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Ashley Dawn

1875

Bold Points

2x

Finalist

Bio

I am an incoming sophomore at Harvard University passionate about data science, climate justice, policymaking, and human rights. I strive to develop a greater understanding of the world around me by listening to and learning from diverse perspectives. I am passionate about social justice work and dedicate myself to improving my community and empowering all marginalized groups. I am a founder and Co-President of Acton-Boxborough Students for Equity and Justice (ABSEJ), a student-led advocacy coalition with over 130 members. Through ABSEJ, I have successfully petitioned for the removal of our district's racially insensitive mascot, diversified English curriculum, and inspired the creation of a team to investigate local hate crimes. Inspired by my family's own struggles with food security, I have served as President of the Rotary Interact Club, sponsoring regular food drives. I currently volunteer at the Acton Food Pantry; my shifts are the most fulfilling part of my week. I am an aspiring climate scientist, excited to combine my passion for social justice with my interest in environmental science to fight for climate justice and a carbon-neutral future. I am currently a research assistant in the Holbrook Lab of Harvard, studying and predicting how plants will respond to the changing climate. I believe that our role as citizens is to advocate for the equality and well-being of all. Generating change is how I demonstrate my commitment to my communities, as I strive to create a more inclusive, loving, and just environment for all my neighbors.

Education

Harvard College

Bachelor's degree program
2022 - 2026
  • Majors:
    • Natural Resources Conservation and Research
    • Environmental/Natural Resources Management and Policy
    • Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering
    • Political Science and Government
  • Minors:
    • Statistics

Acton-Boxborough Regional High

High School
2018 - 2022

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Public Policy Analysis
    • Economics
    • Political Science and Government
    • Statistics
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Public Policy

    • Dream career goals:

      Policymaker

    • Cashier

      Acton Asian Market
      2022 – Present2 years
    • Swim Instructor

      Acton-Boxborough Community Education
      2018 – 20202 years
    • Lifeguard

      Red Cross
      2019 – 20212 years
    • Instructor

      Lumos Debate
      2019 – Present5 years

    Sports

    Swimming

    Varsity
    2018 – 20202 years

    Research

    • Plant Sciences

      Holbrook Lab at Harvard University — Student Researcher
      2023 – Present
    • Historic Preservation and Conservation

      Independent — Research Intern
      2021 – Present

    Arts

    • Photography
      Present
    • Music
      2013 – Present

    Public services

    • Public Service (Politics)

      Harvard Votes Challenge — Strategy & Operations Fellow
      2022 – Present
    • Advocacy

      Acton Boxborough Students for Equity and Justice — President and Cofounder
      2020 – Present
    • Advocacy

      Beyond Resolved — Massachusetts Chapter President
      2020 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Interact Club — President
      2018 – Present
    • Volunteering

      National Honor Society — President
      2021 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Student Council — Elected Official
      2016 – Present
    • Public Service (Politics)

      Massachusetts State Representative — Intern
      2021 – Present

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Politics

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Strong Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship
    Frequently championed as the “birthplace of the American Revolution,” nearly every corner of Massachusetts is marked by unconditional patriotism. American flags wave proudly on porches, parades are held annually to celebrate our nation, and many school mascots relate to the American Revolution. My hometown of Acton is no exception: until this year, the “Colonials” represented our student body. Although this mascot was celebrated as part of Acton’s rich history, it also served as a poignant reminder of the suffering and oppression that allowed for the birth of America; in paying homage to the colonists who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the mascot glorified the horrific actions of these people, condoning the mass genocide of indigenous peoples that was brought on by the Colonial Era. For Black and Indigenous students, including myself, the white male colonist that was intended to unite our district, made us feel excluded and marginalized. Seeking to change the mascot, I worked with a few others to start Acton-Boxborough Students for Equity and Justice (ABSEJ), an anti-racist organization run entirely by students. We wrote an open letter detailing the historical significance of the mascot and its relation to Black and Indigenous peoples, demanding that action be taken to remove the mascot. I networked with countless organizations and representatives, utilizing interpersonal and organizational skills to schedule meetings and discuss the mascot change. Ultimately, my efforts were rewarded when we received a meeting with the school committee to propose the mascot change. Following this initial meeting, ABSEJ faced intense backlash from the community: groups were created to advocate for the colonial, I received disturbing personal attacks on social media, and “Save the Colonial'' yard signs peppered Acton lawns. Most disturbing was the language used by those who wished to keep the mascot: individuals and organizations alike denied the genocide committed against Natives, negating the intergenerational oppression and suffering of all Indigenous people. The insensitivity and racism present in our district became shockingly apparent; when people were met with requests for change, they took to attacking me, gaslighting BIPOC, and angry protests. Despite facing this incredible adversity, ABSEJ and I stood firm in our request to change the mascot. We held community talks, compiled educational resources, and consulted with the local Nipmuc tribe to discuss improving history education in our district. Through all of this, I continued to lead ABSEJ meetings with over 80 members, setting agendas and directing future plans with meticulous organization. This is what being a leader means to me: persisting in the face of conflict. Rather than become discouraged by the attacks against my initiative, I harnessed them as motivation, taking charge to generate further change in my district. Ultimately, the school committee voted unanimously to pass our petition, permanently removing the Colonials mascot. Although changing a mascot may seem insignificant, my efforts inspired a new wave of anti-racist policies in our schools; ABSEJ has a position of respect in our district that is allowing us to launch educational programs for younger students, hold support groups following local and national tragedies, and advise leaders on social justice issues. Sparking discourse is necessary to induce change, and the mascot debate set the stage for anti-racist action that will be taken in Acton-Boxborough for years to come. My learned ability to persevere in difficult situations makes me a leader that is capable of achieving anything. I am deeply committed to creating a more equitable society, a passion I hope to pursue with a degree and career in public policy and political science, focusing on remedying socioeconomic and racial inequities that run rampant in our world today.
    Scholarship Institute’s Annual Women’s Leadership Scholarship
    Frequently championed as the “birthplace of the American Revolution,” nearly every corner of Massachusetts is marked by unconditional patriotism. American flags wave proudly on porches, parades are held annually to celebrate our nation, and many school mascots relate to the American Revolution. My hometown of Acton is no exception: until this year, the “Colonials” represented our student body. Although this mascot was celebrated as part of Acton’s rich history, it also served as a poignant reminder of the suffering and oppression that allowed for the birth of America; in paying homage to the colonists who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the mascot glorified the horrific actions of these people, condoning the mass genocide of indigenous peoples that was brought on by the Colonial Era. For Black and Indigenous students, including myself, the white male colonist that was intended to unite our district, made us feel excluded and marginalized. Seeking to change the mascot, I worked with a few others to start Acton-Boxborough Students for Equity and Justice (ABSEJ), an anti-racist organization run entirely by students. We wrote an open letter detailing the historical significance of the mascot and its relation to Black and Indigenous peoples, demanding that action be taken to remove the mascot. I networked with countless organizations and representatives, utilizing interpersonal and organizational skills to schedule meetings and discuss the mascot change. Ultimately, my efforts were rewarded when we received a meeting with the school committee to propose the mascot change. Following this initial meeting, ABSEJ faced intense backlash from the community: groups were created to advocate for the colonial, I received disturbing personal attacks on social media, and “Save the Colonial'' yard signs peppered Acton lawns. Most disturbing was the language used by those who wished to keep the mascot: individuals and organizations alike denied the genocide committed against Natives, negating the intergenerational oppression and suffering of all Indigenous people. The insensitivity and racism present in our district became shockingly apparent; when people were met with requests for change, they took to attacking me, gaslighting BIPOC, and angry protests. Despite facing this incredible adversity, ABSEJ and I stood firm in our request to change the mascot. We held community talks, compiled educational resources, and consulted with the local Nipmuc tribe to discuss improving history education in our district. Through all of this, I continued to lead ABSEJ meetings with over 80 members, setting agendas and directing future plans with meticulous organization. This is what being a leader means to me: persisting in the face of conflict. Rather than become discouraged by the attacks against my initiative, I harnessed them as motivation, taking charge to generate further change in my district. Ultimately, the school committee voted unanimously to pass our petition, permanently removing the Colonials mascot. Although changing a mascot may seem insignificant, my efforts inspired a new wave of anti-racist policies in our schools; ABSEJ has a position of respect in our district that is allowing us to launch educational programs for younger students, hold support groups following local and national tragedies, and advise leaders on social justice issues. Sparking discourse is necessary to induce change, and the mascot debate set the stage for anti-racist action that will be taken in Acton-Boxborough for years to come. My learned ability to persevere in difficult situations makes me a leader that is capable of achieving anything. I am deeply committed to creating a more equitable society, a passion I hope to pursue with a degree and career in public policy and political science, focusing on remedying socioeconomic and racial inequities that run rampant in our world today.
    I Can Do Anything Scholarship
    I will advance the fight for climate justice, tirelessly protecting clean water, land, and global health.
    Jeannine Schroeder Women in Public Service Memorial Scholarship
    Frequently championed as the “birthplace of the American Revolution,” nearly every corner of Massachusetts is marked by unconditional patriotism. American flags wave proudly on porches, parades are held annually to celebrate our nation, and many high school mascots relate to the American Revolution. My hometown of Acton is no exception: until this year, the “Colonials” represented our student body. Although this mascot was celebrated as part of Acton’s rich history, it also served as a poignant reminder of the suffering and oppression that allowed for the birth of America; in paying homage to the colonists who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the mascot glorified the horrific actions of these people, condoning the mass genocide of indigenous peoples that was brought on by the Colonial Era. For Black and Indigenous students, including myself, the white male colonist that was intended to unite our district made us feel excluded and marginalized. Beyond the mascot, it had become increasingly clear that a culture of hate and inequality was being fostered by our community’s lack of anti-bias action; within several months, more than six hate incidents occurred in our district, ranging from racist graffiti to verbal attacks on Black leaders. Seeking to change the mascot and address inequality in my community, I founded Acton-Boxborough Students for Equity and Justice (ABSEJ), a student-led anti-racist coalition. I wrote an open letter detailing the historical significance of the mascot and its relation to Black and Indigenous peoples, requesting its removal. Ultimately, my efforts were rewarded when we received a meeting with the school committee to propose the mascot change. Following this initial meeting, ABSEJ faced intense backlash from the community. Most disturbing was the language used by those who wished to keep the mascot: individuals and organizations alike denied the genocide committed against Natives, negating the intergenerational oppression of all Indigenous people. The insensitivity and racism present in our district became shockingly apparent. When people were met with requests for material change, they took to attacking ABSEJ, gaslighting people of color, and angry protests. Despite facing this incredible adversity, ABSEJ and I stood firm in our request to change the mascot. We held community talks, compiled educational resources and research, and consulted with the Nipmuc tribe to discuss improving history education in our district. Ultimately, the school committee voted unanimously to pass our petition, permanently removing the Colonials mascot. Although changing a mascot may seem small, our efforts inspired a new wave of anti-racist policies in our schools. Our advocacy has resulted in the diversification of English and History curriculum, progress in equitable hiring practices for educators, and monthly school-wide anti-bias education. ABSEJ now has over 130 members and a position of respect in our district that is allowing us to launch educational programs about race for younger students and advise local leaders on social justice issues. Equally as important as our policy work is the community that ABSEJ has become. We are a family of advocates who celebrate the company and work of one another, embracing our differences proudly. Following the Atlanta Spa Shootings, administrators asked us to hold space for grieving students; together, ABSEJ offered support to suffering students, empathizing and communicating compassionately with hundreds of community members. In moments like this, I am most proud of the organization I have created-- our diversity and intentional support of those around us can uplift our greater community as we continue to fight for its improvement. Sparking discourse is necessary to induce change, and the mascot debate set the stage for anti-racist action that will be taken in Acton-Boxborough for years to come.
    Learner Statistics Scholarship
    It was the first week of my AP Statistics class, and I was already stumped. Stemplots, histograms, and dot plots meant to organize data made it all the more confusing. Then one day I walked into class to see a data set projected on the board: “Police Violence in NYC by Race”. Tasked with evaluating if there was a significant correlation between race and police brutality, I immediately got to work. However, I no longer saw data points as jumbled dots on a graph. They took the shape of individuals -- victims to an unjust system. The numbers generated by my graphing calculator were a quantifiable measure of inequality, one that gave dimension to my understanding of policing and racism; it was here that I found my passion for public policy. I left that class understanding data science and statistics as a way to plan and direct action towards a more equitable world; effective policymaking requires both a nuanced understanding of cultural contexts and the ability to interpret data and trends. Inspired by national calls for racial equity and hate crimes in my own community, I joined forces with another student to form Acton-Boxborough Students for Equity and Justice (ABSEJ), a student-led coalition. With a mission to rectify oppression in all forms within our district and community, we set out on our first initiative: removing our racially insensitive high school mascot. Employing my knowledge of data collection from my statistics class, I created a survey to gauge community opinions on the mascot, as well as other equity issues. With the results I created graphs and data visualizations, presenting my findings before my district’s school committee. Data indicated that people of color in our town felt underrepresented and unsupported, and they identified our mascot as another cause for alienation. Ultimately the committee voted to remove the mascot, citing the inequity revealed by my survey results. This success inspired me to continue taking a statistical approach to activism: amidst recent discussions about police programs in schools, I began collecting data to understand our community’s relationship with law enforcement. I discovered that the majority of people were unsure of what law enforcement’s role within schools was-- a gap in knowledge that has made many people apprehensive about police presence. I communicated this information to my Superintendent, connecting the data to ABSEJ’s action plan for creating better relationships between police officers and students. My advocacy was successful, and our community will now have the opportunity to share their opinions on school officers each year, allowing policing and the regulation of law enforcement within our district to become a community effort. In college I plan to study political science and statistics, continuing my data-driven approach to global issues. My ultimate goal is to become a policymaker, advocating for fair housing, employment, and effective government assistance programs. I believe that analyzing trends and data can allow us to target aid accurately, decreasing inefficiency and boosting the quality of life for every American citizen.
    Bold Success Scholarship
    I plan to study International Relations and Political Science in college, taking classes that place an emphasis on equitable policymaking. I hope to study abroad in Latin America, using my time to hone my Spanish skills and gain greater cultural awareness. After college I want to become a diplomat and politician, forming connections with different countries to foster more effective and empathetic policymaking. An integral part of governance is understanding how policies impact different people. Without this understanding, policies, aid, and assistance often fail to make material changes, or offer only temporary solutions to deep rooted social problems. Intercultural communication provides invaluable expansion of perspective, offering insight as to what struggles people face in our world and why. My passion for learning more about other cultures positions me to communicate with struggling nations on their needs, enabling me to advise on how the United States’ resources should be allocated to serve our global community. Another critical aspect of diplomacy is human rights advocacy; as a diplomat I would harness nuanced cultural understanding to advocate for women’s rights and humanitarian aid, ensuring no one is left behind in our rapidly developing world. I aspire to make education accessible to all women and girls, implementing policies to help those who are left behind. Addressing the lack of access to water and food that many developing countries face will ease the burden placed on women, granting them greater social mobility and time to educate themselves. I understand that education is the key to gaining a globalized perspective and the tools needed to generate change, and I commit to employing my education to create a more equitable future for all. Success is the ability to make a difference in the lives of those around you, taking steps to make our world a better place.
    Bold Career Goals Scholarship
    I plan to become a diplomat and politician, forming connections with different countries to foster more effective and empathetic policymaking. An integral part of governance is understanding how policies impact different people, and why. Without this understanding, policies, aid, and assistance often fail to make material changes, or offer only temporary solutions to deep rooted social problems. Intercultural communication provides invaluable expansion of perspective, offering insight as to what struggles people face in our world and why. My passion for learning more about other cultures positions me to communicate with struggling nations on their needs, enabling me to advise on how the United States’ resources should be allocated to better serve our global community. Another critical aspect of diplomacy is human rights advocacy; as a diplomat I would harness nuanced cultural understanding to advocate for women’s rights and humanitarian aid, ensuring no one is left behind in our rapidly developing world.