Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Scholarship Helps Young Woman Pursue Dream of Being a Pet Groomer

by Leah Vuich, Program Coordinator — Mercer, PA

Ashlee Freed of Mercer, PA, has gone through a lot throughout her entire life. Ashlee was adopted at six years old by the Freed family. She quickly assimilated into her new family and reciprocated their love and respect toward her. Ashlee was always a leader in her family, assisting her younger siblings with homework or chores, resolving disagreements between siblings, and helping her mother with simple tasks around the house.

This past year, Ashlee experienced something that tested her strength, capability and compassion more than ever. She lost her biggest cheerleader and best friend, her adopted mother, Stephenie, to Leukemia. While her entire family was coping with the loss of their mother, wife, sister, and the glue that kept them together and afloat, Ashlee found a way to balance mourning and taking on her mother’s responsibilities. Ashlee made sure that her younger brother logged onto Cyber School, all seven family members had dinner, the animals were fed, bills were paid by her father, and resources were contacted so the family could sustain itself. The Freed family has two dogs, six puppies, twelve cats and kittens, three goats, and recently sold two alpacas. Ashlee is responsible for their care, ensuring they are fed, groomed, vetted, and loved.
After nearly a year of being the strength and support her family required, Ashlee was also ready to put herself first, for the first time in her life. Ashlee has a passion and a talent for caring for animals. She has served as a volunteer with various animal support organizations and has now chosen to pursue a career in this field as a pet groomer. To support her pursuit, Ashlee applied for and recently received a scholarship through the Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund to help pay for educational expenses.

Ashlee has been participating in YAP services since November 2016. Currently, staff members support Ashlee with accessing community activities and resources, maintaining her responsibilities at home, and now will support her to stay on track with her schooling. YAP Program Coordinator Leah Vuich, describes Ashlee as “enthusiastic, outgoing, and having a driven personality.” Leah added, “Ashlee’s family members, friends, and professional supports can all attest to her hard work and determination to thrive in her home, family, and community. I know that she will be successful in this field, excelling once she is given more access to knowledge and resources and the opportunity to share her compassion towards animals.”

Ashlee recently started online classes to receive a Pet Grooming Certification through the Penn Foster Accredited Education Program. This online program allows flexibility for her to continue completing her responsibilities at home and provides clear recommendations for their hands-on component. Ashlee is very enthusiastic about starting this program and the opportunities for employment she will have upon receiving her certificate.