Tired of struggling and living paycheck to paycheck, recent Washtenaw Community College graduate Ashley Davis knew she wanted more out of life, so she registered for classes at Wayne State University in 2007.
But a month into the semester, Davis discovered she was pregnant and dropped out, afraid of juggling morning sickness and midterms. She would soon face another setback in her educational journey.
One week after welcoming a son named Miles, the child died.
In her application to be considered for commencement speaker, Davis wrote: “The pain of losing him put me off from finishing my degree. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to work with children again. As the years went on, and the pain slowly subsided, I realized that I couldn’t keep running away from my calling.”
Fast forward to June 2016 and the Hazel Park native is getting ready for her first semester at the University of Michigan, where she received a full scholarship and will pursue a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
So, for the first time in years, the aspiring art teacher accepted a nanny position and enrolled at WCC. And because life often works in wondrous ways, Davis and her husband learned they were expecting three days before the semester started. That was in 2014.
“I’m sad to be leaving, but I know WCC has provided me with the toolkit I need to succeed in whatever I choose to do next,” Davis said. “If it wasn’t for the flexibility of online classes and all the guidance and support I received, there’s no way I would’ve made it.”
It’s why Davis chose to deliver the commencement speech at WCC, addressing an enthusiastic crowd.
Interestingly enough, Davis almost didn’t participate in graduation.
“I didn’t think it was a big deal because I’m working toward my bachelor’s, but my friends said to me, ‘Are you crazy? You worked so hard for two years. Why wouldn’t you want an associate degree to reflect that?’” Davis explained. “Then, I started to realize how without WCC, my road to success would have been so much more difficult.”
From here, Davis transfers to U-M in the fall, but she’ll never forget her WCC roots.
Her two-year-old daughter, Dorothy, continues to be a positive, motivating force as she pushes forward and embarks on the next part of her educational journey.
“Many WCC students are somewhere in the middle and the college acts as a stepping stone, but that doesn’t make our experiences any less important,” Davis said.
“Some of us are ready to go out there and enter the workforce, while others still have some ways to go. It’s part of what makes WCC so unique and special and that deserves to be celebrated.”
This story originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of On the Record.