Ashley started attending GEC when she was in Kindergarten. To put it in perspective, that is almost ¾ of her life that she’s been at La Escuelita (or Little School as the children of Gargiulo like to call it). This past spring, she earned her high school diploma and is planning to go on to college to study Business Management and Finance.

However, she wanted to take a year to work for GEC in the EAP program to save for a car to drive to school. She approached Ms Mary with her plan. She concurred but with a few stipulations: She must enroll in two online business courses and intern for four hours every week to continue her education with the Controller at Cypress Woods. In addition she will work with GEC’s accountant and in Human Resources, coached by William Kelley, VP of Global Talent Acquisitions of the Ford Foundation.

Ever since Ashley took part in the Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Program (EAP), she knew she wanted to learn Business Management and Finance. It just spoke to her. Without GEC and the programs funded in part by NCEF, she may have never heard that calling.

“I’m so fortunate to have seen and learned about so many different occupations and professions. I’ve met pilots, federal agents, CEO’s, chefs, golf pros, engineers, managers, just to name a few. It really opened my eyes to what Ms. Mary has always been telling us – there really isn’t anything we can’t do if we set our mind to it, work hard, and support one another.”

At the center, she is an incredible mentor to the students. She’s been in their shoes and is truly passionate about GEC’s mission and loves nothing more than to see the new generation grow and thrive. She helps with their homework, she will be working with them on checks and balances, alongside Tyrone Taylor, our certified Math Teacher (who also is a CPA) every Friday in our banking and finance class. Over 36 savings and checking accounts have been opened by students at GEC. This finance class and saving is mandatory to be a participant of EAP to help them grow to be fiscally responsible adults. “Ashley is such a capable and ambitious young lady. She just may become a CEO in a fortune 500 company.” says Tyrone Taylor.

Ashley also helps with maintaining the donor database, entering in donations, and making sure the letters get out. She assists with administrative duties and learning the ins and outs of non-profit business and for profit. She is currently programming and learning a real point of sale (POS) business software system that a generous donor bought for the center’s school store. She is transforming the already impressive rewards store into an actual functioning professional store, giving her real world experience in opening up and running a business. The only difference is the money is not real. It is miniature bucks and we don’t take credit cards, as of yet.  Ashley is such a quick study; she is now “hiring” students from the Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Program (EAP) to work in the store. They will earn commission in “GEC Dollars” and a store discount. She is teaching them to manage inventory, adjusting price margins as necessary, and of course selling all their wares. In addition, takeing time to give donations to others in need from their inventory. All these skills she, and the other students, will no doubt take with them as they move forward in confidence to a successful bright future.

We are so proud of Ashley and her ever growing list of goals: her huge heart and her tenacity to believe in herself. These are just a few of the things that really make her stand out in a crowd.She is an asset to the GEC family and a true success story on the power of the continued support of community partners like NCEF.

Recently Ashley was invited to speak at the Naples Woman’s Club to tell them about her experience at GEC. Watch the video below to see her speech.