But the Bradley Central High School student, who recently graduated with honors, chose to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Instead of grieving over everything they lost, she took comfort in what she had — her family and the God who spared them all.
One of her teachers, Cindy Leslie, said, “She always emphasized how the love of her family and friends pulled them through this difficult time. She has overcome amazing obstacles to reach her accomplishments. I will never forget her asking me if I knew that she lost almost everything. When I inquired about the ‘almost,’ she said she has God, her family, an untouched laptop and a Bible that was turned to Genesis when it was found.”
According to Leslie, this “bright, intelligent, compassionate person who always had others in mind” also had a secret which made the likeable teenager appear reserved, quiet and shy. Ashlynne had a speech impediment. But everything changed following those 2011 tornadoes that closed one chapter in the lives of many and started a new one for others.
Leslie said, “During the next year, Ashlynne blossomed into this amazing young lady with drive, dedication and self confidence. Her days were spent studying, working and squeezing in speech therapy. She enrolled in nursing education, anatomy/physiology and clinical internship. She was adamant to work in oncology. She loved the oncology office and they loved her.”
As she noticed how Ashlynne interacted with the staff and patients, Leslie was so impressed that she encouraged Ashlynne to enter a HOSA competitive event. HOSA — Health Occupations Students of America — is a national vocational student organization endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education for future health professionals. Its two-fold mission is to promote career opportunities in the health care industry and to improve the delivery of quality health care to all people.
With Ashlynne’s positive attitude and outstanding qualities of compassion, kindness and care for others, Leslie was confident the honor student would stand out in the competition and be recognized for her natural abilities, while honing her skills and approach to delivering quality health care.
“When she was first approached she said, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that,’” Leslie recalled. “But we knew she had it in her. Reluctantly, she competed at the regional competition with a 1st place win! As we were leaving the competition, one of the judges came to me and said, ‘You really have to encourage her to go to State and stick to this. You really have someone special with her. She is amazing!’
“I knew that because Ashlynne has this infectious personality with a never ending smile. It’s hard to have a bad day when she is around because she brightens your day every time you see her.”
Leslie was right. Ashlynne went on to compete at HOSA’s State competition and delivered another 1st place win. Even more impressive, when Ashlynne and fellow Bradley Central HOSA students, Kayla Arp and Devin Kersey, attended the 35th Annual HOSA National Leadership Conference in Orlando in June, with more than 7,000 delegates from across the nation, she competed in interviewing skills with 30 exceptional students from across the country and placed 2nd in the nation.
Ashlynne was also honored as the 2012 National Recognition Career Portfolio Recipient for completing an outstanding career portfolio which includes a letter of application, resume, transcript, awards and certifications, writing assessments, community service and leadership activities.
She is currently enrolled at Cleveland State Community College and has already started completing her prerequisites. In addition to college, Ashlynne spends most of her weekends working at Bradley HealthCare and Rehabilitation Center in Cleveland and will pursue a degree in nursing.
“I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Ashlynne,” Leslie said. “One thing is for sure — I will sure miss her this year. She is one of those special individuals that enters your life and teaches you more than you taught her.”
If nothing else, the mild-mannered student who knows how to close one chapter and open another, is making a name for herself as a ray of sunshine in the lives of others and the kind of person everyone wishes could care for them.