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 selected as one of the four Golden BR!CK Award winners for outstanding advocacy for community change by DoSomething!. As part of their campaign, she was featured on 25 million bags of Cool Ranch Doritos.
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 New York Times, then International bestseller. Her first 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. Ashley’s second book, Three More Words, is being published in 2015 and has already been receiving awards.
- New York Times Magazine publishes Three Little Words Essay
- Youth Advocate of the Year, North American Council on Adoptable Children
- Kids to Kids National Service Award, Child Welfare League of America
- Two Angels in Adoption Awards from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption
- Eckerd College Trustee Scholarship
- USA Today All-USA Academic Team
- Awarded 1 of 4 Golden Brick Awards for Advocacy by DoSomething!
- Top Ten College Women by Glamour Magazine
- Graduated with Honors, Eckerd College
- Three Little Words memoir becomes New York Times & International Bestseller
- Featured on Good Morning American with Diane Sawyer
- Ambassador, Levi’s Shape What’s To Come Campaign
- Master’s Degree in Social Work, University of Southern California
- International Woman of the Year, St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce
- Named Community Hero from Tampa Bay Lightning NHL team
- Ran for Florida State Senate at age 26
- Three More Words published in 2015
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. She serves on many national, local, and international boards for agencies and groups that work in the mental health, human rights, education, and social work fields. She has also been a volunteer Guardian ad Litem (or CASA) and as a foster parent, has cared for over 20 children.
Since the age of 14, Ashley has advocated for the nearly 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. As an adult, she has broadened her compelling message to address educators, youth, and corporations that strive to empower the lives of others.
In April 2012 the St. Petersburg, FL 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 also founded her own non-profit organization, The Foundation for Sustainable Families, which provides services, education, organic food gardens, and outreach for communities, foster and adoptive families, mothers, and youth.
Ashley has turned her pain into power and her inspirational story of resilience, philanthropy, and overcoming hardships resonates with audiences of all ages and backgrounds.