Ashe in the City

I grew up on an eight acre farm in Northern Ohio where my Dad drove a truck and mom owned a consignment shop, I always enjoyed playing outside, helping with the cows, riding horses, and raising puppies.  At 16 we moved to South Florida for my father’s new job and, of course, the weather. There I finished high school and attended Broward College. However, I longed for the seasons, mountains and more accessible natural areas so when the opportunity arose I moved to Oregon. The location was grand but the office work I was doing wasn’t right for me and felt a need to use my talents for a purpose. So I headed back to South Florida still uncertain.

It took a major car accident in Coral Gables, Florida for me to reevaluate my life. I was the passenger in a T bone collision. My injuries included a liver laceration that needed emergency surgery, broken pelvis in two places, broken ribs, and cuts and bruises from the shattered glass. I spent a miserable week in the hospital recovering until a physical therapist tested my abilities then moved me to the physical therapy wing. Eventually I was released and told to return on an outpatient basis at a physical Therapy center. Three days a week for months, I worked on walking, posture, and strengthening muscles. My recovery was long and arduous but there was light ahead.

It came in the form of an opportunity to take a road trip to visit the Tetons and Yellowstone in Montana for the summer.  This was truly a wonderful experience that opened my eyes to the possibility of working in National Parks.  Thankfully, I was given a second chance at living and was now able to look at my life from a fresh perspective.

Conservation is important to me so I continued to watch the conservation job board until CTW’s YACC back county infrastructure trail crew position appeared. After application and acceptance there was a new set of hurdles and challenges. I had to adapt to strenuous physical working conditions on a back country crew where the trainers and team depended on me both figuratively and literally to carry my own weight.  Luckily, I rose up and graduated that program.

The CTW & YACC experience gave me new useful skills that helped me become a competitive candidate for many conservation jobs. I’ve been able to learn and grow more than I ever could have hoped. I’ve been exposed to great leaders and lots of career paths during my time as an AmeriCorps member and look forward to using my three educational stipends to go back to school and study natural resource management. I really appreciate all the opportunities I’ve been given through CTW from backcountry infrastructure trail maintenance skills the FNST, Crew Leader in the Desoto National Forest in Mississippi (you may have read my blog “Ashe In the Woods”) and now in my new position as Community Connection Corps Member at the YMCA First Coast in Jacksonville. I enjoy learning about many different aspects of conservation from nonprofits, government, and private sectors. I’m now doing meaningful work while developing a career that gives something back to mother earth.

Ashley Weiss is a CTW placed Community Connection Corps Member for the DOI’s Let’s Move! Outside – Play, Learn, Serve and Work initiative, a partnership with The Corps Network and YUSA at YMCA First Coast in Jacksonville Florida. Her story, like each of us, is about being down and getting back up but hers has a few extra twists.

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