The Read 2 Succeed family could not be more excited to welcome Ashley Allen as our new Co-Executive Director! Learn more about Ashley’s background and how she came to R2S in our latest press release<link>, and don’t miss a fun Q&A with her below.
What role has reading played in your life?
As cliche as it is, reading has given me access to a thousand lived experiences in one lifetime. I’m so thankful for every opportunity to immerse myself in stories - real and imagined. I’ve been able to learn about different subject areas, expand my understanding and expertise, and also hear different perspectives. I don’t believe any of this would have been possible without books.
What was your favorite book as a child? What is your favorite book now (if it changed!)
I’ve never had a favorite book. I love something about everything I read, from poems to the dictionary. I especially love books that deal with morally grey characters, the sort of characterization where the reader has to grapple with the right and wrong and in-betweens of how the plot unfolds. And even though I love reading, selecting one favorite book is a Herculean task I still don’t feel ready for. I can share that, to this day, there has only been one book I’ve reread - Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
What are you most looking forward to at R2S?
During my decade with the public school system, I always found myself wanting more. More time to sit with students and discuss ideas and connections to the texts we read; more time with families to demonstrate easy at-home literacy support; more time to build systems that support learning in and out of the classroom.
Coming on board with Read 2 Succeed, I feel like I finally have an opportunity to grasp that more. And to do it under the banner of an organization that lives its values and mission? It’s a humbling experience. I’m looking forward to co-creating experiences that positively impact learners that look like me.
Where does your passion come from?
Growing up, I was an energetic and brilliant student in a rural school system in Alabama. History class taught that the Civil War was about state rights, confederate flags were worn daily by my peers, and no one believed I was in the right place when I showed up for my AP classes.
I loved learning and excelled on tests, but as soon as I would take my eyes off the pages of my work, I was met with judgment. I felt judged by my peers in terms of how I should act and judged by my teachers, who were quicker to send me to detention than the honor roll. After a while, I stopped looking forward to school or engaging in lessons.
That could've been the end of my story. Fortunately, I came across a select few who saw what I was capable of and spoke life back into me. I’m eternally grateful to those few and I think all my passion for this work comes from those experiences.
I never want another Black child to feel like they’re the problem because they’re repeatedly bombarded with biased narratives. And the idea that I could be lucky enough to be a voice cheering that child on in the face of those biased narratives, motivates me more than I can express.
Give us a glimpse at your life off the clock.
When I’m not at the R2S office or with one of our community partners, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two dogs - usually cuddled on the couch watching tv. I’m a mentor with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, so I spend a lot of free time playing Pokemon Go and roller skating in the park with my Little. I also love reading, playing D&D, and working on diamond art.
What is one of your favorite things to do in Asheville/favorite aspect of Asheville?
My favorite thing about Asheville is that other passionate, creative people find their homes here. We have so many amazing local shops like Bee Charmer, Noir Collective AVL, and Herbiary AVL. Visiting these places, you can just tell an individual found something they loved and decided to share it with their community.
I love to explore those places in Asheville - whether it’s stationary, drinks, or food- where the evidence of other folks’ passion is on display like that.
Read to Succeed Asheville/Buncombe (R2S) is a local, independent nonprofit on a mission to help close the