Ashley Medina was inspired to run for the Lewiston School Committee Ward 5 seat while participating in parent-teacher leadership training. “I learned there’s a disconnect between parents and teachers and parents and students. Many parents feel like they don’t have a voice, and feel defeated. So I want to be someone they can trust to bring their issues to the table,” she said.

With a daughter in high school and a son in sixth grade, Medina sees room for improvement in the schools. “My daughter has trauma, and sometimes her teachers have raised their voice at her, or even grabbed her arm when she got upset. When I would go to the principal, they would just insist that something like that would never happen. At the time, I didn’t know my rights as a parent. I didn’t know I could go to the superintendent or go to the representative in my ward’s school committee. I know many parents have been in similar situations.” Medina says her biggest goal is to involve more parents, youth, and community members in education and work to get their voices to the table to address the issues they care about.

She said students get different opportunities based on which district they are from. “The community I live in consists of mostly low-income and working class people,” she said. “The school my kids went to didn’t offer as many opportunities as some schools in other districts. I want to advocate for more resources. All children all deserve equal education, experiences, and opportunities, regardless of where they’re living.”

Medina serves as a mentor and vocational coordinator at Goodwill Take 2 Youthbuild, a nationwide nonprofit organization that provides education, counseling, and job skills to unemployed youth. “We help at-risk youth between ages 17 and 24 get their GED and job training. A lot of them grew up in this community and dropped out of Lewiston High School. There’s a big stigma against dropouts; people usually think they are just lazy. But it’s so much deeper than that. There are many different reasons why someone isn’t able to finish school. It’s important for me to bring these issues to the table and see how we can come together to help our youth be successful.” In addition to mentoring youth, Medina also facilitates Be Proud! Be Responsible!, an STI and HIV prevention program, and Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, a program that investigates the root causes of poverty and teaches people how to get out of it.

She was inspired to get into social work after her home burned down and she was forced to live in poverty as a single mother. “We lost everything, and the community really looked out for us. They helped us find housing, furniture, clothes for my kids, so many things. So I wanted to give back, I wanted to see how I could make a difference.”