“From a very young age, I realized that the power and influence that someone can have by voicing their concerns and standing up for another. We can all talk the talk, but it’s most important to walk the walk.”

A Student Spotlight:
Ashley Garcia, Double Major in Forensic Criminology and Psychology
Anna Maria College, Class of ’22

By Maureen Halley
Director Marketing Communications, Anna Maria Colleg

Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, Ashley Garcia knew that she wanted to make a difference in the world, she just needed to find a path that would help her get there. With encouragement from her supportive family, Ashley was able to explore a variety of local opportunities to engage within her community. Early on, she recognized the importance of serving others, especially as an advocate for those without a voice. “My life – what I think and how I act – is my message to the world,” said Ashley. “If I can be a catalyst for change in anyway possible, nothing will stop me from achieving that.”

As a dual Forensic Criminology and Psychology major, Ashley is studying to become an expert on criminality working in tandem with the legal system. She aims to bring an understanding of the nature of crime itself and how it occurred through behavioral analysis. “It’s vitally important to me to help ensure justice for the victim, while at the same time, using the proper techniques of forensic science to prevent wrongful convictions,” Ashley remarked. “No one should suffer because of the actions of another; with my double major, I hope to be the voice for those unable to speak.”

When searching for a college, Ashley knew that she wanted to pursue a degree in the areas of human service and criminal justice. After researching many schools, Ashley chose Anna Maria College. “At Anna Maria, Forensic Criminology goes beyond DNA and dives into the legal aspect of crimes, human behaviors, and all the analytics and techniques used while solving a crime,” said Ashley. “It encompasses the sociological, psychological, and biology theories and factors that go into crime. I like that it’s an applied discipline and not purely an academic one.”

During her campus visits to other colleges and universities, Ashley never really felt at home. That changed when she visited Anna Maria. “As soon as I stepped on campus, I was comfortable,” she said. “I wanted to be known by my name, not by a student ID number, and I wanted to benefit from hands-on learning. At Anna Maria, we don’t just learn through lectures, we have valuable discussions and real-world engagement.”

When asked about the faculty, Ashley’s eyes lit up. “They do everything in their power to expand learning beyond the textbook. They impress upon us the relevance of what we are studying and how it applies to life. Our professors know what they’re talking about because they are practitioners, too. They had successful careers working in the fields that we study and they bring real-life experiences into every class,” she said. “Faculty along with staff really care about you and will work with you – no matter what it takes – to make sure that you succeed. Here you are a professional-in-training and they make it known very early on that they will do anything to help you succeed.”

In addition to the passion that Ashley has for her studies, she loves being involved on campus. She has participated in the alternative break service trips with Campus Ministry, traveling to Puerto Rico to help get communities back on their feet after devastating natural disasters. Ashley has served as a freshman peer mentor; a National Society of Leadership member; Latino Unidos member; president of the Class of 2022; a member of a student-run group, “Once Upon a Campus,” that visits terminally-ill children in hospitals while dressed as princesses and super heroes; and a member and Board Secretary of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. In addition, Ashley is a student athlete who has served as captain of the Anna Maria College softball team since her freshman year, was recipient of the 2020 team MVP award, and the 2021 softball team leadership recipient. She was also named to the GNAC Academic All-Conference team. “Ashley Garcia is the heart and soul of our team,” said Larry Sasso, head coach of the Anna Maria College’s softball team. “She always puts other people first; her selflessness is both genuine and inspiring. The sky is the limit with her, and I am so proud of how far she has come. Coaching Ashley has made every day a win for me!”

Coach Sasso chose Ashley to be the team liaison with You’re With Us, a charitable nonprofit organization that creates inclusion opportunities for people with disabilities. As part of this partnership, Ashley has weekly conversations with her honorary teammate, Alexis. “Alexis and I have a video chat every week since quarantine began and I love seeing her smiling face and the time we have to connect,” Ashley shared. “Under normal circumstances, Alexis would be in the dugout with us during home games, but I really enjoy talking with her about our favorite shows and musicians – and she enjoys it, too.”

“When I was in high school I wasn’t involved in as many clubs as I would’ve liked so when coming to Anna Maria, I was really focused on going outside my comfort zone,” said Ashley. “I never thought I would be able to participate in all of the clubs, sports, or even further explore my faith. But I realized that at Anna Maria, you can be anyone you want to be. Everyone is so incredibly accepting and it’s a place where you actually can be yourself. We all come from different backgrounds and no matter our race, ethnicity, gender, or even religion, we are simply one community. Everyone knows everyone – and this includes President Retelle; she’s a strong leader but very approachable. She’s the biggest cheerleader for students and is always present, whether it’s at a game, a concert, or a drama production – you’ll always see her!”

Ashley is a merit scholarship recipient and shared that Anna Maria’s Financial Aid Office really worked with her to make her college education affordable. She has a strong work ethic and believes that nothing in life is ever just handed to you. “My Anna Maria academic scholarship and grants make it possible for me to attend college and also sets a good example for my younger sister that hard work really opens doors,” said Ashley. “I’m also in the work study program which has provided me with a lot of opportunities to serve on committees with other students, faculty, and staff – and that experience has been awesome.”

In closing, Ashley said that Anna Maria College has prepared her in so many ways. “It has taught me that my journey will never follow a straight line, but to welcome change and always challenge myself to grow because those people that I want to serve will be counting on me.”

Ashley Garcia, captain of the Anna Maria College Softball team, serves as the College’s liaison with You’re With Us, a charitable nonprofit organization that creates inclusion opportunities for people with disabilities.