Ashley Hales

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ashley Hales

Interview by: Daniel Murphy

Ashley Hale is a fourth year, Dual Degree student majoring in Economics and Trumpet Performance. She was born in Oakland, California, but is immediately from Seattle, Washington, where she began playing the trumpet in 7th grade. In her time at Oberlin she has been involved in many non-profits in the area by way of the Bonner Scholars Program. She is currently one of the coordinators of Music Mentors, a position she's held since her freshman year, and is a tutor for the Ninde Scholars program as well as The Backspace - an after school activity center for middle and high school students. She has one more year until she completes her degrees here and is looking forward to seeing what life has to offer after Oberlin.

Q: Could you start with a description of what youre doing?

A: Music Mentors is a student-run organization where we take students in the College as well as the Conservatory and we go to Langston Middle School to give private lessons for free. We go to the band room during their class and we take out one student or you can work with groups. We also try and have meetings at least once a month so we can see each other and bounce ideas off of each other.

Q: In what ways has this work with the community affected your college experience?

A: I think its definitely made Oberlin less of a bubble for me. So working within the community is like Oh its a real place, this is a real thing, its real life right here as opposed to Im just here to go to school. Im also a Bonner Scholar, so I do a bunch of community service work I also work at the Bridge program, the BackSpace. Its kind of like an after school program, and Im there as a tutor, but Im also there to play games. I know all the kids around here and a lot of those kids I actually knew before I started working at the Bridge due to Music Mentors, and Ive seen them kind of grow up through the whole middle school process.

Ive worked with a million different types of students, with a million different attitudes, and I think thatll definitely prepare me for the future.

Q: What are some notable learning experiences youve had as a result of this work?

A: Specifically with the Music Mentors, just the fact that Im getting teaching experience is a big thing, which I think Ill be doing in the future in some way or another. I think this is cool kind of a way to throw myself into those situations and see how I handle it. Ive worked with a million different types of students, with a million different attitudes, and I think thatll definitely prepare me for the future.

Q: Why do you think its important forCollege and Conservatory students to be involved with the Oberlin community?

A: I think its important just because we ARE in the community. Literally, you know? Were in the community of Oberlin, not just going to Oberlin College and Conservatory. I think theres definitely that disconnect between the students and the people that actually live here for life. And I think it doesnt really need to be like that, you know? Its also just these cool opportunities for us, you know, and on both sides, this sort of symbiotic relationship here between the Conservatory, College and just the regular people that live here.

Q: Did you find it difficult to get involved with the community? What advice can you offer to students who want to get involved?

A: No. I think theres a lot of resources in terms of where to start. One of the biggest ones is the Bonner Center that has just a million and one resources, whether its the Bonner Wiki or just walking into the office and going, Hey, Im interested in this. They have a lot of contactseverything is with the Bonner Center.

Q: What motivates you to pursue and continue your volunteer work?

A: I think the experience is, particularly with working at the BackSpace, the kids are there, and they dont HAVE to do anything, so it totally changes their attitude about life. Ive worked as a tutor before in the schools and they dont want to be there. At the BackSpace its like, Oh yeah, Im here to play games! and all that stuff, so I think its the attitudes of the students that definitely motivate me to go back. Theyre crazy and theyre funny and all of that, so I have a good time. But then in terms of looking at myself, I think Im benefitting from this too. I think Im getting personal skills like mediating conflicts and things like that, that I think are just good skills to have just for life in general.

Q: Do you have any additional notable responses from the community partners that you work with that you can remember

A: Well, Mr. Gnizak is the band director at Langston. He always tells us, me and the mentors: Oh, we just love that youre coming in, we really appreciate everything youre doing. Also students sometimes say it but, you know, that typical middle school kid isnt going to be like, I love when you come in here on Wednesdays! But one time I was like, They dont seem very enthusiastic. I told Mr. Gnizak that, and then he told them that and then the next week when I came in, they were all running like, I wanna go! And I was like, I dont know if this is genuine. But that was the first time I had ever had any real enthusiasm.

Q: Is there anything else you want to say about your work, any message for people who want to get involved?

A: I think its very easy to be involved and even if people are the slightest bit interested, I think they should at least try it. The worst that could happen is, Oh no, I dont like kids, thats fine, at least now you know! Here, you have multiple years here, you can test out different things cause theres a million different things to do, and just get involved. I think its really beneficial for everybody.

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