In the world of nonprofit professionals, there are those whose stories inspire, uplift, and ignite a passion for positive change. Ashley Baker, CNP (Certified Nonprofit Professional), is one of these individuals. In an exclusive interview, Ashley shares her experiences, insights, and valuable advice for aspiring professionals seeking to make a meaningful impact in their careers.

A Bold Move

Ashley’s path to the nonprofit sector was a winding one. Initially majoring in social work, Ashley aimed to address the pressing social issues of her community. However, a change in universities and a shift in her major opened a world of new possibilities.

At the University of Central Florida (UCF), Ashley majored in public administration. It was here that she crossed paths with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (formerly named American Humanics) and CNP credential, a program that would forever alter her career.

Ashley recalls, “I immediately knew that this was the direction for me. I wanted to be more on the administrative side.” Here she could contribute to the greater good by managing and leading impactful initiatives.

A Vision Takes Shape

Ashley’s passion for creating change was deeply rooted in her personal experiences. As an adoptee and a participant in her high school’s Early Learning Academy, she witnessed the struggles faced by pregnant high schoolers. These girls were faced with hardships including family rejection and inadequate childcare, which hindered their own education and future.

Motivated by this, Ashley was determined to graduate from UCF and then create a supportive home for pregnant high schoolers and their children. She envisioned a safe space where they could receive care, learn essential life skills, attend school, and ultimately thrive in their environment. Her goal was clear: to create an organization that could turn this vision into reality.

A Fateful Encounter

Ashley’s journey took a serendipitous turn when she transferred to UCF and moved to Orlando. She discovered that an organization called the Beta Center was already working towards the very mission she had in mind. A chance encounter with a staff member opened doors that would shape Ashley’s career today.

Beta Center provided a safe haven for young mothers, an alternative education program, and onsite childcare—all essential features of Ashley’s vision. Inspired by their work, she began an internship with the Beta Center, fostering a deep connection with the organization and its mission.

From Volunteer to House Mother

Ashley’s dedication and passion led her to assume the role of a house mother at the Beta Center. In this role, she became a guiding figure in the lives of these young mothers and their children, providing care and support beyond the typical nine-to-five workday. Reflecting on her time at Beta Center, Ashley states, “Some of those girls I still talk to… they’ll come to me if they need advice sometimes. It’s just beautiful to see that lasting impact with the girls.”

Her dedication and passion caught the organization’s attention, and they created a fundraising role specifically for Ashley. This role allowed her to tell the compelling stories of the girls she had come to know and understand during her time as a house mother. Ashley’s ability to connect with the community and share impactful narratives played a crucial role in fundraising efforts.

Paving the Way Forward

After her time at Beta Center, Ashley’s career took her through various nonprofit organizations. She embraced the opportunity to work with Every Kid Outreach, a local organization supporting students from the town of Eatonville. Her role involved building relationships with students, offering after-school programs, and creating a safe haven for them to thrive.

Eventually, Ashley found herself at True Health, a community health center. Initially, her role may not have seemed like a traditional fit, but it allowed her to combine her various skills and experiences in marketing, storytelling, and community engagement. She was promoted to Director of Marketing, where she continues to excel at telling the organization’s story and connecting with the community. She emphasizes that her role is to “tell the story of what we’re doing and to make sure that people in our community are aware of our resources.” Her position allows her to be a part of the bigger picture, bridging the gap between marketing and community outreach.

While her specific role may have evolved over the years, her overarching goal remains clear: to make a positive impact. Her career path underscores the diverse opportunities available within the nonprofit sector, and how they can lead to meaningful work. As she continues her career, Ashley Baker is undoubtedly a beacon of hope for the communities she serves and the nonprofit sector as a whole.

Ashley Baker, CNP True Health

Equipping Changemakers for Success

Throughout her remarkable journey, Ashley Baker found a steadfast companion in her CNP credential. She emphasized the importance of the program’s well-rounded education, which provided her with a comprehensive understanding of the various aspects of nonprofit work. Ashley’s advice to her younger self and to others is to “dream big” and to work backward from your career goals to chart your path effectively. She believes that dreaming big and setting clear goals is key to a successful and fulfilling career in the nonprofit sector.

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