With the amount of stuff Ashley Richard has on her plate, it’s a wonder if she sleeps at all. Richard is an Ojibway and Métis woman and was raised in Toronto. She was born in Winnipeg and moved back to the city after her grandmother passed away.
For work, Richard says for her it feels like she has ‘seven jobs.’ For two years, she worked with TakingITGlobal on multiple programs including the #RisingYouth Program, Connected North, and Future Pathways, which are programs geared towards making brighter futures for Indigenous youth.
She also used to be a self-described ‘serial volunteer’ and would volunteer for a bunch of community events. Richard says these volunteers gave her the experience to actually take part in new and professional opportunities.
“Now, I do side projects in event planning, Indigenous project management, media production, and public speaking and it seems like I’m all over the place all the time,” said Richard.
She says no matter what she does, everything comes back to following her grandmother’s footsteps and doing things for the betterment of the community.
Richard’s education journey hasn’t been an easy one for her.
When she was in high school, she always had a hard time learning and says it goes back to how she was in elementary school and how she had a difficult time participating in class.
She was often bored in class and had done testing to potentially transfer to a gifted learning school, but decided not to and the pattern continued well into high school where she dropped out three times.
“Because I was so strong academically, teachers would always want to give me a chance. Every time I came back they’d be making all of these exceptions for me,” said Richard.
She ended up graduating after her grandmother had passed, and says she ‘took all that energy of being defiant’ and threw it into her university. She says it was the challenge she was looking for, and went into business school never looking back.
“I had an initial desire to go into marketing and advertising, but then as soon as I got into business school, I started studying indigenous economic development and then that really just set off a whole journey that I’ve just been on ever since,” said Richard.
Richard has been through many obstacles to get to where she is today, and says her teenage years were rough and tumultuous, setting up a series of events that included her being homeless and getting through it by couch surfing and staying at youth shelters.
“When you’re in that lifestyle and you’re in that circle, you’re surrounded by daily chaos, so you don’t actually see how chaotic it actually is,” said Richard.
When her grandmother passed, she went through a period of hopelessness and didn’t see the point of university, having a career, and more. It was when she got into a bad car accident that really changed her thinking.
“I thought ‘I’m only 20 and if I had died in this car accident, then what would have been the point of all of those 20 years that I had with my grandmother, everything that she taught me and everything she did for me?’ So, that was the turning moment for me.”
And if there were any advice she could give to her younger self, it would be to learn your boundaries and that it’s okay to say no to things and that you deserve to be treated with respect.
“I would have made so many decisions differently if I had just known you can say no and you deserve to be treated with respect,” said Richard.
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.