Major: Teacher Preparation
One of the most influential people in Ashley (Young) Nehra’s life was her junior year English teacher, Mrs. Olsen.
“She was not only a teacher of regular education, but she taught me lessons about everyday life,” she said. “She was strict and made sure that things were running smoothly. But she also took the time to know every one of her students personally, including me. Going through rough times, she was always someone who I could turn to. She helped me find the good in everything and reminded me that there is always a reason to smile. She helped me realize that I can accomplish anything that I put my mind to, and that one day I can achieve greatness.”
Nehra wants to have that same impact on young people, which is why she is pursuing her degree in education, focusing on special education.
“I have always wanted to become a teacher, as I love social interaction. But it wasn’t until I received a babysitting job that I secured my decisions,” she said. “I was asked to babysit a 9-year-old girl who had a mental disability, and I immediately fell in love with the idea of working with disabled people as a career.”
Nehra selected College of DuPage for several factors. First, she liked attending a school that focused on individual students rather than offering classes in large lecture halls. She also worked hard throughout her schooling in order to apply for scholarships, and that work paid off when she was named a Presidential Scholar at COD. This included a full-tuition scholarship and enrollment in COD’s Honors program and the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society.
“Being one of the many Presidential Scholars was a complete honor. I have always done well in school, and the scholarship was an amazing reward for the hard work I have put in,” she said. “The criteria to maintain my scholarship was rigorous, but it put me on a clear path to graduating with outstanding grades while leaving me prepared for the outside world. I can’t thank COD enough for the opportunities that they provided me.”
While at College of DuPage, Nehra participated in the Service Learning program, which combines volunteer service with academic instruction. She worked in the Therapeutic Horsemanship Program at the Hansen Center, which is one of seven Ray Graham Association Community Learning Centers.
“Just being able to work with the different students is a fabulous experience,” she said. “They are all different in regards to their disabilities and personalities, and it makes you learn about their disabilities and how to interact with each individual.”
After graduating with high honors with her Associate in Arts degree, Nehra transferred to Lewis University through the enhanced 2+2 program for Special Education and Elementary Education. She also works as a preschool teacher at Little Sunshine’s Playhouse and Preschool. From there she would like to earn her master’s degree in Special Needs Education and begin what she hopes will be a long, rewarding teaching career.
Nehra recommends College of DuPage without hesitation to any student pursuing a higher education.
“Whether you are rich, middle class or having financial difficulties, COD works with you to make sure that you receive as much help as possible,” she said. “It is a great way to jump-start your education without being left with student debt. You can get all of your general education classes done in the comfort of your own district, and enjoy the many extra activities that COD provides. To make things better, you can hold a job while taking classes so you don't end up the typical ‘broke college student.’
“I have faced many difficulties throughout my life that many adults have never experienced, but it just goes to show that with support and determination, nothing can hold you back from achieving your life goals.”