Teaching is in Ashley Thomas’ blood. Her grandmother was a
teacher in India, and her legacy inspires Ashley to this day. Since
her arrival at St. John’s in 2008, Ashley has immersed herself in
the life of the University with an emphasis on service and extra
“My interest in service brought me to St. John’s, along with the
excellent reputation of The School of
Education. I wanted to go into an undergraduate program with a
direct link to a master’s program.” Currently, Ashley is enrolled
BSED/MSED Childhood and Special Education program with a
concentration in Science. She is looking forward to devoting her
fourth year of her undergraduate degree to student teaching and the
beginning of the graduate courses taken at the undergraduate
Raised Catholic, Ashley has felt a special connection to the
University’s Catholic and Vincentian heritage. “I draw a lot from
my faith. It’s comforting to have St. Thomas More Church
here on campus. It’s a place I can go to Mass or just reflect.”
Ashley has also served as an Extraordinary Minister of the
Eucharist since 2009. In addition, Ashley experienced the
Vincentian mission through Midnight Runs. “They gave us something
very valuable — insights into their lives and situations. The
experience was very meaningful.” She continued her service by
volunteering at a church in Brooklyn, assisting Spanish-speaking
adults learn English.
Not only does Ashley devote her time to serving the community, but
she also focuses on the importance of education-based
“One of the big things I’m doing is
STAR (Students Teaching Academic Responsibilities), a program
in The School of Education that pairs incoming freshmen with
upperclassmen, who serve as mentors. I joined in freshman year as a
mentee. From sophomore year onward I’ve been a mentor.” This year,
Ashley has two mentees and keeps in close contact with both.
“As a teacher your whole life is dedicated to helping others.
That’s the whole point of teaching,” she stressed.
Ashley leapt at the chance to get involved with
Jumpstart, an organization The School of Education partners
with, whose mission is to ensure all children enter school prepared
to succeed. In January, she joined a seven-member team of St.
John’s students working with children from low-income backgrounds,
helping them develop language, literacy and social skills.
“It was a really great experience. It’s complemented my work as an
Education major by giving me additional hands-on experience
Eventually, Ashley became a volunteer coordinator for Jumpstart,
planning events as well as donation drives, “We do 300 hours of
service at nine pre-schools in the area,” she noted, adding that
she has recruited 20 new volunteers into the program.
Ashley credited the faculty of The School of Education for their
tremendous support, especially
Associate Dean Charisse Willis, Susan Chun, Jumpstart Senior
Site Manager, and Miriam Gadlin, Jumpstart Site Manager.
“Ever since my freshman year it’s felt like a family here, I can
come in any time of the day and ask for advice. Dean Willis and the
other deans, and all my professors are always there. They’ve always
made time for their students. We always have their support.”
A Dean’s Scholar in The School of Education, Ashley is also a
member of the President’s Society, and was recruited in her junior
year, having earned enough credits for senior status.
“I’ve had the greatest experience at St. John’s. I would encourage
all incoming students to get involved. Your college experience is
what you make it. You should make the most of it — academically,
socially and with extracurricular activities. Find things related
to your major and keep busy!”