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Ashley Blackstad
April 5, 2023
  • Ashley Blackstad and children

I worked at Bank of Hawai‘i as a teller, straight out of high school because of my daughter. I had her at 16 years old and chose not to go to college so I could take care of her. My mom had watched my daughter during the day so I could finish high school and get my diploma.

I worked at Bank of Hawai‘i for five years; it was the perfect 9-to-5 job. In 2012, I applied at Kaua‘i Beach Resort because I was told hotels have great benefits and pay. I started as a night auditor working the graveyard shift. Eight months into the job, I cross-trained in the accounting department to cover the workload of someone going on maternity leave. I did dual jobs for about six months when a position opened in the accounting department as a clerk. I transferred to that position in 2014. I was promoted in the department four times: staff accountant, property accountant, accounting manager and in January 2022, controller.

In late 2018, my boss for about a year promoted me to property accountant and asked me if I ever considered getting a college degree. She told me what she saw in me, and she said a college degree would be beneficial for my future. She helped gather information for me and told me to look into it.

Something clicked

I met with a counselor at Kaua‘i Community College and started the process, but in February 2019, I lost my brother and sister-in-law, and I chose to put school on the back burner. I'm not sure exactly what clicked in me, but in the summer of 2021, I was determined to go back to school. I applied for Kaua‘i CC for the 2022-2023 school year. Starting this early gave me a lot of time to research costs and scholarships. I dove in headfirst and got the ball rolling.

The biggest challenge has been trying to juggle my time as a full-time worker, full-time mom of two, and part-time student. I am thankful I have work experience to fully understand what I am learning academically. I am taking online courses, most asynchronous, so because I am not constantly being taught with a teacher in front of me, the workload has been a lot. But because I have the knowledge from working in the field, I am able to do the work even though it is challenging.

My children are the reason I want to succeed in school. I had my oldest when I was 16 years old and did not think I would ever go to college. I am doing this for them.

They said I’d never make something of myself

I want my children to see that it's never too late to go after their dreams. I did not always want to be an accountant, but I always wanted a college degree for something. Working in accounting for Kaua‘i  Beach Resort, I found something I enjoyed and realized this is what I’d like to do for the rest of my life. I was a teen mom who was always told the odds were against me. I was told I’d never graduate high school. I was told I’d live off welfare my entire life. I was told I would never make something out of myself.

I graduated high school with my class, with my one-year-old daughter in the stands watching me get my diploma. I have been with the same company for the past 10 years, working my way up the ladder. And I am almost done with my first year of college—I made the dean's list in the fall semester.

For parents like me who want to go to college but aren’t sure they can do it, I say do it. Just go for it. I was so afraid of the costs involved with going to college that it held me back. But after doing research and finding so many different scholarship opportunities, I applied for everything I found, and it was a blessing.

I was absolutely shocked to see the scholarships I received. I honestly did not think I was going to be awarded anything. You have no idea how appreciative I am for receiving these scholarships. I am at a loss for words, and all I can say to generous donors is thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.