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Ashley Thomas ’14

Garfield Heights , Ohio

M.Ed., Cleveland State University B.A. Sport Management, Marietta College


Founder of Sevynteenth, a nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of today’s youth • First African-American person elected to the Garfield Heights City Schools Board of Education

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There are no days off for Ashley Thomas ’14. As a single mother of a young daughter, a Care Coordinator for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, and the founder of the Sevynteenth nonprofit, Ashley may look like she’s being pulled in a thousand different directions, but in reality, she’s the one pushing everything else forward.

For her, it’s about progressing her community — and it all starts with the children. With the birth of her daughter, Sevyn, Ashley became driven to help improve the educational system in Garfield Heights, which is why she decided to run for a seat on the school board. When she was sworn in, she became the first African-American person elected to the Garfield Heights City Schools Board of Education.

“I ran a city-wide campaign, knocked on a lot of doors, canvassed businesses and spoke to a lot of community members. Our school board hadn’t changed in 20 years but our student population did. Our district is about 85 percent minority and comprised of five schools. Our city just celebrated its 100th year and I’m the first African American elected for a full term on the school board. Our district offers a good education, and our board is working together to improve the way our district works. The community is very open about what they want to see happen and they were ready for a change!”

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Above: Ashley at the Garfield Heights Board of Education office.
Inset: Ashley’s campaign materials that she used to go door to door helped to get her elected.

In addition to helping lead the district at the administrative level, Ashley found that a great deal of impact could be made by providing additional learning opportunities to children through community outreach, which is why she founded the nonprofit, Sevynteenth. The organization serves the Greater Cleveland area by providing educational programming and mentoring to children in the region, as well as opportunities for other community leaders to become involved with local youth.

The endless hours of planning, fundraising and activism that Ashley puts into her community are a reflection of how much she cares about her Cleveland-area neighborhood.

“I, Pioneer of Garfield Heights City School Board, will help change the lives of every student in this district by making sure every child has access to exceptional educational opportunities.”