. She says she’s learning a lot from being around other students with different backgrounds. “It’s the school of life.”

Ashlee feels she’s grown since high school, when she thought she wasn’t “college material.” She no longer thinks you can define what makes a good college student. “All I can do is be the best person I can be.”

Careers in the arts

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