We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Harding and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ashley, is there something you believe many others might not?
The best advice I received in my twenties was to always have a Plan B and be prepared for the unexpected. While I agree that both are incredibly helpful guidelines to aid a young adult find his or her way in the world, those recommendations perish as you continue to grow and develop. There will be opportunities, relationships, and even great setbacks that will force each of us out of our comfort, stability, and complacency. These are gifts that afford us an even better breakthrough to grow and invest in ourselves, our ideas, and gifts, and begin a new journey to explore ways of being that we never expected.

Plus, how does one have a plan B when your life is subject to change at any moment? How can you be prepared for the unexpected? That is what 2020 taught me. We had no predictability, no safety net, and limited information to guide our future steps. But at every turn in there were moments that allowed me to have great faith. Faith is the only skill, or belief, that carried me through all moments of unpredictability- especially as an entrepreneur. I could not predict the clients I would work with, the insight and ideas that would lead to new product lines, or even how much joy I would have in leaving the stability of being an education administrator to become a founding business owner. There are some experiences that can only be lived through, and because of those serendipitous moments, we receive the precious insight and preparation for the next leg of our professional and personal growth.

So, if given the chance, I would revise the expert advice I once received (hundreds of times) and say that always having a Plan B can limit us from investing our whole selves in Plan A. Thus, give yourself completely to every task, every endeavor, and every idea. See it through. And learn to enjoy the game of creating, deconstructing, and recreating because that is where the magic happens, that is where you learn about yourself, and these iterations of growth only lead to formidable confidence in who you are and what you are meant to accomplish.

Lastly, and most importantly, trust with a steadfast faith that God will lead and direct your steps, give wisdom and understanding and guide each of us through this journey called fulfilling your purpose. Therefore, do not rush to a certain destination of success, or failure, because one can miss the beautiful, unexpected lessons and blessings that are meant to transform us.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am dedicated to improving the quality of life for students of color that are navigating the cultural and academic barriers of independent and private schools. I have focused my academic and professional experiences on supporting students and families that are traditionally isolated because of learning and school challenges. I have a Masters degree in Child Development and have focused my professional experience on creating and sustaining social capital in and for communities of color in non-traditional academic settings. I have found that too often in educational academies, parents are removed from the conversation and culture of their child’s schools. This leads to students experiencing a lack of belonging, poor academic performance increased drop-out rates, and a deeper schism between the academic performance of students of color as compared to their non-minority peers.

The systemic and perpetual mismatch, or misalignment, of responsibility for both schools and parents to meet the needs of their student(s) has yet to be addressed through an asset-based lens. For most families of color, the opportunity to attend a private or independent school has not been generational. Thus, families are left without guidance, support, and community resources to sustain their child in these environments- both academically and culturally. And schools have been accused of a callous, and often insensitive, response to communities of color or non-traditional students matriculating into their institution.

And my business supports both students and families in navigating the private and independent school culture, advocating for their student(s), pairing resources, and creating wrap-around educational and at-home intervention practices to support the whole family. I also partner with schools and administrators to deepen relationships with BIPOC families and repair broken or severed ties with students of color. Through my listening and discovery phases, I identified opportunities to support families and communities of color not only to navigate the ecosystem of their child’s school, but also to investigate and discern the appropriate resources for their child’s development in these isolating, and often intimidating, spaces.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Talk about a dream come true!! A quick note to all of my vegan brothers and sisters, I am going to list ALL of my favorite (and missed) pre-vegan spots.

Top Breakfast Spots
– Serving Spoon (Inglewood)
– Superba Food + Bread (Marina del Rey)
– Huntley Hotel (Santa Monica)
– Sage Plant Bistro (Culver City)
– Rae’s (Santa Monica)
– J. Nichols (Marina del Rey)

Best Views in the City
– Huntley Hotel (Santa Monica)
– Malaga Cove (Palos Verdes)
– Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (Baldwin Hills)
– Malibu Pier (Malibu)
– Mulholland Scenic Overlook (Los Angeles)
– Griffith Park (Los Feliz)

Meals with Seaside Views
– Nobu (Malibu)
– Mastro’s (Malibu)
– SALT (Marina del Rey)
– Beachside Restaurant in the Jamaica Bay Hotel (Marina del Rey)
– The Lobster (Santa Monica)
– Malibu Cove (Malibu)
– Duke’s (Malibu)

Don’t Tell – Guilty Pleasures
– Diddy Reese (Westwood)
– Pitfire Pizza (Culver City)
– Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken (Culver City)
– Eataly (Century City)
– Good Cake Company (Inglewood)
– LAX Tacos (Inglewood)
– Randy’s Donuts (Inglewood)

If in LA We Must Go To …
– Dodger game (Los Angeles)
– Hollywood Bowl for a summer evening concert (Hollywood)
– Long Beach Jazz Festival for both days (Long Beach)
– Up in Smoke tour … because this is the Bestside (LA Coliseum)
– Underground Museum (Adams)
– The Broad (Downtown)

– The Dime for live music (Los Angeles)
– Roscoe’s on LaBrea (Los Angeles)
– The Wiltern for a concert (Los Angeles)
– Guilty pleasure knick-knack shopping at Tuesday Morning (all over)
– Farmers Market/The Grove (LaBrea)
– Disneyland (Orange County)
– First Fridays on Abbot Kinney (Venice)
– The Getty Center (Santa Monica Mountains)

Miscellaneous Adventures
– Malibu Winery (Malibu)
– Lost Spirits Distillery (Downtown)
– Farmers Market (LaBrea)
– Sushi on Sawtelle (Los Angeles)
– Leimert Park Farmers Market (Baldwin Hills)
– Compton Cowboys (Compton)
– Paddle Yoga (Newport Beach)
– Spa Day at Four Seasons (Beverly Hills)

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am so grateful to my family, friends, and circle of support. And I give a full shot out to my tribe all over the country! I have wonderful friends that have supported me for 20 years and I love them dearly. I have a special shot out to my sister, Jessica Harding, MSW; Ayesha Williams (Laundromat Project); Amy Webb (Dayaa Marketing); Lauren Outlaw (WestEd); Monique Fortenberry (government); and Megan Datrice (attorney). These women are the strong yet quiet voices of unyielding support for me and my business, and my life is forever better because of them. I also found amazing strength and solace in mindset-related readings like “Happy Pocket Full of Money” and “All About Love”.

And my biggest thank you goes to Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children Zone. He was miraculously brought into my life through a morning interview he did in 2008 on Good Morning America. He captivated me as he spoke passionately about black and brown children learning equitably in high-achieving schools in Harlem. Even now, I tear up thinking about his belief in the human capital that exists in families and communities of color. It propelled me to leave a lucrative role in banking to follow my passion for helping children that look like me. And since, I have dedicated my entrepreneurial efforts support both students and families in navigating the private and independent school culture and creating wrap-around educational and at-home intervention practices to support both parents and students as they matriculate through school.

Thank you, Mr. Canada, for igniting a fire in me that burns brighter every day. I too believe that all children can learn, all families are worthy of participating in their child’s education, and all communities of value to add to the growth and development of their youth.

Website: https://www.northstaracademics.org

Instagram: @aelizh23

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/ashleyelizabethharding

Image Credits
I did not include any additional images as I do not have permission to release photos with me and my clients without their consent.

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