By Eve Meinhardt, ParaglideMarch 3, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - One of the challenges presented to Americans by the new president is to dedicate some of their time to community service projects.
Ashley Williams has not only risen to the challenge, she has surpassed it.
Williams, the daughter of retired Sgt. 1st Class Alfreda Williams, is a sophomore at Massey Hill Classical School in Fayetteville. Three years ago, she started volunteering and performing community service projects as part of her 4-H Club requirements, now she is an instrumental voice for Fort Bragg teens.
At 16, Williams' resume is lengthy. She serves on the Fort Bragg Teen Youth Action Council and was selected to represent the U.S. Army Southeast Region and Fort Bragg at this year's Army Teen Panel. She volunteers with Child and Youth Services, presents Hero Packs to Families of deploying Soldiers, is active in her church and recently completed level one Army Family Team Building classes to become certified to teach at the Youth Leadership Conference. All of this in addition to being a teenager and serving in a variety of capacities as a student at Massey Hill including class treasurer and military liaison.
As the regional representative at the U.S. Army Teen Panel in Alexandria, Va. Jan. 25 through 30, Williams and 15 other delegates from across the Army discussed the issues young Family members encounter with the Army's senior leadership.
Some of the issues the teens discussed where inadequate facilities at youth centers, transferring credits to new schools in new states or countries when Families change duty stations, bussing students to better school districts and even the lack of communication between military children living off-post and those living on-post.
The communication between military children is an issue that Williams has embraced at her school. One of the programs she is working to get implemented at Massey Hill is the Student-to-Student program, where new students from military Families have a student sponsor from a military Family to show them around and help them get settled in their new environment.
While Williams sets the bar high, she encourages other teens to take an active part in their community. She has been attending the Youth Leadership Conference for three years and says she knows the process works.
"I have satisfaction in knowing (that) all the issues we bring up are addressed," said Williams. "I feel compelled to know all the youth issues going on at the garrison and make sure they are all represented. I want to make sure the lives of Army teens receive the proper attention."
Kari Gonzalez, the Fort Bragg Army Family Action Plan program manager, said the issues Williams and her peers raise at the Youth Leadership Conference are just as important as those brought up by adults.
"The Fort Bragg and Army leadership cares about teens and wants to hear their suggestions and solutions to issues affecting them," said Gonzalez, the. "The teen conference is just as important as the yearly installation AFAP conference."
Williams said one of the advantages of all her work for Army youth is gaining a better understanding of how the military works.
"After being a part of the Youth Leadership Conference and now the Army Teen Panel, I have a better understanding of the Army chain of communication," said Williams. "I've seen issues resolved, so I know the system works.
"Some of the issues brought up by fellow teens that Williams said she has seen resolved include a stabilization policy for parents with a junior, not only a senior, in high school giving them an option to stay at their current duty station until the end of the school year and an exemption for military students from North Carolina's World History requirements, if they have met a similar requirement elsewhere.
With Williams' busy schedule, her mother said prioritizing and time-management have been key lessons she's learned this past year. They work together to synchronize their calendars and keep track of what is going on in both their lives.
"I am confident she has been equipped with the tools for success, she is self motivated, and a self-regulated learner who enjoys serving in carious organizations," said Alfreda Williams. "I've tried to teach her that you can't do everything, but everything you do you should do to the best of your abilities."
She continues to teach Williams through her own example by heading up the Simply Inclusive 4-H Youth Club which meets each month at the E. E. Miller recreation center. The club is open for all children ages 5 to 18 and focuses on leadership, citizenship, communication and technology.
One of the projects Williams recently participated in representing Cumberland County's 4-H club was by providing Hero Packs to Families of deploying Soldiers at the Watters Center Thursday. The Hero Packs contain a stuffed animal, a book and other items as a small token of thanks for the sacrifices made by Soldiers and their Families in the service of their country.