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Life & Work with Ashley Durden

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Durden.

Hi Ashley, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I have been in education for over ten years both formally – in schools – and informally – through tutoring and working in orphanages and non-profit organizations. After graduating with my degree in Elementary Education in 2012, I took a big leap and moved to Juarez, Mexico to live and serve in an orphanage.

During my time in Mexico, I realized that teaching in the traditional classroom was not for me. I was more drawn to supporting my students in making social, emotional, and intellectual growth.

In 2017, I decided to jump into my passion with full force and start serving pre-teen and teen girls in the community. Before I knew it, I was leading anywhere from 9-20 girls. Soon I founded El Bosque (The Forest) ministry in Juarez. I planned events, hosted study sessions for school, and coordinated community service, just to name a few things. My goal was to give the girls a safe space to talk, ask questions, or just feel free to be themselves while also creating healthy communication habits between parents and their daughters. I realized how much I not only wanted to mentor pre-teen and teen girls but also support parents in better understanding their teens and help them create stronger bonds.

Fast forward to 2020. I took to the nets and started El Bosque + (PLUS). The same heart and vision but just a little extra “umph!”

I work to support teens in areas like healthy sexuality, puberty, self-esteem/self-worth, DEI, organization skills, and much more.

El Bosque + is about me enriching teens through this time in their lives and helping them live life (now) by putting their best foot forward.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The road has had a few turns on this journey to finding my passion. The biggest and earliest one was I thought I’d always be working with little kids. So, it took me a long time to fully dive into working with teens (five years!). You might even say I ran the other direction and denied that I had a connection with older youth. I think the fear wasn’t because of the age group but because that wasn’t the age group I had formal education in working with. I remember thinking “What can I offer them?” or “Where would I start, I have NO idea how to talk with them.” Turns out I have more to offer than I realized.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’d like to call myself a teen life enrichment mentor and my superpower is being a professional hype queen. They go hand in hand in my program. I work with pre-teens and teens, ages twelve and up. I help them live their best life now and build themselves up for also preparing for adulthood. This comes in many forms. One of the things I pride myself and program on is “the chats” this is where the teens know it’s time and space to just open up and ask all the questions and say all the things they might have questions about or have on their mind. I also concentrate on my teen’s mental and emotional health so all my sessions have an SEL (Social and emotional learning) incorporated into the chats and sessions.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was an only child so I always wanting friends over. I couldn’t have friends over all the time, so I quickly learned to entertain myself with art, imagination and coming up with dance routines to the Spice Girls “wannabe” and learning Spanish by listening to Selena’s case tape “Entre a mi Mundo.” From a young age, I always said I wanted to be an elementary teacher for kids who need extra attention and love in a foreign country. I wrote a paper about it in the 2nd grade. Younger me spoke that into existence. Go ‘head little Ash.

As I entered my teen years, I struggled with all the things teens struggle with. I grew up in predominantly white spaces and did not feel like I was accepted. Unfortunately, on the other hand, I would be teased in black spaces for sounding “white” and being “weird” (I was a big goofball and I love Marvel comics). I quickly learned how to assimilate into both groups and fly under the radar until I eventually found my authentic friends. The good part about not fitting in is knowing how it feels to be the odd person out. Naturally, me being me, I didn’t want anyone else to feel like that, so I always made sure I was bringing people in and building them up.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Asher Oldfield

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