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Pain to perseverance: Conroe mom forges forward to earn college degree

When Ashlee Robinson first met Anna Rodriquez and Carrie Johnson, she couldn’t even look them in the eye. Reeling from what felt like a series of failures and the death of her best friend, she was a shell of her former self.

Robinson woke each morning in a pit of pain, reliving hard moments in her life. She deserved this, she believed. She was unworthy of joy or pleasure. That’s a tough way to live. And a nearly impossible place to be the kind of mom Robinson wanted to be.

She found herself in Johnson and Rodriquez’s office at Buckner Family Pathways in Conroe, a ministry that provides housing, counseling and assistance for single-parent families so parents can accomplish their educational goals.

“When I came here, I had lost faith in the journey God had for me,” she said. “I had lost faith in myself. I felt like I had failed in so many things. I felt like I failed at completing my education. I was now a single mom, so that relationship had failed. I felt like I had started a lot of things and not finished them.”

After visiting for a little while, Robinson and the two Buckner staff members bowed their heads in prayer. Robinson doesn’t remember the exact words voiced, just what happened when they were said.

“I felt like in that moment, God sent down angels on me when I said yes, ‘I’ll work with you and trust God,’” she said. “It was like a complete change. I looked like a different person. I felt like a different person. I believed. My thought process changed. Everything changed.”

Robinson went through grief counseling and a class on prayer. Through prayer, texts and conversations, Rodriquez and Johnson have encouraged her along the way.

“They help us see ourselves in a way God would like to see us,” Robinson said. “They see us as who we are becoming not as we are right now. They don’t see us as a broken vase trying to get put back together. They see the fully completed vase and treat us like that every single day. It’s awesome to have somebody treat you like a crystal vase when you feel like shattered pieces on the floor.”

Her faith grew, as did her determination. Her eyes are bright, her voice full of energy. She’s put her past behind her and is forging a bright future – one goal at a time.

“Everything they’re offering is for me to grow,” she said. “I can say, ‘Ashlee how far do you want to go?’ Then when I finish that leg, Anna and Carrie are there asking, ‘Ashlee, do you want to go the next step?’ I’m just going to keep saying yes. As long as I have God on my side, there’s no limits.”

As she says yes, she sees more possibilities for her life. Her confidence grows as she accomplishes what she previously thought impossible. Robinson has become a leader among the moms in the Family Pathways program.

“I’ve seen some of the most challenging moms in our program come to her. She has an ability to communicate to them with love. They will receive the word from her,” said Johnson, a family coach in the Family Pathways program in Conroe.

“She was broken and decided she wasn’t going to be that way anymore. When she speaks to people, she already knows what it’s like. She tells them we don’t have to do this anymore. And she lives it out. A few of the moms knew her before the program, have known her in the program and see the transformation is real.”

Prayer has been key in Robinson’s continued transformation, said Rodriquez, Family Pathways program director.

“Prayer has been transformational in Ashlee’s life,” Rodriquez said. “When she established a true prayer life and true connection with Christ, it turned her life around. Now, she’s really praying. She’s really talking to God. I see her eyes have caught fire. Ashlee is so bubbly and joyful. It’s amazing.”

Robinson is enrolled at Lone Star College in Conroe, where she’ll earn her associate’s degree in May. Then she’ll begin working on her bachelor’s degree and later a master’s degree. She wants to be a teacher, where she can help shape young minds. 

“I will have my associate’s degree in May,” she said. “I’m going to walk across the stage not because it’s the end of something. It’s the first of a few degrees I expect myself to have. I can see in my future I will keep going.”

Robinson’s 4-year-old daughter, Kadence, has noticed the difference. She sees her mom feeling good and getting good grades. It inspires her to work hard in school and dream bigger as well.

“Children are sponges,” Robinson said. “They take in everything. Maybe a month ago, my daughter looked up at me and said, ‘Mommy, if you can do it, I can do it too.’

“I’m a trailblazer for my family. I’m making a path so she can keep going.

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