Ashley Huffmon '11

  • Ashley Huffmon '11Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education

  • Currently works as an English teacher for the Abu Dhabi Education Council in the United Arab Emirates

  • Attended TEDSummit 2016 and was selected as a Ted-Ed innovator for her original project “Global Youth Neighborhood,” designed to connect students across the world through virtual classrooms

  • Worked as a teacher for two years in Kanglung, Bhutan

  • Started her own hygiene product for students in Bhutan with a grant from the Bhutan Canada Foundation

She’s been to over 20 different countries in six years, and has the goal of making it to 100 by the time she’s fifty years old. Ashley Huffmon ’11 has experienced more of the world than most people her age, from breathtaking moments on safari in Kenya and parasailing in Indonesia to tragic ones in Nepal during the historic 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Not only has she seen it all, however, she’s also shaping the lives of children across the globe through her innovative actions and passion for people.

What attracted you to traveling and experiencing other cultures?

During my undergrad, I was fortunate enough to travel with retired McKendree Professor Barbara VanAusdal to Ecuador on a mission trip. On that trip (my first time on an airplane), I knew this was the life I needed to lead. We stayed in the heart of Quito and then ventured out into the jungle where I met a small tribe living off the land. I remember trekking through the rainforest with locals, saying to myself “I have to have these ‘first’ experiences everywhere around the globe.”

What motivates you to do what you do?

That is a very simple answer: the children. If one has ever lived in Asia, dark skin like my own is not favored and is, in fact, frowned upon. The darker the skin, the less status you have as a person. When I arrived in Bhutan, a few of my students were shocked to see that I was an African American and were disappointed to say the least. As the years went by, I remember on my last day at school, each of the students had prepared something for me, and one student said, “Madam, your skin has gotten so much whiter since you’ve lived here!” My response was, “No, you are seeing me in a different light and not seeing the color of my skin, but you are seeing me.” It was in that moment I realized I wanted to continue changing the youth, their futures, and their mindsets.

What is one lesson you’ve learned from your travel experiences so far?

The world is a very small place. I’ve learned that we as humans have so much more in common than we think. In each place I have visited, I’ve made lifelong friendships that have opened my eyes to more than just culture, but an understanding of one another as humans.

What do you think we can do in the United States to have a more global mindset?

I think that every child should have some connection with a student in another country. Recently, I was chosen as a Ted-Ed innovator for TEDX for my project to allow Muslim girls to see the world through virtual classrooms. The project, Global Youth Neighborhood (*all rights reserved), was a plan that I made for schools to get children more involved with the community on a global scale. Muslim girls would be able to see the outside world, meet other classes, and do some volunteering for the community and the world around them. I think that any global citizenship must start at the beginning.


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