Ashly Lopez Escober moved to the United States from Honduras just six years ago. Becoming a founding student at a high school and creating a culture of collaboration for future students wasn’t part of her plan. As she prepares to study biochemistry at the University of Washington, that’s exactly what she’s accomplished.
With a fierce determination to go to college, Ashly was drawn to Summit Atlas when she learned about its emphasis on preparing students for a fulfilled life after high school. She decided to take a chance on what was then a brand new public charter school and embrace yet another new environment.
At first, Ashly felt pushed outside her comfort zone by the project-based learning approach at Summit Atlas. “I wasn’t always a person who appreciated working alongside other classmates,” she said, “but at Summit I realized that in the ‘real world’ we find ourselves in situations where leaning on others is a luxury as much as a necessity.”
Working alongside her new community quickly became a defining part of her experience. As Ashly recognized the opportunity that came with being a founding student, she began to approach her time at Summit Atlas as a collaborative project in co-constructing something new with peers and teachers. “We had the chance to make things the best they can be for other students even when we’re gone,” she said. “We had a lot of firsts,” she reflects, “including launching clubs like soccer and student government.”
Ashly also recognized the uniqueness of Summit Atlas for enthusiastically embracing this level of student engagement.
“It’s like a breath of fresh air, I like the new ideas and how teachers respond to student feedback. It’s not just about how adults frame the new models of teaching, but how students say they want to learn.”
One thing that made Summit’s approach to learning stand out for Ashly was its effort to ensure all students have access to challenging opportunities like AP tests. In her freshman year, Ashly set a goal for herself to embrace academic challenges as much as she could. She took her first AP class, psychology, in her sophomore year, which was a little intimidating to start with. It was a different workload than what she was used to, but she soon found herself enjoying the process of being in charge of the information she was taking in and growing as a scholar.
“Every victory for me feels like a testament that I can keep going and do so much more. And I don’t always win but it doesn’t mean I can’t do it — just that I need to work harder or approach it a different way. I like to think I adapt,” Ashly says.
Building a tight-knit community was also key to Ashly’s academic successes. She has enjoyed helping her peers and being someone who can lift people up. Her friends have also stepped in during moments when she was feeling low. They leaned on each other for academic and emotional support. “I go forward, and you go with me too,” Ashly said as she described the culture she helped create, “we all push each other, no one gets left behind.” The collaboration and teamwork that Ashly and her classmates undertook is a point of shared pride.
Ashly’s commitment to fostering a culture of collaboration at Summit Atlas is evident. Her math teacher, Kristen Smith, shared “Ashly is one of the most self-motivated, driven students that I have had the privilege of teaching. Beyond that, Ashly is incredibly kind to her classmates. She is always willing to give up her time during class to help someone else who is struggling and does it in a way that makes her friends feel really supported and respected.”
For Ashly, these experiences will define how she steps into her future – in college and beyond. “Attending Summit Atlas is one of the best decisions I made in terms of personal growth and college preparation in the last four years,” she shared.
As an immigrant, the college application process in the United States was new to Ashly and her family. Despite her initial nerves around the application process, she credits Summit Atlas for walking the walk, “they really followed through with the college prep aspect.” The school offered structure and support for all aspects of the college preparation process including FAFSA and other financial aid applications, personal essay draft help, school application management and extracurricular opportunities despite pandemic related restrictions. By the spring, Ashly had been accepted to colleges around the country.
In her next step, Ashly will be pursuing biochemistry. Since she was a kid, she has always pictured herself in a lab coat as a chemist. Through her academic experiences, she also became interested in biology, and in particular and medicines’ interaction with living things. Ashly cemented a plan when applying for college — to work towards a bachelor’s degree and then go on to pursue a two-year medical laboratory certification.
“I want to be behind the scenes of medicine, supporting doctors,” she says with passion. “I want to see how our human bodies interact with vaccines. Last year made me more confident – I saw how relevant the work was. It feels important and like I can leave a legacy.”
As a soon-to-be Summit Atlas alum, Ashly has a few words of wisdom for future students. “Difference is a good thing. In order to thrive in a new environment, you need to embrace it.”
Learn more about Summit Atlas here.