Alumni Spotlight: Ashley Smith

Name: Ashley Smith
Degree/ Major: B.S. Environmental Science, Policy, and Management with a focus of Environmental Education and Communication
Grad Year: Fall 2015
Advisor: Stephan Carlson
Current organization/ employer: AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps


Favorite memory of campus:  My favorite memory from campus is working at the Bell Museum of Natural History under Katie Speckman assisting in the planning and facilitation of the Saturday with a Scientist events. The interactions with each visitor and witnessing the fascination and excitement of families learning at least one new thing during the events warmed my heart and reassured my path in life.


Why did you choose CFANS as a college?  I chose CFANS as my college because I wanted to combine my passion for the betterment of the environment and my love of children--both of which is combined while working towards the environmental education degree. My motivation stems from seeing the potential of the youth and wanting to be a guide in helping them become the best that they can be. I have met countless people that has the passion, drive, and self efficacy to lead a life of service, but is unsure where to go or what to do to go from dreams to reality; I want to be that small bridge for others, turning talk into actions.


Why do you think the University of Minnesota is great? The University of Minnesota is great because the campus is so diverse. There is always something that will spark your interest if you actively seek it out. The atmosphere is inviting and always willing to leave the best impression on anyone that visits (including the rival sports team fans can not find a reason to complain). The entire educational staff is truly interested in setting up the most successful future for each individual that crosses their path and that is underappreciated at such a large institution.


Career information/ professional achievements:

  • Was deployed in 2015 with her team Delta 6 to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for immediate flood relief efforts in assisting with the historic 50 year flooding.
  • Has been working all sides of disaster relief from logistics in The American Red Cross Headquarters
  • Worked in River Center, the largest survivor shelter peaking at housing 2,000 survivors in the state of Louisiana. 
  • Switched over to working in warehouse distribution, where she helped assemble cleaning kits for survivors to begin their reclamation of their lives filling over 30 box trucks in 3 days.
  • Traveled across the Louisiana to begin closing down and switching over survivor shelters from the hands of nonprofit back to the hands of the state.
  • Joined the American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle food deliveries serving hot meals to stranded neighborhoods.
  • Joined the efforts on National Day of Service on September 11, having the honor of finishing a veterans home.
  • Since September 15, Delta 6 focused their efforts in the East Baton Rouge area working at over 20 different addresses mucking and gutting homes affected by flood waters. In 19 days of work, they went to 23 different addresses. During Delta 6’s time in Louisiana, the team mucked and gutted alongside NECHAMA, a Jewish Disaster Relief Team, assisting over 50 survivors. With every location having different needs, each Corps Member assisted with many tasks including clearing out personal items, removing trim and drywall, and taking out ceilings, hardwood flooring, and assorted appliances.
  • As a group, Delta 6 - along with other NECHAMA volunteers - were able to complete work in a matter of hours that would take homeowners days to do on their own. Delta 6 cleared over 36,000 pounds of debris and successfully completed 20 homes. Damage assessments were conducted via walkthroughs by Delta 6 Team Leader Colleen Roach. Wellness and safety checks were conducted on a regular basis by a Corps Member assigned to decontamination.
  • Stationed back in Louisiana until mid November, where the team is continuing gutting homes, started the mold suppression process, and conducting pop-up mobile distribution sites. 
  • Ashley currently serves at the assistant team leader during Round 2 (October 16- December 21) and remains the Media Representative and secondary for Life After AmeriCorps. Only a few months in and Ashley has already garnered accolades of being Corps Member of Round 1 and the Media Representative of Round 1. She was awarded these for her dedication, leadership, and excelling in her specialty roles. Outside of the average 10 hour workdays, Ashley spends 12 hours a week on going above and beyond fulfilling her media duties. She got 26 media hits, the most out of all 30 teams in the Southern Region. Additionally, Ashley was awarded the Challenge Coin by the American Red Cross after 3 days of work for her quick and efficient organization in the midst of the chaotic environment. Certified in chainsawing, American Red Cross disaster cycle services, shelter fundamentals, and casework and recovery planning. To find out more about her experience and about the AmeriCorps NCCC or the other AmeriCorps affiliates, please contact Ashley at lilash.mae8@gmail.com or check out https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-nccc.

What's your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?  My passion is bringing a beacon of hope to others by making my presence known in a community. I love working for AmeriCorps NCCC because it allows me to excel and grow as an individual while working with communities that need assistance. I am able to apply my academia while working in an environment that is constantly changing and keeps me active. Being in AmeriCorps is leaving an impression of hope for a better future, that there is goodness still in this society, and that there are people who unequivocally are willing to put their interests aside for the betterment of others.  


How did your education at the U of M help prepare you for what you are doing today?  My education is allowing me to be a point of resource on the teams'deployments. My team, Delta 6, is constantly seeking advice or identification of plants and wildlife, of which I am able to help them seek the appropriate results. My education at the of M also helped me become adaptable, responsible, and work within tight deadlines. Being in AmeriCorps, the schedule and assignments can change at a moments notice, and being able to adapt to the changes, finding new creative ways to combat the ever changing environment is critical. 


What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)? My advice to current students and future alumni is to take a leap and do one thing that scares you, you never know what opportunities will arise and experiences you will encounter if you always stay in the safe lane. So take your trip across the country, spend a few months in a remote area teaching children, spend your gap year putting your while being into the betterment of the future.