2017 Goodwill Scholar of the Year: Ashley Higgins

Most people don’t “plan” to drop out of high school, but sometimes life gets in the way. Ashley Higgins had good grades but she made some poor social decisions, which led her to quit high school. By the time she was 18, she was working two full time jobs. She continued to work all the way through her third pregnancy and stayed home after that to save on childcare.

“My husband did a really good job of supporting us,” Ashley said. “He worked himself to the bone so we could afford to live in a small apartment.”

When her three daughters were school age and Ashley was pregnant with her first son, she decided it was time to go back to school to get her GED. She had tried before but the online learning programs hadn’t worked for her. She connected with Wichita Area Technical College, a partner with Goodwill in the NexStep Alliance GED completion program. Initially, she thought she’d get her GED and take an entry-level, minimum wage job to help make ends meet.

After the first session at NexStep, she gave birth to her son and a month later her husband was laid off from his job. They made sacrifices to keep her in school, with her husband taking odd jobs. “It crossed my mind that I just needed to quit school and go get a job, but I knew it would be more beneficial to my family to continue,” Ashley said.

She learned about the nursing program, made possible by the partnership with WATC, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. While working toward her GED, she also earned certificates: Certified Nurse Aide (CNA), Home Health Aide (HHA), Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) and CPR. She graduated the NexStep program in May 2017. After the couple’s second son is born, she plans to continue her education at WATC to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).

“NexStep has given me financial security. It’s helped my daughters strive to do well in school also. Because if I can do it, they can too. They’ve seen what we’ve struggled through and they know to keep working hard,” she said.