First-generation college student graduates with bachelor’s degree in literature, language and writing

Rising Up at KUEC: In this Q&A series, outstanding 2021 KU graduates share how the KU Edwards Campus has helped them start, advance or change their career. Meet Ashley Kalatusha.

Ashley Kalatusha, Literature, Language & Writing Bachelor's Degree 2021

Juggling work and family while earning her college degree didn’t stop 27-year-old Ashley Kalatusha from becoming an outstanding student. The 2021 graduate worked two jobs on top of serving as a KU student ambassador and participating in the Honors Program. This May, Kalatusha graduates with her bachelor’s degree in literature, language and writing, making her the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“I want to be able to move up in life and make an impact on those around me,” Kalatusha said.

The ability to attend evening classes alongside adults with similar life experiences was important to Kalatusha during her KUEC journey, and the tight-knit classes led to long-lasting friendships.

With the professional life skills she’s gained through her classes, Kalatusha hopes to advance in her current job. Read how she plans to reach her goal!

Q: What is a typical day in your life like?

A: I wake up at 6 a.m. and begin working at 7 a.m. as a before and after school program director at Johnson County Parks and Recreation District (JCPRD). On some days, I also substitute teach at an elementary school. If I am only working JCPRD, then I lesson plan and have meetings until 10 or 11 a.m. During lunchtime, I eat, work on homework and read or work out. I return to work by 2:30 or 3 and work until 6 p.m. with 20 children ranging from five to 11 years old. I teach basic life skills and encourage play and imagination. After I clock out, I go home to my husband. We have dinner and I either go to virtual class or read a fun bookI work for KU on Saturdays and Sundays.

Q: What makes you the happiest?

A: Being with family and friends. I also love curling up with a good book.

Q: What motivates you?

A: Wanting to better myself and my family. I want to be able to move up in life and make an impact on those around me.

Q: Why did you choose KUEC?

A: KUEC is right down the street from my house. I also get to be a Jayhawk while being around adults who have some similar life experiences.

Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs?

A: KUEC offers evening classes. As someone who works a day job, this is a lifesaver!

Q: How has your KU degree prepared you for the future?

A: My degree has helped me by developing my professional life skills which benefit me within the working world. I have also gained some lifelong friendships that I am forever grateful for.

Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it?

A: Time is my biggest enemy. It feels like I never have enough, so I set a schedule. Every weekend I allow myself the mornings to do what I want, and in the afternoons, I bust out homework.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment?

A: Graduating with my bachelor’s degree and maintaining all A's while working multiple jobs and having a family.

Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?

A: Prior to COVID, I loved my ENGL 335 workshop classes that Mark Luce taught! We were a family in that class. We could talk about anything and be raw and not worry about being judged.

Q: What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

A: I want to continue to move up at JCPRD. I will reach this by being dedicated, time efficient and passionate about my job.

Q: What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s?

A: You can do anything you set your mind to. If you tell yourself you can't do it, you won't. But if you tell yourself you can do it, you can reach the stars!

Learn more about the Bachelor of Arts in Literature, Language and Writing at KU Edwards Campus.

Meet more KUEC first-generation students.

Learn more about the Literature, Language and Writing program

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