news-category: Christian Service

Gardner-Webb Student is Youth Volunteer of the Year

Ashley Wilson listens as a volunteer places her coffee order
One of Ashley Wilson's duties at HOPEworks is preparing drinks from the coffee bar.

Ashley Wilson, ’25, Mentors Middle and High School Students Attending Rutherford County After-School Program

By Ashley Rich, ’26, Intern for University Communications

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Prompted by John Miller, an adjunct professor at Gardner-Webb University, Ashley Wilson, ’25, found a new passion. Miller talked to his class about volunteering at HOPEworks, a free after-school program for middle- and high-school students in Rutherford County, N.C. Wilson had time in her schedule, so she decided to give it a try.

She is there most every Wednesday and Thursday and some weekends. In recognition of the time she has given to mentor the youth at HOPEworks, Wilson received the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award from Volunteer Rutherford. Her name has been submitted for the state award from the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service.

The Daily Courier of Forest City, N.C., reported on the awards ceremony and said Wilson was nominated for the award by the Miller, who also serves as the coordinator of HOPEworks. At the presentation, Miller said, “Most of the HOPEworks students come from difficult backgrounds filled with trauma, a population that not many people jump at the opportunity to work with. Yet Ashley thrives in this atmosphere. She truly embodies our motto: ‘Meeting every student where they are no matter where they are.’”

Wilson’s duties at HOPEworks include offering homework assistance, engaging in dialogue, preparing drinks from the coffee bar, collaborating with the program tutor and youth pastor, offering advice, playing games, and generally providing a supportive presence for the students. She greets the students as they enter the building and checks in with them before they begin working on their homework.

Outside of her work with HOPEworks, Wilson is majoring in biomedical sciences with plans to attend Physician Assistant’s school. Her goal is to work in emergency or family medicine. She is also a soccer coach for Greater Cleveland County Soccer Association in Shelby, N.C., and works weekend night shifts as a CNA at Caromont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia, N.C.

Wilson is grateful for the opportunity to give the students resources and guidance that she didn’t have access to at their age. HOPEworks functions as a safe space for the kids while providing a source of accountability. “I have a huge heart, and I am a fixer,” she related. “I struggle not being able to do more for them. I love every single one of those students like they are my family.”

HOPEworks collects toiletries and clothing for the students on an ongoing basis. To find out what is needed and make a donation, contact Miller at [email protected] or call 1-828-539-4649.

Writer Ashley Rich is a Gardner-Webb English major from Etowah, N.C.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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