Alumna helps children and others in need through leadership at United Way
July 2, 2019 | By: Staci Semrad
Ashley Ammons rises each morning eager to help the many people in need who occupy her heart and mind.
Those people include everyone from homeless individuals to over 1,000 victims of child abuse and neglect each year in Lubbock County, which has one of the highest abuse rates in the state, said Ammons, a 2016 graduate of the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business Professional MBA Program. She has risen in the ranks at the Lubbock Area United Way since starting work there five years ago as a campaign division director.
"I'm often the bearer of bad news because I know all these things about our community, but I'm a strong believer in the fact that you can't make a difference and you can't change unless you're educated," said Ammons, who was promoted last month to the position of vice president, Community Impact.
In addition to investing $3.2 million over the past two years in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect, Lubbock Area United Way is working to help children in other ways too, such as by supporting reading and early childhood education programs. Ammons is organizing its annual "United We Read" literacy event, which will bring books and volunteer readers to more than 3,800 second-graders in public schools throughout Lubbock County in September.
"We want people to understand the importance of reading to and with kids, and getting books into the home," she said.
The choice of where to receive her own education came easily for Ammons, a Lubbock native who applied only to Texas Tech University for her undergraduate and graduate studies.
"Both of my grandparents taught at Tech, so I was basically going to be a Texas Tech Red Raider before I was even an idea," she said.
After earning her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Texas Tech, she worked for political groups for a while – work that ultimately made her realize that she would have more power to effect change by working at the local level.
"I learned very quickly that I wasn't going to do it from top down" she said. "I really had to start it from bottom up, and I had to be in my community."
By the time Ammons entered graduate school, she was working for the State of Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Though Ammons found her work for the state meaningful, she felt frustrated that the root causes of people's plights were not getting addressed, as evidenced by the fact that she kept seeing the same people return for help.
"That's when I knew I needed to go somewhere where you can treat a family as a whole," she said, noting the collaborative care approach of the Lubbock Area United Way's 23 partnering community agencies, which provide job skills training, childcare, food, shelter and more to people in need. "When you're looking at issues of poverty, domestic violence and child abuse and things along those lines, you need to treat them and all their symptoms at one time. ... We know if you start treating a symptom one at a time, the likelihood of them getting out of that situation is slim to none."
Ammons credits her coursework and professors at Rawls College for preparing her for the rigors of nonprofit leadership. One feature of the Professional MBA Program at Rawls College that she believes was especially helpful to her was the opportunity to do a capstone course project about United Way, where she began working in her first year of graduate studies.
"Through the education that I got at Rawls College, not only did I gain lifetime friends in my cohort – love them; we had so much fun – but it is those skills that you can't be taught really anywhere else that gave me a very good overview of how companies and nonprofit organizations need to be run to be successful," Ammons said.
The Lubbock Area United Way kicks-off its annual campaign next month to raise money for its agency partners.
"It's a really big community-based approach, and that's why I stay here," she said, "because I know every single day, we're making a difference. It's such a blessing to be able to be here and get to do that. ... Sometimes I have to pinch myself and say, 'Do I really get to do this for a living? Is this really my life?' It's just been an amazing opportunity."