November 18, 2009 - When Ashley Howard was born, she was unaware of the strength she had inside herself. Born in the city of Sukabumi on the Indonesian island of Java, Howard was adopted from an orphanage by an American couple when she was four months old. Her parents were residing in Indonesia where her father worked for Arco and her mother was a homemaker. When Howard was two years old, her parents returned to the United States to chase the American dream. Unfortunately, life did not go as they had planned.
"When I was two years old, my mom passed away from cancer at age 33," Howard explained. "It was difficult because my dad was older and always thought my mom would be there to take care of me. He remarried and I now had five siblings. Then, he passed away in 2001."
At age 23 Howard married, had a baby, and subsequently divorced two years later. "I was in an abusive relationship and I had to get out. After the divorce I had nothing to fall back on. No education and no future plans. I was at a loss," Howard said. "In 1999, the day of record snowfall in Bakersfield, I hit bottom. I had no job, no car, no food, and soon no place to live. My power had been shut off and I had my daughter to feed. I knew I did not come all the way from Indonesia for this. I had to do something."
For Howard, that "something" was a personal commitment to go back to school. She enrolled in Bakersfield College and after three years transferred to California State University, Bakersfield.
"I worked full-time - and sometimes two jobs - to make ends meet. There were days when I knew my education was paid for, but I did not know where I would get food to eat or who would watch my daughter while I went to school or work," Howard recalled. "It has not been easy. I had to make many sacrifices, but I knew I needed to finish school. I had to do it myself because nobody else could do it for me."
When she walks across the stage at the CSUB Icardo Center on Monday, Nov. 30, Howard will have a bachelor's degree in liberal studies with a concentration in communication. Her goal is to work as a speech therapist in a rehabilitation center helping both children and adults to overcome speech difficulties. She also hopes to someday return to Indonesia to see her own humble beginnings. She wants to share that experience with her daughter, Faith, and instill the importance of higher education and how it contributes to achieving personal independence.
"I want Faith to understand that her education should always comes first," Howard said. "This is more than just a degree to me. It is an achievement over life's worst obstacles."
For more information:Commencement
Media ContactColleen Dillaway, Director of Public Affairs & Communications