Lives in: Port Ewen
Works in: Newburgh
Words to live by: “Stay hopeful. Stay positive. Stay optimistic.”
Ashley Knox has an easy laugh, but she’s all business when it comes to her passion: helping young people get a strong start on life.
Knox is the study-abroad coordinator at Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) in Newburgh. As an attendee at the 2013 Women & Power Retreat at Omega Institute, she found herself deeply affected by the University of Houston sociology professor, author, and public speaker Brené Brown’s keynote speech. “It really touched my heart, and made me think about what I could be doing here,” she recalls.
Following the retreat, Knox began offering free adult workshops in Ulster County on communication, dispute resolution, and parental support for families with youth who were getting off probation. “But I wanted to shift the same paradigm over to young people,” she says.
Knox founded Go Beyond Greatness, Inc. (GBG) in November 2014. Through workshops and the organization’s website, Slammin.me, GBG offers training workshops for regional youth in leadership, communication, positive behavior, and personal discipline, all designed to prepare young people to thrive in real-life settings and achieve college and career readiness.
As MSMC’s study-abroad coordinator, Knox travels a lot. Last year, she visited the Skema Business School, a top international business school located in Lille, France’s Silicon Valley, where she witnessed “absolutely amazing 21st-century learning”—and became even more determined to make a difference to Hudson Valley youth.
This winter, Knox hosted 50 international students for a Hudson Valley sustainable business tour through a partnership between MSMC’s International School of Business; Re>Think Local, a nonprofit collaborative, to which GBG belongs, of businesses, artists, farmers, and nonprofits; and marketing communications firm Courtney Strong Inc.
And last September, Knox won funding to bring 10 young women to Omega Institute’s Women & Power Retreat. “They listened to women from around the globe who are redefining power talk about what it means to be a woman leader, and to come together with others for the progress and advancement of humanity,” says Knox. “They were inspired to feel ‘I can do this!’ and reminded to keep striving, no matter what.”
GBG is already accumulating a string of success stories. One involves a shy young high school student from Guyana. Thanks to GBG, she became active in Middletown High School’s clubs and social life. Now a college student majoring in political science and history, she plans to become an international human rights attorney, and has lined up internships at a pre-law summer institute in Buffalo and elected officials’ offices in Newburgh and Albany.
“GBG’s focus on tapping into your leadership, inner talents, and abilities helped her to believe in herself,” says Knox. “She learned to build up her perseverance and practice before real life. I’m very proud of her, because she took full advantage of what’s available.”
Knox holds a master’s of professional studies in humanistic and multicultural education and an undergraduate degree in sociology, specializing in Spanish and Black studies, from SUNY New Paltz. While her own parents nurtured her resilient core of self-confidence, she acknowledges that not every young person is so fortunate. “They taught me to strive for excellence and to understand that failure is part of life. It gets you closer to your goals,” she says. “You have to focus on service to others, and tap into yourself as a meaningful contributor. All our life experiences shape us and bring us closer to our next accomplishment.”
And for Knox, “next accomplishments” are always in the making. “I’m a woman and I’m a single mother, so when it comes to the art of multitasking, I do it naturally,” she explains. “I don’t even think about it: I make things happen. At the same time, I’m not a one-woman show, and I can’t take all the credit. I’m surrounded by, and supported by, a group of strong mentors with proven track records in business and education. I have a wonderful circle of support.”