One of the most inspirational people I have ever met was a 12-year-old girl in 1996. Her name is Ashley Lerch Brickley. She is married to Steve Brickley. Ashley was our 7th grade girls’ basketball manager. A few years later, I had the privilege of being her driver’s education instructor.

Ashley graduated from Anamosa High School in 2002. She was a state champion in the 400m wheelchair event.

Some of the most influential people I have met were through sports at Anamosa High School and succeeded at their highest level. Ashley’s accomplishments are right there with these historic amazing Blue Raider athletes.

She attended Iowa State and was a member of the concert band where she played the trumpet. Ashley was president of the Alliance for Disability Awareness Student Organization at ISU for four years and volunteered as a staff member with the Iowa Youth Leadership Forum for high school students with disabilities. She received her bachelor’s degree from ISU.

She then attended U.N.I. (University of Northern Iowa) and earned her master’s degree. Ashley is currently working on her PhD. at the University of Missouri. Her doctorate degree will be in educational leadership and policy analysis — emphasis in higher education.

In 2008, Ashley was named Ms. Wheelchair Iowa and was 3rd in the 2009 Ms. Wheelchair America competition. She was awarded the Learning Disability Association of Iowa’s Zeigler Award in 2009. She also served as President of the Illinois — Iowa Association on Higher Education and Disability.

Ashley currently works at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where she is the director of the Disability Center. She started this position in January 2020. Ashley has worked at Mizzou, as she calls it, for the last five and half years. She has worked in this field since 2008.

Ashley said that with her experiences with a disability she wanted the opportunity to work with students with disabilities. She has worked very hard with the: students, faculty and staff at the University of Missouri to provide accommodations for these students.

Ashley stated, “So much of my success is founded on the support I received in the Anamosa community, especially from my teachers and administrators.”

She told me the experiences she has had as an individual with a disability have pushed her to help ensure others with disabilities to have equal access and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. I can still remember how: positive, optimistic, kind and always smiling that 12-year-old girl was back in the mid-90s. Talking to Ashley on the phone reminded me of those days.

Ashley’s grandmother on her father’s side, Carole Lerch, stated, “Ashley has always been fearless, when she meets a challenge, she goes above and beyond.” Ashley’s grandfather on her mother’s side, Darrel Geltz, stated, “I can’t believe all she overcame and went on to accomplish in her life. I’m so proud to call her my granddaughter.” Ashley’s mother-in-law, Loretta Brickley, stated, “Ashley is a true treasure.”

I have always wondered what that young lady was up to in life. I knew she would make this world a better place.

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