Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Leadership lived: Veteran and single mom set to earn a bachelor’s degree 14 years after starting college


It has always been Ashti Dawson’s goal to earn a bachelor’s degree, but being a member of the Army National Guard and a single mother has always come first.

Now, 14 years after she took her first college class, she’s one semester away from earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Dawson grew up in Northern California and entered the foster care system when she was 9 years old. Her foster parents raised her through high school and continue to be an important part of her life today.

“They were a very strong military background family,” said Dawson. “I had no plans of getting into the military. I wanted to go directly into college, but I ended up joining the military myself.”

She served 15 years in the Army National Guard, eventually moving to Illinois before retiring from the military in 2014.

At UIS, she’s leading the newly formed Military & Veterans Club as president. Her goal is to make it easier for veterans to transfer to UIS, solve problems and hold events on campus. She is also part of the Student Veterans Affairs Committee.

“Being president of the Military & Veterans Club has really turned things around for me,” said Dawson. “I’ve been able to be more involved and have much more faculty and staff support, so it’s made my experience here so much more worth it.”

Dawson is currently completing a work study program at the Sangamon County Veterans Assistance Commission. Following graduation from UIS, she wants to continue her education and earn a master’s degree in human services.

But for now, she can’t wait to walk across the stage at UIS Commencement and finally earn her bachelor’s degree.

“I think about it every day,” she said.