(Ashley Hilton was a Social Work intern from University of Southern Indiana. She will be graduating in a few weeks, and she will receive the President’s Medal, the highest honor presented to a graduate in the Class of 2013 — and the first USI Social Work student to receive the award. We were proud to have had her as an intern! Below is Ashley’s application narrative for her award.)

As a first generation college student with dreams of an ambitious future, I have always taken every challenge thrown my way and tried to make the best of it. Growing up in a home in which addictions and abuse were prevalent; I constantly sought ways to better my situation. Reading books of all kinds, every spare moment of the day was my escape. I would lose myself in stories of people whose lives were like mine, until by some odd stroke of faith they were given the tools needed to persevere and ultimately succeed. Whether fiction or not I gained a positive outlook on life that one that’s grown up in a culture of poverty and abuse rarely believes to be attainable. Upon attending the University of Southern Indiana, I too was given the tools to no longer allow my circumstances to define me.

As a Bachelor in Social Work student I have strived to take every opportunity I have been given as a way to learn and grow into the professional I know I will one day become. I have grown accustomed to motivating others so that they too begin to believe in themselves and their dreams. As an unofficial tutor during my free time, I use the gifts God has blessed me with to help students pass their core Biology, Political Science, and Psychology courses. As a member of the Honor’s Program I have worked as a mentor for freshmen in the Honor’s Mentor/Mentee Program as well as volunteering as a Discussion Leader for an Honor’s Seminar course for a semester. From these learning experiences I have come to the realization that one day I would very much like to become a professor and faculty member at a University with the goal of helping to shape knowledgeable future leaders who have a passion for positive social change.


In the coming years I plan to attend graduate school to obtain my Masters in Social Work or Master’s in Public Administration degree. Although the majority of my peers will one day become case managers or licensed clinical social workers, I plan to focus my studies on advocacy, leadership and social change efforts. Through working with children with special needs, I have seen how a label or lack thereof can be the difference between obtaining and not obtaining certain services. Volunteering alongside those in impoverished communities, I have seen firsthand how the system can confuse and dishearten individuals due to its complex infrastructure in which our social services operates. Interacting with those suffering from mental Illness has exposed me to how difficult it can be to obtain effective care when those in power believe funding should be cut.


Friends and I serving dinner at Evansville Rescue Mission

Empowering communities, giving those who may have never had a voice the opportunity to speak out against injustice, and providing a resolution to social problems for a community – this is where my passion lies. I plan to use my professional education to learn how to assess, intervene and then evaluate said intervention in order to create long-term systemic change through collective actions. I plan to take the information I learn in my proposed graduate program and apply it not only at the local, state and federal levels for shaping policy and programs, but also in advocating for individuals human rights at the international level.


Me! Volunteering at the Aurora table this past summer at WNIN Kids Fest promoting the Midwest Gingerbread House Competition

During my time in graduate school, I plan to obtain the skills needed for me to one day play a part in creating and maintaining a non-profit organization whose services are centered on underprivileged women and girls. As a member of Alpha Kappa Psi, the professional business fraternity located at USI, I have already begun to gain a foundation for my future entrepreneurial endeavors. In order to prepare myself for the future, upon graduation in the Spring I will have completed 450 hours of unpaid internships related to social justice, advocating for the rights of others and creating change by assessing and addressing the root causes of poverty and oppression. Although much of my future remains uncertain, I am motivated to continue touching the lives of others in any way that I can.


Me at Garden of the Gods at the top of a large peak