Ashley has her own organization which has created a curriculum to teach children worldwide to provide a cross cultural learning experience. This curriculum fosters collaboration and empowers young people to view themselves as changemakers. The program has a theme every week, like stereotypes, SDG's, storytelling or understanding the problem.
We asked her some questions about her changemaking experience. Here’s what she said:
How did you find out about our Changemakers Program?
“I found out about the Changemakers Program through an online search! Whenever I have questions or am looking for support I always “Google it”—which has served me pretty well!”
What inspires you to be a changemaker?
“Ever since I was a little girl, I was intrigued by language and culture. My family immigrated to the United States from Hsinchu, Taiwan when I was five years old, and learning about other cultures in school brought clarity to my identity. As a result, I’ve always wanted to study abroad, but I never thought I’d have the opportunity. It was always financially out of reach or otherwise inaccessible. In 2018, I had the life-changing opportunity to serve as a U.S. Youth Ambassador to Uruguay, my first-ever study abroad experience. It helped me realize the importance of study abroad not just to help students clarify our own values and promote intercultural understanding, but to empower students to learn from and work with people who are different from them to tackle global challenges like climate change or gender inequality. When I came back, I knew I had to do everything I could to help others access this experience! This is why I founded Project Exchange (www.myprojectexchange.com), an international nonprofit increasing access to cross-cultural learning experiences for middle & high school students around the world through Digital Exchange Programs and virtual field trips!”
What challenges did you encounter during your changemaking activities?
“The biggest challenge I encountered while starting Project Exchange was definitely building a team of adult supports. Currently, I work with an Executive Team of about 15 high school & college students around the world to run our day-to-day programs. However, I’ve found that in addition to youth voices, it’s also very valuable to have adult support for things like strategic planning, managing finances, and staying compliant. At first, I struggled to identify adult allies—who did I know that could help? I learned that it’s important to just ask—ask your teachers, ask people you meet at conferences, ask people on LinkedIn—it never hurts to ask, and building an adult support network is all about networking. Adults love helping young people change the world! “
What is your biggest dream?
“My dream is for every student in the world to have a meaningful cross-cultural learning experience as part of their education. I strongly believe that cultural exchange and story-sharing allows us to slip into someone else’s perspective and exercise empathy, which is the most powerful catalyst for social change. More importantly, people with different lived experiences bring to the table different tools and strategies that can help us more effectively address the local challenges in our communities.”
What advice would you give to other children that want to become changemakers?
“It may sound a bit cliché, but just do it! You don’t need to start off with a thousand-dollar donation or by starting a nonprofit. The crazy thing is, Project Exchange started as a Google Form. That’s right! I literally created a Google Form, asked my friends to fill it out, and told them I’d match them with a student from a different country to have a conversation. So many people were interested, and it grew from there! In the beginning, don’t worry about being perfect. Just have a minimum viable product—something that works and which you can show to the people you’re trying to serve!”