Ashle Tate's recent trip to Washington D.C. helped open her eyes to the world beyond the Cherry Creek School District.
Tate, a recent graduate of Smoky Hill High School, visited the nation's capital as a chosen participant in the Bank of America's Student Leadership Summit. The trip capped Tate's eight-week paid internship at Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, where she conducted research, met with policymakers at the nonprofit and prepared a detailed "toolkit" highlighting the work of each department in the organization. Along with her peers in the Bank of America program, Tate presented the final result of those months of work to similarly minded students from across the country.
For Tate, whose middle and high school career included volunteer work at the Ronald McDonald House and other organizations, the experience was a validation of years of hard work for a cause greater than herself.
"This was probably the best week of our lives," Tate said, speaking for herself as well as her fellow Student Leaders. "To be sitting in a room with 200 other people who are just like you but so different showed us how to become better leaders."
But Tate's trip to another state didn't distract her from a goal that's inextricably tied to her roots. She spent her years at Smoky Hill working to improve her own community, and her immediate plans share that same underlying mission. She's heading to Colorado State University in the fall to study education administration, and she's already thinking about ways to ultimately give back.
"The model of the trip was inspire change. I just feel so passionate about it now; it really ignited something within me," Tate said. "We need to come back to our communities and actually do something."
That commitment was what stood out to officials from the Bank of America Student Leader program when Tate originally interviewed for the paid internship at Habitat for Humanity's Denver location. The Student Leader program seeks students that show an extraordinary commitment to volunteer work and community activism.
According to Jessica Rink, a Bank of America vice president and manager, Tate's passion for volunteer work was clear from the beginning. Indeed, it helped her stand out from dozens of other high school juniors and seniors from across the country who applied for the program.
"She mentions something bigger than oneself, and she's encouraging her teammates and classmates to think the same. This embodies the program," Rink said. "This really came out in her application. Through the vetting process, she just naturally came to the top."
Tate credits her interest in community activism to the opportunities she found as a student in the Cherry Creek School District. From her participation in AVID program beginning in middle school to her work with the University of Colorado Scholars Program in high school, Tate said the resources she found through the district were critical in steering her to work in her own community.
"Potential is universal and opportunity is not," Tate said. "The district gave me the choice to step up and be a leader. From the teachers to the administration, it's given me the opportunity to get here."