by Leah Vuich
Ashlee Freed, a young woman from Mercer, PA, recently received a scholarship through the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund to help pay for educational expenses. YAP Program Coordinator Leah Vuich, describes Ashlee as, “enthusiastic, outgoing, and having a driven personality.” Ashlee recently started online classes to receive a Pet Grooming Certification through the Penn Foster Accredited Education Program. This online program allows flexibility for her to continue completing her responsibilities at home and provides clear recommendations for their hands-on component. Ashlee is very enthusiastic about starting this program and the opportunities for employment she will have upon receiving her certificate. Ashlee has been participating in YAP services since November 2016. Currently, staff members support Ashlee with accessing community activities and resources, maintaining her responsibilities at home, and now will support her to stay on track with her schooling.
Ashlee has gone through a lot throughout her entire life, but this past year has tested her strength, capability, and compassion more than ever. Ashlee was adopted at six years old by the Freed family. She quickly assimilated into her new family and reciprocated their love and respect toward her. Ashlee was always a leader in her family, assisting her younger siblings with homework or chores, resolving disagreements between siblings, and helping her mother with simple tasks around the house. This past year, Ashlee lost her biggest cheerleader and best friend, her adopted mother Stephenie, to Leukemia. While her entire family was coping with the loss of their mother, wife, sister, and the glue that kept them together and afloat, Ashlee found a way to balance mourning and taking on her mother’s responsibilities. Ashlee made sure that her younger brother logged onto Cyber School, all seven family members had dinner, the animals were fed, bills were paid by her father, and resources were contacted so the family could sustain itself.
After nearly a year of being the strength and support her family required, Ashlee decided to look for a new option to support herself and her family. Ashlee found that she was also ready to put herself first, for the first time in her life. Ashlee has a passion and a talent for caring for animals. The Freed family has two dogs, six puppies, twelve cats and kittens, three goats, and recently sold two alpacas. Ashlee is responsible for their care, ensuring they are fed, groomed, vetted, and loved. Ashlee has served as a volunteer with various animal support organizations and has now chosen to pursue a career in this field as a pet groomer.
Leah concluded, “Ashlee’s family members, friends, and professional supports can all attest to her hard work and determination to thrive in her home, family, and community. I know that she will be successful in this field, excelling once she is given more access to knowledge and resources and the opportunity to share her compassion towards animals.”