Ashley K. Jones graduated from APU in 2019 ready to take on life and a new career. Unfortunately, graduation was followed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic a few months later, as well as a cancer diagnosis. With life and plans thrown completely for a loop, it would have made so much sense for Jones to lay low, heal, and recover during that time. Instead, she was active, faithful, and driven in her career, faith, and relationships.
While at APU, Jones majored in English and minored in political science. Her love of writing and social justice created an intersection where she pursued the written word for the good of the reader, and she’s fed into that vein of work over the years. “I chose the English major because I longed to become a better writer,” said Jones. “I loved the English program and all of the professors in the department. Each professor radiated a passion for books, stories, and good writing.” Within the English major, Jones was indeed exposed to great books, stories, and writing, and these experiences helped her become a writer and poet with a penchant for helping, encouraging, and educating others. “The APU community gave me the courage and wisdom to pursue my professional goals in writing and education,” she said. “It helped me refine my skills as a writer and help others do the same.”
Her love for education was further nurtured through her time volunteering with the food pantry at Friends In Deed in Pasadena, as well as her service term with AmeriCorps, where she worked with Reading Partners to help improve literacy rates in Pasadena. She was the program coordinator for Reading Partners at McKinley Elementary School, and today works as a school district support specialist with Tutorfly Holdings Inc. “I help Tutorfly implement high-dosage tutoring services to combat learning loss and boost student achievement,” said Jones, referencing areas of great need after years of pandemic living.
In addition to this, Jones already has a book under her belt with another one on the way. In 2020, Jones wrote and self-published a chapbook, Yet, Praise, born from her experiences during treatment for a rare pediatric cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma. The book debuted as a No. 1 bestseller in its subgenre on Amazon, and all of the proceeds went to Strong Little Souls 501c3, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that supports kids during cancer treatment. Thankfully, today Jones is cancer free and thriving. Her second book of poetry is on its way in November 2023 from local publishing company GoldScriptCo., founded and run by former APU adjunct professor Alexa Johansen.
Throughout the pandemic and her cancer treatment, Jones also published work in literary magazines such as Barren Magazine, The Sun, and Darling Magazine. A reflection on finding hope after receiving a cancer diagnosis (in a pandemic, no less) is one of Jones’ favorites. “During a difficult year,” she said, “writing became a way to tell my story, share my faith, and give hope to those experiencing suffering.” And indeed she did spread encouragement and the hope of Jesus with her words, which has transformed from a way to get her feelings out to what she’s meant to do. “When people came to me and told me my book of poetry really helped them or brought them comfort, I came to believe I have found my professional calling.”
As Jones hurtles toward more and more success, she remembers that APU was a firm foundation for the faith and friends she holds dear. “I loved getting to make a home with my roommates,” she noted while remembering her undergraduate days. “They consistently championed my writing and career goals and I will always be thankful for their friendship.” A strong Christian community has also upheld Jones’ strong faith: “[My faith] has given me the confidence to integrate the values of my faith—compassion, love, and gentleness and more—into my work,” she said.
As a last bit of advice for current and future students who may be carrying more than the standard load of young adulthood, Jones ends with this word of encouragement: “Have faith! It’s okay if your journey takes you on unexpected roads. Have courage and take comfort in the peace of God.”
If you’d like to get in touch with Jones, reach out on Instagram. You can also find out more about her and her published and forthcoming works on her website.