Ashley Lawson ’18 Brings ‘Meet My Future’ to Rural North Carolina Schools

Some people search their whole lives for a true calling. It is clear to anyone who meets Ashley Lawson ’18 that she has quite possibly found hers. Lawson is engaged with teaching not only on a practical level but also with theory and research. She was awarded this month the NCCTM Outstanding Mathematics Education Student Award, an award given by the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Each college and university with a teacher education program may nominate one rising junior or senior working towards elementary, middle school, or secondary certification. One student is selected from each region, and the winning students are invited to attend the State Mathematics Conference in October where they are recognized and receive their awards.

Lawson with Cabarrus school children
Lawson with Cabarrus school children.

But what some might not know about Ashley is that she is most passionate about bringing her talents as an educator to areas that need it the most. She was inspired to get to work when she noticed the tendency of researchers in her field to focus on urban education and veer away from rural environments. This means an entire subset of the population living in these rural environments, the group she grew up in, is being ignored in the educational and psychological research community. They have no evidence-based programming.

Her program, Meet My Future, combats this issue and many more. “My number one problem is that I saw lots of programs that really wanted to get kids to college. There was a giant gap that wasn’t picking up kids who weren’t going to go to college. Our program features high school to PhD.”

The elementary school level, or “Hope For My Future”, encourages students to dream about careers of all skill and education level.

“I ask the professionals to bring an activity or something from their job to help the students visualize,” she says.

Middle and high school, part of a long term plan for Lawson who plans to stay in North Carolina after graduation to pursue teaching, will aim to encourage goal setting, financial planning, and good career building practices. Lawson describes Meet My Future as “more a set of beliefs than a curriculum.”

Lawson with school children

“Park was the catalyst. I met my mentor Dr. Robert Kirk (the Chief of Staff of the Superintendent’s Office of Cabarrus County) when I went with my Park class to the Emerging Issues Forum my freshman year. I sat next to him and we struck up a conversation about his district.” This would later be Ashley’s first district for Meet My Future.

“Sarah Ho (Senior Assistant Director, Park Scholarships) has been super supportive and has really helped me,” Lawson says. “She gave me the nickname ‘Fierce Lady Warrior.’”

“They gave me the confidence and kept saying over and over again, ‘You can do it!’”

post by Lauren Caddick

published on 2017.11.01