When Ashley Kirby Powell was growing up on her family’s tobacco farm 30 years ago, she probably never imagined she would one day take charge of the welfare of dozens of employees who work for Caswell County Government. Yet that is precisely the role she will fill in January, thanks to perseverance and working toward an associate’s degree at Alamance Community College.
As a young girl, Ashley watched her father work their Caswell County tobacco farm while her mother toiled in a factory. After graduating from Bartlett-Yancey High School in 2002, she began a job with the child nutrition department at Caswell County Schools.
“I didn’t have the highest paying job but I loved it because of the children,” said Ashley. “For many of them, I was the only smiling face they may see or providing them the only meal they may eat for the day.”
After 13 years in that field, Ashley turned to Caswell County Government in 2017 as an administrative assistant. It was there that her supervisor saw potential in her as she often worked closely with the Director of Human Resources for the county. Ashley’s supervisor recommended that she sign up for human resources classes.
That is how Ashley came to enroll at Alamance Community College. “I found that ACC was the only college around that offered any classes focused on HR [Human Resources],” she said. “I was impressed that I could take most of my classes online. This was a must for me working 40-plus hours a week and being a mother of three kids. I was really worried that I couldn’t handle going back to school with my crazy schedule but the flexibility of classes made it work.”
Ashley was required to attend one class two evenings a week at ACC while she studied for her degree. “It was my first time attending a college class in person, and I was super nervous. But it proved to be the best experience.”
Ashley found the small class size and various ages of the students appealing. But it was her connection with her instructor that made a big difference for Ashley.
“My instructor, Ann Snell, was awesome,” she said. “She made learning fun and interesting. Not only was she my instructor, but she became a friend and we still stay in touch to this day. She has inspired me so much.”
“Ashley added so much value to the human resources class during my first semester teaching at ACC,” said Snell. “She already had real-life HR experiences to share with her classmates. It is very gratifying to see Ashley now achieve her current career goals.”
Recently Ashley learned that the Director of Human Resources for Caswell County, with whom she was already working, was retiring at the end of the year.
“I knew that all the hard work, dedication, and knowledge I have gained from ACC, and while on the job, had prepared me to fill this role,” said Ashley.
Ashley began the interview process on September 12 and soon the Caswell County Manager and the retiring Human Resources Director made a recommendation to the Caswell County Board of Commissioners. On September 19 following a closed session, the board made Ashley a job offer as the new Director of Human Resources to begin in January. The current Human Resources Director plans to stay through December to help transition Ashley into her new role.
“The knowledge and the relationships that I have built and retained while studying at ACC will carry on with me for a lifetime,” she said. “Not only that, but I gained confidence as a person and confidence in my work.”
Ashley Kirby Powell expects to earn her associate’s degree from Alamance Community College by fall 2023. By then, she will have a year of experience as Director of Human Resources for Caswell County, a career launched by her success at Alamance Community College.