Senior Spotlight: Shafer overcame school difficulties, graduates with new purpose

Ashlee Shafer went from dropping out of high school to graduating from college and planning for graduate school. Shafer, senior psychology major, said she is grateful for her experience at Waynesburg University.

“Thanks for making the last few years of my undergrad life wonderful,” Shafer said. 

Shafer described herself as “a non-traditional student.” Due to life circumstances, she dropped out of high school in her last year. Less than two years prior, as a 10th grader, she was on the principal’s honor roll.

“I went to work at a local convenience store around here and worked there for 12 years,” she said.

While working, Shafer earned her GED. She attempted college at age 19 at Fairmont State University for a biology degree but dropped out during her first semester.

“I have a lot more of an appreciation for it now than I did when I was younger,” Shafer said. 

Returning to her management position at the convenience store, she eventually bought a house. At the age of 25, when Ashlee said she had her life situated, she decided she wanted to give college another try.

She returned to Fairmont State University, this time for a degree in psychology. 

“Originally, I was coming back for a biology major to be a veterinarian. I watched YouTube videos on having to sew a lamb’s eye shut and they had to cauterize a bull’s horn with a blow torch. I am very clumsy, and that terrified me,” Shafer said. “I’ve always loved psychology ever since I was a kid in high school, so I changed my major to psychology, and I’ve never been happier.” 

After two years at Fairmont, she transferred to Waynesburg University.

“I knew people at Waynesburg, and it seemed the students were so far ahead of where I was even though we were in the same year,” she said. 

Shafer worked all throughout her college years, working full-time, around 45-50 hours a week, while still studying part-time at Fairmount and full-time at Waynesburg. 

“I pulled seven day weeks most of the time. I had zero [social] life. It was exhausting, but I like being that busy,” Shafer said. “It was rewarding to see the payoff when I was able to make the grades and pass everything and still be able to handle work and stuff.” 

Now graduated, Shafer is looking to study in a graduate psychology program. She hopes to one day earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. 

“I want to give back, especially since I live down here in Morgantown [West Virginia]. Addiction is really bad through here,” Shafer said. “In my generation, we have a saying that my generation has been to more funerals than we have weddings because of the opioid epidemic.”

Shafer said she has seen many people, including loved ones, become a statistic of the opioid epidemic and she wants to help those people. 

“I may not be able to change the world, but I can at least help one person change their world,” she said.