Ashanti DaMiya Surratt is a Freedom High School (FHS) graduate who participated in the Students Taking a Renewed Interest in the Value of Their Education (STRIVE) mentorship program. The STRIVE program at FHS is run by the Rotary Club of Burke-Sunrise and is a mentorship and scholarship program that helps high school seniors achieve academic and personal success. The group consists of 15-20 students and the top two with the highest academic improvement wins a $2,000 scholarship. Buddy Armour is Freedom's STRIVE Champion and Vice-Chair of the Board of Education and longtime education advocate through community and service work.
We first met Ashanti in the fall of 2019 at Freedom High School when Work in Burke presented to the STRIVE group. Ashanti is an aspiring cosmetologist and a talented artist and plans to enroll in the cosmetology program at Western Piedmont Community College in the fall. The Covid-19 pandemic changed many things for Ashanti and her fellow classmates and we want to commend the Class of 2020 for adjusting so quickly and overcoming the many challenges that were thrown in their paths. Ashanti credits the support of her family as one of the biggest factors that helped her succeed. We caught up with her virtually to highlight her success as a STRIVE scholarship recipient and find out what her plans are moving forward.
Ashanti (middle) with her mother, Naikita Corpening (left) and brother, Jabari Corpening (right)
Ashanti (front) with her grandmother, Vickie Tate (back)
Work in Burke: Ashanti, CONGRATULATIONS on being a STRIVE graduate AND a scholarship recipient! We’re so incredibly proud of you! Tell us a little bit about yourself. Were you born and raised in Burke County?
Ashanti: Yes! I was raised in Burke County and I have been here all my life.
Work in Burke: Tell us a little bit about your family and who inspires you the most.
Ashanti: My family is loving and very supportive of whatever I want to do and always find ways to help with whatever I need. Definitely my family [inspires me]! I know that no matter what, they will be there with me along the way.
Work in Burke: What are your hobbies?
Ashanti: I like to do it hair, draw, and sing!
Work in Burke: You were a part of the STRIVE mentorship program. What was your favorite memory of STRIVE?
Ashanti: I don’t really have a favorite memory of STRIVE because every time we got together it was a memorable moment!
Work in Burke: What life lessons did you learn from being a part of STRIVE?
Ashanti: I learned that you can do anything you put your mind to - you just have to believe in yourself first of all and never give up.
Work in Burke: How has STRIVE changed or enhanced your life?
Ashanti: It has helped me to realize that there is so much out there in the world! So get out, try new things, and be the best you can be!
Work in Burke: Do you feel like being in STRIVE gave you more opportunities?
Ashanti: Yes, definitely! They showed us what’s open to us, how to put ourselves out there, and explore all the opportunities you have in the community as well as other places.
Work in Burke: What would you say to other up-and-coming high school students who may want to join STRIVE?
Ashanti: I would tell them that it is a very good opportunity and it helps you explore new things. There are many options out there and it will be very helpful in the long run.
Ashanti at graduation.
Work in Burke: Is there anything you would like to say to your fellow graduating class of 2020?
Ashanti: Class of 2020: I know this school year didn’t go as we all planned, but at least we can say we made it with the support of our loved ones, school staff, and many more. Just know that no matter what, if you put your mind to it, you can achieve big things and plan to move forward in our next big journey
Work in Burke: What is your favorite memory at Freedom High School?
Ashanti: My favorite memory is just overall being around people, trying to have a good time, and trying to better our education.
Work in Burke: How did you adjust to the 2020 school year ending early due to the COVID-19 pandemic? What were some of the challenges you faced with online learning?
Ashanti: For the most part - nothing. It was a little different because I was so used to seeing the same faces day after day and after a while it made me miss school and being around people.
Work in Burke: Who were your mentors in high school? Is there anyone specific you would like to thank?
Ashanti: I would just like to thank everyone, especially those who have helped me along the way. They helped me get to where I am now.
Work in Burke: Are you still going to pursue cosmetology at Western Piedmont Community College? If yes, why did you choose Western Piedmont Community College?
Ashanti: Yes, I still plan to attend Western Piedmont to major in cosmetology. I choose Western Piedmont because I feel like being close to home and they had a good cosmetology program.
Work in Burke: Where are some of your favorite places to go to in Burke County and why? Restaurants, parks, etc.
Ashanti: Anywhere where I’m around my friends or family.
Work in Burke: Thank you for your time, Ashanti. Congratulations again and we're so proud of you!
The success of the STRIVE program at Freedom High School led to the expansion of the STRIVE model to other Burke County high schools. The program helps students prepare for post-graduation plans, develop a life-long love for learning, and covers a range of topics from studying habits to setting goals.
If you're interested in being a STRIVE champion, would like to donate money for scholarships, sponsor, or speak at a STRIVE event, please contact Tea Yang at [email protected]
If you are interested in WPCC's cosmetology program, click HERE for more information.