Ashley’s Story

Ashely is a single mother; a survivor; a woman achieving her dreams—how your donations helped make it happen.

Poverty has a deeply disenfranchising effect. Your gift to TAP brings hope and opportunity to people in need. Watch the journey of a single mother who escaped domestic violence and overcame disaster to create a new path for her family with the help of TAP and people like you.

Your gift helps people in our community

TAP is a 100% local organization and all funds donated to Bringing Hope Home will go toward helping people right here in southwest Virginia.

“I thought, ‘You know: I am at the bottom. I might as well go for my dreams.'”

That’s how Ashley Wade describes the moment that she decided to follow her dream to be a doctor. It was an ambitious goal, especially considering how she had just uprooted her life. A single mother of four, Ashley was technically homeless, having returned to Roanoke to stay with family after a tornado had forced her to relocate from Greensboro. Ashley is an admittedly driven person, and she wasn’t motivated to simply restore her status quo—she wanted to use the setback as a chance to build an even better life for herself and her family. Our SwiftStart program gave her exactly the tools she needed to completely recalibrate the course of her life in just two years.

Domestic Violence Survivor: Learning to walk again

In Greensboro, seven years ago, Ashley had felt like the chaos of her previous life was finally settling. She had gone to Greensboro with her four children after domestic violence left her in the intensive care unit at Roanoke Memorial Hospital, relearning how to walk. In Greensboro, she found a job in human resources at the post office. While she dreamed of one day becoming a heart surgeon or anesthesiologist, the post office job provided for her kids and, importantly, was stable.

In April 2018, a tornado tore through the city and uprooted Ashely’s family once more. Unsure of what else to do, Ashley came back to Roanoke. She and her kids spent the next 12 months without a permanent home, relying on the care of family. “We had nothing of our own. I’ve never not been able to provide for my children. Depending on others was hard for me to do,” Ashley says.

Why find just another job?

As Ashley struggled to find another stable job, a thought struck her: Why find just another job? With literally nothing to lose, she knew that this was the moment to pursue the dream of becoming a doctor. She couldn’t put it off again.

To be a doctor, Ashley would need at least three things: a medical degree, job experience in healthcare, and the support to pursue both while raising four kids. A friend directed her to the Roanoke Higher Education Center to find help. It’s there that she recognized TAP on the directory.

“TAP has a lot of resources,” she remembers thinking, “and they offer a certified medical assistant program.” For Ashley, this was perfect. In need of a job, she knew that Carilion is a big employer in Roanoke, and in need of experience, the CCMA program could get her foot in the door of the healthcare field. She went into the office to see how TAP might help. Quickly, Ashley enrolled in SwiftStart. 

As part of our focus on providing the whole family with services, we created SwiftStart in 2015 as a pilot program with the support of the Department of Labor. Designed to address the needs and barriers faced by both parents and children, its goal is to assist working parents to secure higher-wage jobs. The program helps participants find childcare and can pay for it while parents train for careers in healthcare, information technology, or advanced manufacturing. 

It was the perfect opportunity for a single mom, new to the area, seeking to start a new career in healthcare. Ashley recalls her time in SwiftStart as frenetic. She was training for her medical assistant certification and taking classes at Mary Baldwin College (also in the Higher Ed Center). She credits the always-friendly SwiftStart staff in helping her adjust to the life of a mom/student/healthcare professional. “They were amazing. They always met me with a smile, and they always came through no matter what I needed,” Ashley says.

The Two-Generation approach

For Ashley, TAP’s two-generation approach meant enrolling her two-year-old in our Early Head Start program, which provides critical early education for young children up to two years old, as well as finding appropriate childcare for her other children at another local agency. The childcare took something off her plate. She says that children can feel their parent’s stress and the relief from worrying about her kids allowed Ashley to focus on school. “It was fun for them. They were able to get away from whatever we had going on in our family and just be kids,” Ashley says. 

“They had solutions to all my problems…”

Childcare, of course, isn’t the only barrier for working parents. Searching for housing, getting needed car repairs, and simply finding the time to tend to the family are common roadblocks. Often, these problems hinder a job search or career advancement. “The SwiftStart staff is very resourceful,” Ashley says. “They had solutions to all my problems. Without them, I couldn’t have finished the program.”

The group supported each other like a family

Soon after Ashley met her fellow SwiftStart participants, including several other single moms, they began bonding over shared experiences. Some of her favorite memories in the program are the times when the group supported each other like a family. “Classmates were going through their own struggles. But in that class, we would help out the next woman. We were there for each other no matter what,” she recalls. 

The thought of her kids kept Ashley running through the late nights. One of her top priorities is to be a role model to them. “Success is having a goal. I wanted better for us. I wanted to show my kids that Mommy’s never going to give up. No matter how hard it is, just never give up,” she says. While juggling all the responsibilities, she continued to work hard, and the hard work paid off. 

I wanted to show my kids that Mommy’s never going to give up.

– Ashley, TAP Swiftstart participant

Ashley was offered a job before graduating from the program, pending her passing the final certification test. “My proudest moment was when I finished the test and saw that I passed. After all the long days and all the homework and studying, proving that I had the skills and knowledge was the best part,” she says.

Ashley started her new job as a certified medical assistant at Carilion in September 2019. She and her kids live in a house and the family has a new car. While she is proud of these achievements and loves her work, this is only the beginning for Ashley’s new life. “Before coming to TAP, I had less confidence about the future. It was fuzzy, but now it is a clear, bright picture. I feel like there are endless opportunities,” Ashley says.

Looking back on how far she’s come, Ashley has a clear message to those in her position: “Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Come to TAP. It will be the best thing you do for you and your family.” She’s already encouraged three friends to sign up for SwiftStart. Convincing them was easy after they saw her success.

For all her hard work, Ashley is also grateful to those who helped her when she felt at her lowest. She’s paying it forward. Ashley often mentors the current SwiftStart cohort. She feels like she can help those who feel hopeless. “I want to help others, especially single mothers, get on the right track,” she says.

The programs we offer are critical to building a stronger community. They help people like Ashley and countless others overcome what may seem like impossible challenges. About TAP’s programs like SwiftStart, Ashely says, “It’s important. It’s going to make a big difference in the long run for our community. And we need it. We really need it.”

After 55 years, we are continuing to help people in the Roanoke Valley who, like Ashely, are chasing a dream. “Go to TAP,” Ashley says. “TAP is empowering; TAP is liberating; TAP is helping me become a doctor.”

You can help people just like Ashely. Find out how.