Ashley Williams is a fourth-year in the College of Arts and Sciences majoring in Human Biology. Ashley volunteers with Madison House's Medical Services program where she has worked in the Outpatient Surgery Center and Emergency Department for 2 years. She is also a Peer Health Educator, works as a Planned Parenthood Generation Action Community Organizer and has also been a CASPCA Foster Parent during her time at UVA. Ashley's other involvements at UVA include her role as a research volunteer in the Department of Neurosurgery Undergraduate Research Volunteer, a Culture of Respect Educator, and as the Mixed Race Student Coalition Outreach Chair.
How did you first get involved?
I have been drawn to community-centred work since I was in elementary school. I have always had a soft spot for animals, and when I was a kid I raised money to donate to our local animal shelter in Northern Virginia. To this day, I remember how happy I was to give and help the shelter, animals, and my community. In high school I got involved with the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation and volunteered at their adoption events regularly. I believe when you are involved with service work that you enjoy it never feels like work - and always leaves you feeling warm inside.
What has been most rewarding?
One of my favorite community involvements is fostering dogs with the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA. This summer, my roommate and I fostered Venus, a one year old pup. She was extremely sweet and cuddly, but it wasn't until our friends came over to see her that we realized Venus was terrified of men. She was found as a stray and we were her first foster family, so we knew very little about her past and what could be triggering her. We were able to work with SPCA's Behavior Specialist to train Venus and help her overcome her fear. It was extremely fulfilling to know we played a role in Venus' story and it was even better when we heard that she was adopted a few weeks later!
How do you plan to be involved in the community in the future?
After a gap year in Charlottesville I hope to attend medical school in a new community! No matter where I end up, I believe community service will help make me feel like I have a new home, not just a new city to live in. I always hope to be involved with fostering dogs and advocating for those less privileged than I am.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
Whatever you are passionate about, find a way to get involved and commit to it! I think a lot of undergraduate students (especially pre-meds) get caught up in resume building opportunities instead of giving back in a way that is truly personal and meaningful to them. While giving back in any way is great, it will most likely only be sustainable work if it is important to you.
What is the greatest class you have taken at UVA?
My favorite class at UVA is EDIS 5330 - Science in the Elementary School. My roommate is pursuing her Masters in Education and got me hip to this class! Our assignments involve growing kidney bean plants, egg rocket launches, and building Rube Goldberg machines. While this class is primarily designed to develop your understanding of teaching science to kids, it has reminded me of how fun learning can be and why I fell in love with science as a kid to begin with!
What is your favorite UVA tradition?
My favorite UVA tradition is the Fourth Year 5K. The Peer Health Educators host the 5K on the morning of the last home football game every year and I have participated as a volunteer since my second year. I love working with my friends in PHE and the staff of the Office of Health Promotion to come together bright and early to run (or walk), laugh, and support bystander intervention!
If you could change one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
If I could do one thing to make the world a better place, I would ensure empathy in all people and interactions. From personal interactions to global issues, empathy would go a long way in developing understanding and progress.