The first from his high school to be accepted into a top-tier college, Corey Ashley will be attending Stanford as a part of the Class of 2018 in the fall.
Ashley currently lives in Sanders, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation, where only around one percent of the population graduates college. Ashley also had doubts about going to college and pursuing his education, but his junior year math teacher, Stanford alumnus Josh Catron ’09, introduced him to a program called College Horizons that helped change his mind.
Catron worked on Ashley’s reservation as a part of the Teach for America program, and when Ashley first joined Catron’s Algebra 2 class, Ashley barely prioritized his own education.
“I had a completely different outlook on school,” Ashley said. “I didn’t even think that much about going to college.”
According to Catron, the education system on the reservation disadvantages even brilliant or hard-working students.
“Rarely do the teachers stick around for more than a year or two,” Catron said. “There’s poverty, violence, unemployment, drugs — all these things that [the students have] to overcome.”
Catron believes that the lack of emphasis on education is due partly to the fact that the students cannot experience its effects or see its value on the reservation.
“On the Navajo reservation, there [are] very few jobs, and you don’t feel what education can do,” Catron said.
However, around January of Ashley’s junior year, Catron handed out forms for College Horizons, a non-profit dedicated to increasing the number of Native American high school students going to college.
“I didn’t think nothing of it [sic], but I took one of the copies he gave out to us,” Ashley said. “I just sat with it for a week, and I thought to myself, ‘Why not just try this?’ And that’s when I had a change of heart about school and about college.”
That year, Ashley applied to an internship at Arizona State University to gain experience with computer science as well as with College Horizons.
“It was a big step for me,” Ashley said. “I eventually got into College Horizons, and that summer I went to NYU for this college workshop. That’s where I became driven to change the future I had in mind instead of just staying on [the reservation] and going along with the Diné [Navajo People].”
During his senior year of high school, Ashley was appointed president of his high school’s College Prep Club. He raised $26,000 to support a college tour for the top 20 students at his school. They visited colleges such as Dartmouth, Harvard, Amherst and more.
According to Catron, the trip helped inspired the students to work harder.
“I think the students saw a newfound work ethic and desire,” Catron said. “Corey was on a mission to go to a top school. He applied to Ivy League schools, small liberal arts schools [and] Stanford.”
Ashley explained that he ultimately chose Stanford because of Catron’s descriptions.
“Catron would tell me all these stories of his experience at Stanford,” Ashley said. “I just kept hearing him describe it as the best college in the world and the best four years of his life. That just pushed me to apply and get that experience myself.”
Catron hopes his former student will enjoy and use the experience to its full advantage.
“I want him to be able to explore the diversity that’s out there,” Catron said. “I think he will learn more about who he is and his identity and that responsibility that he has a Navajo student going to Stanford…I’m excited to see his true potential come out when he has the support and the teaching and all the systems that Stanford has.”
Contact Lisa Hao at lisa ‘dot’ hao13 ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com.
In a previous version of the article, information about college acceptances from Ashley’s reservation was incorrect. The Daily regrets this error.