I am Ashley Woods and am 27 years-old. I am from a very small town called Pecatonica, Illinois, but relocated to the Peoria area when I was 16 years-old. I didn’t grow up knowing what I was going to do with my life or even dream that I would attend college. When I was 19 years-old, my life changed for the better and it continues to stay that way. After I gave birth to my daughter, I immediately knew that I wanted to be the best role model I could be for her. So, I enrolled myself at Illinois Community College and began to explore what I wanted to do. Shortly after, I decided that I wanted to major in Human Services. I took a leap and talked myself into looking into universities right before graduating from community college. I knew that getting a higher education was something I was determined to get not only for myself and family, but most importantly, my daughter.
After doing research on universities that offered this major, Millikin was the one that I set my heart on. From the very first phone call I made, I knew it was the perfect school for me. Millikin helped me even before I was accepted and helped me so much more after I was. The staff was willing and available to assist me in applying for grants and scholarships. They made sure I understood that they were there to help me succeed.
I began to have some challenges my first year at Millikin, not because of the school, but because of my circumstances. Instead of ignoring the problem, letting me fail, and letting me leave, the professors reached out and helped me. Honestly, they reminded me that it is okay to ask for help. Something that you would think I would be familiar with considering I was majoring in a field that is known to help individuals.
After that first year, I was then encouraged to get more involved. I was honored to even be asked to be a part of organizations that were benefiting me and my education, but also my community. I was the president of the Human Service Connection. With this organization, I worked with other students and members of the community to put on the annual Box City. I also was able to travel to California and stay on skid-row. I also was a part of Big Blue Backpacks where I was helping children have food for the weekend. I also had the opportunity to be a research fellow and a tutor for human services classes. Here I gained the experience and knowledge about homelessness not only in Decatur, but nationally. Because of the wonderful opportunities, I was able to take what I was learning from the human services class and really integrate them into what I was doing outside of the classroom. Being a part of these organizations, really helped me gain the hands-on experience, unforgettable moments, make life-long friendships, and really understand how difficult but rewarding it is to be in this field.
My life truly has changed in help of Millikin. One of the best qualities of Millikin is their performance learning. There are so many opportunities to be engaged and involved. The internship was something that I also appreciated. Since the human service field is so broad, being involved with student organizations and getting an internship, it really helped be involved in many different populations. Millikin is very inclusive and close-knit, which makes the experience all the better. I do feel that students who attend Millikin stick out from other schools and will get the education you deserve. Overall, I was able to learn, give back to the community, but also educate. The time seemed to go by fast, but I will say that I have never worked harder, laughed as much, or knew that I was valued and supported more than any other school.
With the encouragement and support from the professors at Millikin, I am happy and proud to say that I was accepted and am continuing my education at University of Illinois majoring in social work and expect to graduate in 2020. Shortly after graduating, I moved back to the Peoria area and accepted a position as a Child Welfare Specialist at the Children’s Home Association.