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Ashley Perry: Education as a stepping-stone

UMD student Ashley Perry  
UMD student Ashley Perry  


She doesn’t dabble; Ashley Perry is all in. A junior, majoring in psychology, she's involved in the Black Student Association (BSA), BSA Dance Team, and spoken word poetry. She recently received the Iver Bogen/Jane Maddy Scholarship, which is awarded to junior psychology majors. Not surprising, since she has a 3.9 GPA and has made the dean’s list every semester.

Building Skills
Many of her interests have tapped her leadership talents. Involved in the BSA since she was a freshman, this year she joined their executive board. The BSA works to increase awareness and appreciation for Black history and works together to enhance the conditions and environment for Black students on campus. The BSA is housed in the Multicultural Center (MC). The MC’s history inspires Perry. “I’ve heard about how they had to fight to establish the Multicultural Center. It just celebrated its tenth anniversary. It hasn’t been updated since it opened. It still has the same furniture,” she said. “We’re looking into how we can make updating it a priority on campus.”

Perry also leads the BSA Dance team. She sets practices and teaches routines. “There are about 15 to 20 of us. It’s mostly female. It’s hard to get guys to join in,” she said. Dance pieces range from African to hip-hop to step. Members share their dance influences. “We have students from other countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo. They bring different styles to the group, different choreography. It’s fun to learn from one another.”

The group performs both on campus and around the community. “Last year at UMD, we performed at Kwanza, the Soul Food Dinner, African Night, and other Multicultural Center events. Also we performed for students at East High School and UWS for their Soul Food Dinner,” she stated. Perry is proud of the BSA Dance Team and the effort that goes into each performance. “I’d like to see it grow,” she said, noting that they are always looking for new members.

Performing spoken word poetry is another creative outlet for Perry. “It’s an area that has been rather male dominated. It’s time for some healthy competition,” she said. While she has performed poems by other writers, she has also written and performed her own pieces. Now she is branching out. “I’m collaborating with another student. It’s an interesting process.”

She says time management is the key to accomplishing all she sets out to do. “My first semester freshman year, I wasn’t that involved. Then I realized I could do so much more. “She encourages younger students to be active. “Don’t be afraid to get involved. It’s possible to manage your time and find a balance between education and life moments.”

Transformative Experiences

Born in Chicago and raised in St. Paul, Perry began considering UMD after her high school guidance counselor recommended it to her. “I visited the campus, and I liked it. Also four of my high school friends came to UMD too. That was a great extra push,” she said.

Perry took a while to declare a major. “I was interested in law, but I didn’t want to major in criminology. Psychology will give me a good solid background in whatever career I choose.” She plans on attending graduate school and is looking for a program that combines law and psychology.

She talks about an interest in crime scene investigation but her eyes light up when she talks about helping kids. “When it comes down to it. I want to help youth. Our future is the youth of this country. What we do for youth changes our society. I don’t like some things about our legal system. I believe you shouldn’t just complain about a problem, you should do something about it.”

Some of her passion was reinforced last spring when she and a group of students, faculty, and staff took a Civil Rights history trip. “It was inspiring,” Perry said. “The Civil Rights Movement was led by young people who said ‘This is the time, this is the place.’ They didn’t sit back.”

While on the Civil Rights history trip, she walked the grounds of Tougaloo College in Mississippi, once an antebellum plantation, and marveled at the power of transcendence. “I thought of the Maya Angelou poem And Still I Rise. ‘I am the dream and the hope of the slave.’ It was amazing that a place that was so bad could be turned into something so positive,” she recalled.

Perry values education and hopes to help young people understand how education can transform lives. “Education can do a lot for people. I’m so thankful for my opportunities. Any set backs I’ve had, didn’t matter. My education is mine. No one can take that away from me. Education is a stepping-stone to whatever I want to do.”

Those who can, harness the energy of all that is possible.

Those who can, Duluth

Written by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann

November 2014

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UMD News Feature editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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