Ashley Rhodes-Courter is the quintessential American success story. Born in 1985 to a single teen mother, by the age of 3 she was in Florida’s foster care system where she spent almost ten years being shuttled between 14 homes-some quite abusive-before being adopted from a Children’s Home at the age of twelve.
Despite her ordeal, she excelled in school because she believed that, “my education was the one thing nobody could take from me.” Early in her life she felt compelled to advocate for herself and the other children she lived with, particularly in the abusive foster homes.
Her efforts and academic achievements landed her Eckerd College’s Trustee Scholarship-the school’s most prestigious full-tuition award. She graduated with honors and ahead of schedule earning a double major in Communications and Theater and a double minor in Political Science and Psychology. Ashley then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California.
During her undergraduate studies, she was one of 20 college students selected for the USA Today All-USA Academic Team and was named one of GLAMOUR Magazine’s Top Ten College Women. She was also named one of the four Golden BR!CK Award winners for outstanding advocacy for community change by Do Something. As part of their campaign, she was featured on 25 million bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. She was the Youth Advocate of the Year for the North American Council on Adoptable Children, has received the Kids to Kids National Service Award from the Child Welfare League of America, and was the recipient of two Angels in Adoption Awards from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.
How It All Started…
On June 1, 2003, the New York Times Magazine published her grand prize winning essay about her adoption day. She expanded her essay into a memoir, Three Little Words, which was published by Simon & Schuster in January 2008 and quickly became a national bestseller. Her memoir is currently being made into a major motion picture. The book has been adopted by schools and communities as part of One School, One Book initiatives across the country.
In the Media
Internationally recognized, Ashley has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, Nancy Grace, ABC Primetime, Montel Williams, and other national media outlets. She frequently appears in local television and newspaper markets when she travels for her speeches. She hosted a television program called “Explore Adoption” which was produced by the State of Florida to raise the public’s awareness of foster children in need of loving and permanent homes. This segment won an Emmy in 2009.
In 2010, Ashley was selected to represent and mentor as part of Levi’s Shape What’s To Come campaign, an online, global community for women that offers opportunities to exchange ideas, collaborate, and provide support to one another. Her work with Levi’s was featured at the TED Women’s Conference in Washington, D.C. Recognizing that child welfare issues are universal, Ashley spent time in Europe, South Africa, and China studying child welfare and social policies.
In her community, she serves on the board of the Pasco/Pinellas Heart Gallery, PEHMS (Personal Enrichment Mental Health Services), and consults with many local and international agencies and groups that work in the mental health, human rights, education, and child welfare fields. She has also been a volunteer Guardian ad Litem (or CASA) and is a licensed and active foster parent, having cared for over 20 children.
Since the age of 14, Ashley has advocated for the half-million children still in foster care in America by giving speeches throughout the U.S. and abroad.
She has spoken on Capitol Hill, has been invited to the White House, and has taught at numerous colleges and conferences for elected officials, judges, social workers, policy makers, and families.
In April 2012 the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce selected Ashley as the International Woman of the Year at their Iconic Women’s event.
At the age of 26, Ashley ran for the Florida State Senate – a race the media dubbed the “David and Goliath of races.” Ashley has turned her pain into power and she has a passion to share her story with those who have experienced adversity. Ashley strives to encourage education, compassion, community involvement, and positive outcomes for individuals, youth, and families.