Staff Highlights: Ashley Simmons
Ashley Simmons: From Nursing to Nurturing Agora Family Successes
From the journal of: Ashley Simmons
Position: Student Operations Manager
Years in the Agora family: 12.5
Home base: Wyncote, PA
For Ashley, growing up in southwest Philadelphia presented occasional challenges stemming from surrounding neighborhoods that could “attract trouble.” However, she had a solid, nurturing homelife that prioritized education and encouraged her and her siblings to view their future without limitations. As she progressed through elementary school, Ashley set her eyes on graduating high school, but she didn’t see her education going beyond that. This vision changed thanks to one caring high school teacher who, seeing Ashley’s potential, took her under her wing to help her navigate high school and open her eyes to what could come next.
“Sometimes all it takes is one person,” said Ashley. “This teacher helped me become more than I thought I could be. She encouraged me to challenge myself. I didn’t know it then, but this is what defines where I’ve made my career. At Agora teachers care so much and encourage every student to go beyond what they think is their limit.”
Inspired by her family members who went to college to become nurses and social workers, Ashley, considered what was “in her DNA”—the drive to help others—and subsequently attended college to obtain her associate degree in nursing.
The journey to Agora
After working for several years at Frankford Hospital, Ashley fell victim to systemwide layoffs. Determined to support her family financially and remain active in helping people, Ashley signed with a temp agency so she could find employment as quickly as possible. It wasn’t long before she landed a temporary position with Agora. This position represented the first of many doors that Ashley chose to open—and, in many instances create for herself—one by one as she progressed along her career journey. Within three months, Ashley was hired full time. From there, she continued to prove her value, grow her capabilities and pave a very fulfilling path that took her from attendance and truancy assistant to attendance and truancy lead to her current position as student operations manager.
“At Agora, I fell in love with the idea of helping kids and families in their educational journey—it’s a love I will always have. When I got that lead, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I knew there was so much room for growth at Agora, so many opportunities to learn and work with other departments and to impact education.”
Ashley’s early work at Agora sparked a love for the technology side of education. This prompted her to go back to school and unlock more possibilities that would come with a degree. She obtained her Bachelor of Science and Information Technology degrees, including a concentration in analytics. Beyond using this education to further her position, Ashley’s ultimate motivation was her dedication to epitomizing what it means to be part of the Agora family.
“I wanted to use all I learned to help Agora. Every bit of knowledge I gained, I knew I could use to support other departments and to help Agora students and their families succeed.”
Ashley vows to always be a lifelong learner in order to support this mission. By constantly working to acquire new skills and formulate new and better approaches to what she does every day, she is a true role model for students and colleagues alike.
Being the difference
A mother of five and someone who truly understands and appreciates a strong family dynamic, Ashley considers Agora to be her second home—and eagerly embraces opportunities to put her experience as a mother to work for her Agora family of coworkers, students and parents. As Student Operations Manager, Ashley oversees attendance and ensures the day-to-day workings of Agora runs smoothly, provides the strongest possible support and ensures that students and families have everything they need to succeed. She provides practical tools and compassionate support that makes all the difference!
“Being a mother is the best experience to help shape what I do with my job. As a mother, I know how stressful it can be when your child lacks what they need to attend school and learn successfully. I know firsthand what it is to care and love children—to want them to go as far as they can in their educational journey. I know the importance of people behind the scenes doing their job so the focus can be on a child’s education. Every day, I put myself in families’ places and make it as smooth as I can for them.”
Ashley says that when she first arrived as a temp at Agora she had no idea about the world of cyber charter schools, what it would require of her or where it would take her. But she found herself surrounded by people—her boss, the administrative team, the operational staff and many others—who weren’t only willing, but wanted, to help her learn and succeed. Every day Ashley makes a difference at Agora by paying this forward. She lifts up others on their journeys by helping them to grow in their confidence, capabilities, and success.
The next chapter
To Ashley, education, career and family make up the journey of life. She is committed to making this a happy, fulfilling reality for every student and staff member who chooses to be part of Agora, as well as for herself and her family. One way she’ll do this is through her own continued education and by taking on new learning opportunities that she can bring back to enrich the Agora experience. Another foundation is being part of the fabric that distinguishes Agora and elevates them as a model of education excellence.
“I love my job because everything I do is in service to families and students. The operational staff I work with are tight knit. I can do my job effectively because of their help, experience and knowledge. I will continue to give to them what they give to me every day so that, together, we can be even stronger for our students and families.”
Lastly, Ashley sees her next chapter including even stronger personal and professional advocacy for quality education and a family’s ability to choose the best path for their children. “Education shapes society, yet it can so easily get pushed to the background. I will spread messages to anyone I can to keep education front and center.”