Wesceleb: Ashley Rena Garret ’12
Ashley Rena Garrett is a unique part of the Wesleyan campus. Hailing from Boston—yes, the city proper—she is a CSS major, squash player, Peer Advisor, study-abroad expert, and all around barrier-and-stereotype-breaker. Walk into a house party with Ashley, and she is bound to know just about everyone and everyone knows her, too. Ashley sat down with The Argus to share some of her unique perspectives on her home life, study abroad, and the pros and cons of campus life.
The Argus: You hail from Roxbury, Boston—the heart of the city. Given your true Boston pride, what do you say to students who say they are from Boston but aren’t really?
Ashley Garrett: Ah, don’t even get me started. I’m like, “Oh, you are from Boston, now really? Tell me more about that suburb outside of Boston.” It’s not that I mind people claiming that they are from Boston and everything…well, actually, I do mind. But more it’s just that I feel that people should have hometown pride. Like people always say, “I tell people I’m from Boston because no one knows my town.” Well no one is ever going to know your town if you keep being like, “I’m from this major city!” Of course no one is going to know your town if you don’t go out there and promote it. Have that small, hometown pride. I mean America was built on small towns, not major cities.
A: In addition to your Boston pride, much of your family is also originally from the South. Do you feel that you have “Southern blood,” too?
AG: I feel like I have Southern hospitality with Northern hostility. I like when people come over, and we have tea and coffee, and we talk about things, but at the same time I am not going to let anyone steamroll over me and take advantage of me. Not to say that Southern people do that. But Southern people seem more nice and genteel about it, and Northern people are just like, “Oh no.”
A: What do you see as one of the major drawbacks of the Wesleyan community?
AG: One of the things I like least is that there is a bubble. It’s understandable, but at the same time, you have so many people who are so active and proactive about things here—we need to learn how to apply change in our community to greater things. I remember when I was doing peer-advising events for orientation, and we talked about doing eco-friendly things. And they were great ideas for students, but they were things that you had to be a certain [socioeconomic] class to do and have certain access or live in a big city. It’s important to take the things we have learned here and think how to apply them to people who are not like us, people who are not privileged and who do not have access to this great education or are not liberal and from the Northeast.
A: How about those dynamics within the Wesleyan community? For instance, how do you feel that you relate to the African American community on campus?
AG: I think in my first few years I was very connected. I really enjoyed being part of the students of color community. But at the same time, I know it was different from friends at other schools, who are only in that community. I feel that here it’s a lot more fluid, as you have people who identify with certain communities, but that’s not the defining thing. I think that’s something more unique to here. On a grander scale in the United States, when people see me, that that’s the first thing they see—color. I am boxed into this category. Like people say, “Oh, your parents must be so glad that you go to college.” And I’m like, “Yes, usually parents are glad that their children go to college.” But for me being African American and coming from a low-income community, people are just like, “Oh wow, you are doing this spectacular thing and no one else from your area probably does or wants that.” And it’s like, “No, there are a lot of people who want those things and have those same ideas and values, but they don’t have access to the resources.”
A: You played on the women’s squash team for four years. How did you become involved with squash?
AG: It was in middle school, in eighth grade, and I was recruited for SquashBusters, a program for inner-city Boston students to play squash, help them with academics, and do community service. My gym teacher came to me and said, “I know you want to go to college, you talk about it a lot, I think you should do this program.” And I was like, “Yeah, I do want to go to college, it’s a big thing.” Even though no one in my family went to college my parents really instilled that desire in me. So I went and I got on the team…and I was just awful. The thing that really kept me in it was that the people were just so awesome and so passionate about this work, especially Greg, the director. And that’s the kind of passion I’m hoping to one day find. That’s why I stayed, because the SquashBusters community was such a great community.
A: Here at Wesleyan you are also part of the CSS community. Why did you choose to put yourself through it all?
AG: I chose to do CSS because it’s a great, really rigorous program that really pushes you to your limit and helps you to see how you are as a worker. Regardless, you are going to be pushed at Wesleyan. It’s just that CSS starts you off earlier. I think the bigger question is why did I stay. I knew I needed to push myself. I knew that CSS wouldn’t let me grow complacent, that I would have to do better each and every time. The other reason I stayed was because of the community. The fact that we were all together and going through the same thing was awesome. Yes, we were all different, but our class in particular, and the professors, too, supported each other throughout all the craziness.