Ashley Blackwell graduated from the University of Virginia in 2015 with a degree in urban and environmental planning. At UVA, she founded an organization dedicated to creating a comprehensive support structure for low-income students. She also worked as a research assistant on education reform issues, developed a high school social justice curriculum, evaluated preschool curricula, and evaluated a teacher professional development program for National Head Start teachers. Ashley has worked with the City of Charlottesville's Office of Economic Development to address barriers to employment for low-income residents with a focus on transportation and childcare, and worked with community development organizations on affordable housing and homeownership.
Field placement: Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago
Ashley collaborated with an advocacy group led by women with disabilities, Empowered Fe Fes, to create a film illuminating the existing support structure for women with disabilities to access employment opportunities. She conducted research to identify the current framework of policies and key stakeholders across 5 main sectors—economic development, education, government, housing, and transportation—that redress or create barriers to employment for women with disabilities. By interviewing 20 women with disabilities and 10 local officials and service providers, Ashley provided a holistic perspective and centered the recommendations of women with disabilities for a more accessible and economically just Chicago.
Policy placement: Center for American Progress
Ashley wrote two policy briefs that explore food insecurity in neighborhoods lacking access to healthy, affordable food and criminal justice reform with a focus on people with disabilities. Ashley also produced articles and radio shows related to pressing national social issues on Center for American Progress’s TalkPoverty.org platform.