January 2007 High School Student of the Month: Ashley Long
“She is one of the hardest working students I’ve ever encountered.”
- Cindy Szymonowicz, Hibbing H.S. Guidance Counselor
School: Hibbing High School
Actions speak louder than words, they say. Ashley Long, a current senior at Hibbing High School, is living proof of that statement. The Chisholm native came to Hibbing in 9th grade and quickly created a caring, energetic, helpful reputation, all the while surmounting personal challenges.
“Ashley has a learning disability and does have to take English through Special Education,” says Cindy Szymonowicz, Hibbing High School’s guidance counselor. “However, she strives to do her best. She is one of the hardest working students I’ve ever encountered.”
Ashley’s special education teacher, Mrs. Bloom, eagerly agrees.
“Ashley has Asberger’s Syndrome, but in spite of her disability, gives 100% of her effort. She has a very loving and caring heart toward other students no matter what their need is.”
Asberger’s Syndrome is a recognized neurological disorder that shares some of the same characteristics of autism, although its accompanying disabilities are not present. One commonality, though, is difficulty understanding what others think and feel, and consequently, those afflicted with Asberger’s may behave awkwardly or inappropriately in social situations.
Ashley, though, is known for her great attitude and has found a way to work and develop her social skills throughout her high school years at Hibbing. She remembers 9th grade as a big turning point, “…Because I was meeting and learning more about Special Education students and making more friends.”
Concurrently, she was having a positive impact on others.
“Not only does she strive to do well in her academics but she also has a great personality,” Szymonowicz says. “Ashley is outgoing, kind, willing to help others, and eager to learn and advance herself.”
Proof of that lies in the class she took last summer at Hibbing Community College. With her own money, she paid to take the first course toward becoming a registered nurse.
“My mom used to be a CAN (certified nursing assistant) and I like to help people that need it the most.”
This penchant for goodwill is evident in her school-supported Work Experience Program (Ashley’s favorite course) as well. She works as a nursing assistant at Golden Crest Nursing Home and helps serve the residents and interact with them in their activities. Those experiences, among others, have helped Ashley improve in her social skills, plus develop her reading and math aptitude.
“I do really well in my classes but do have to study a bit more to help the information click in,” she says.
Although Ashley enjoys being the helping hand, that doesn’t stop her from recognizing the many people that have assisted her along the way. Ashley is one of five children (two brothers and two sisters) to Janice Heatherington, a manager at Range Center. She also notes one Hibbing teacher in particular who's assisted her success.
“Mrs. Connie Bloom has helped me through a lot during the years.”
Ashley’s now wrapping up her senior year at Hibbing High School, but before that infamous walk, she hopes to take another college course, go out for volleyball and do a bit of traveling. Then there’s her other hobbies, like camping, swimming, movie-watching and working out at the YMCA, that she hopes to fit in between class and work. When all is said and done, and that hard-earned diploma is in hand, she’ll likely attend Hibbing Community College and pursue her nursing interests.
“She is an upbeat young lady who works extremely hard to be successful,” Szymonowicz says.
Despite her disability, there’s no doubt she’ll do just that.