Student-athlete, education grad models impact of visualization in goal achievement

Student-athlete Amoni Ashby came to Colorado State University with two goals in mind: to train and compete under CSU track and field Assistant Coach Karim Abdel Wahab in sprints, hurdles and relays, and to pursue a master’s degree in Adult Education and Training.

Already a University of Northern Colorado track and field record holder, Ashby’s 4×400-meter relay team set a CSU record in 2016.

Amoni Ashby

“I love track. There is something about running that is so freeing,” she says. “Throughout my development as a student and an athlete, I have found that I have a strong connection to education and the individual cognitive empowerment it provides to those open to learning.”

Ashby is also a hurdler, placing in the 400-meter hurdles (outdoor) and 60-meter hurdles (indoor) at the 2016 Mountain West Conference championships.

Sparking change

After earning her B.A. in human communication and minor in journalism and mass communication at the University of Northern Colorado, Ashby realized that she wanted to focus on educating and training adults as a way of sparking change.

“You teach a child something, just to send them out into a world full of grown-ups with fixed mindsets,” she says. “You have brand new ideas coming from children, who are now fighting with adults who are kind of stuck in a stagnancy.”

That being said, Ashby leverages her AET knowledge in her work as a juvenile corrections counselor through the Colorado Department of Human Services.

“I want to work with marginalized populations and gain experience with these children,” says Ashby. In gaining this experience, she says, her goal is to someday counsel and educate both adults and children about the importance of awakening the scholarly mind and continuously reading, educating, analyzing and sharpening one’s skills.

Her experience as a student-athlete has taught Ashby the importance of visualization and motor learning skills, sparking a research paper on the topic. She discovered that visualizing and continuous repetition can help enhance and accelerate the learning of motor skills. During a summer course on learning processes and training strategies, Ashby led her classmates in an exercise designed to show the effect of self-talk and visualization on learning.

“Amoni touches everyone’s heart as she reminds us to stay grounded,” says Karen Kaminski, a School of Education associate professor in the Adult Education and Training specialization. “In our Experiential Learning class, Amoni assigned each peer a word that she felt described them, then asked us to take off our shoes and stand in the grass and sand, feeling how we are connected. This was a profound experience for her fellow learners.”

‘Critical self-analysis’

Through the exercise, Ashby herself learned that she has “the ability to spark change, by getting someone to see that they can change through critical self-analysis.” She says this, combined with her experience in athletics, helped her realize she wants to use the knowledge she gained during her master’s studies to influence change.

The third-eldest of eight children, Ashby credits her faith and her family for her work ethic and passion for helping others learn and grow.

“My faith in the Lord has guided me throughout my life,” she says.

Ashby with her family

Ashby’s mother, Tara, says that Amoni has always been tenacious and passionate about many things.

“Amoni is a strong will,” says her mother. “When there’s something that she wants to pursue and something that she wants to do, she’s going to find a way to do it.”

Their family philosophy — “Each one teach one” — awakened Amoni’s love of teaching others at an early age.

“She taught everyone under her to ride a bike,” says Tara. “[Amoni] began to take over the teaching for the younger kids. She has a great heart for her family, a big heart for people.”

In addition to her post-graduate studies and athletic pursuits, Amoni worked 16-hour overnight shifts as an in-home caregiver to a client with brain trauma. “I’d work 5 p.m. to 9 a.m., then I got up and went to practice at 10 a.m.,” she says.

Her mother adds, “[Amoni’s] endurance has been incredible — I’m inspired by her.”

Future objectives

With her M.Ed. officially in hand, having graduated during CSU’s Graduate School commencement ceremony on Dec. 16, Ashby has a list of future goals.

“I write goals down based off the age I want to [be when I] accomplish them,” she explains. These goals include earning her certification in addiction counseling; attending law school (she hopes to be a civil rights and family lawyer); launching her fashion line “Amoni Ashai” (a pursuit her mother says began at the age of 12); earning her Ph.D.; becoming a professional track and field athlete; and coaching track athletes. She also sees a future in higher education leadership.

In her immediate future, Ashby hopes to develop and implement a program for youth in the juvenile corrections system that uses track and field training as a way to help build their confidence through accomplishments on the track.

“I want them to see that, regardless of your environment, you can adapt — you can manifest your reality,” she says. “As long as you have faith that it can be done, it can be done. It just takes one person to believe in you, past you believing in yourself. If I can do that as a coach, I would want to do that for kids.”

Regardless of her future endeavors, Ashby will use her AET knowledge to spark the desire to learn and grow in those around her.

“Education is in my soul,” says Ashby. “I want to awaken the scholarly minds of my peers and the adult population — to become a scholar is a blessing. Learning is an art form, I seek to change the facilitation of educational content in such a way that students learn to love the art of learning.”

The Adult Education and Training program is part of the School of Education in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.