Executive Director, Ashley Sparks, didn’t think she would wind up working in mental health like her parents but after years working in development, she found herself drawn to the field of social services.
From a young age, Ashley Sparks was drawn to music and the arts with the dream of being a teacher. Most of her extracurricular activities in high school mimicked that along with her education in undergrad. After graduating she transitioned to a role in development focusing on building relationships and cultivating community partners. Yet her passion for creativity led her to social services and mental health.
“When I let go of the dream of being a teacher. I realized what I really wanted was to work in the community and provide a creative outlet for those who need it.”
While the arts have not been a main focus of her time at Alexander Youth Network, Sparks has been able to emphasize how music and the arts offer a therapeutic release for many of the children that come through her programs. Starting as an office manager, Ashley has moved throughout the continuum of care at Alexander working in licensing and eventually in her Executive Director position for the Southern Piedmont region.
“I NEVER thought I would be working in mental health but after thinking about how involved my own family has been in the field and how important the arts are towards treatment for some of our clients it really makes sense.”
Ashley’s initial transition to Alexander was by the encouragement of her mom, Jody Sparks, a social worker and case coordinator for our programs in the Southern Piedmont area. Both of Ashley’s parents have also been foster parents since she was 10. Throughout the years they have fostered dozens of children and this experience has offered Sparks a unique perspective for her role. Having a firsthand understanding of how trauma and crisis may occur in the home setting helps explain the clinical importance of our relationship-based and therapeutic programming. It also solidifies her belief that even the little things that we do for the children at Alexander are important to their safety and makes a difference in their lives long term.
From music, to development, and now to mental health, Sparks has had a unique path leading her to Alexander. Yet her commitment to the kids and the community is the same.
“Though I never thought mental health was for me, I am glad I am here and doing all that I can for the kids in my community.”
Ashley is using her development background and insight into the clinical world of Alexander to help establish new programs and partnerships in the Southern Piedmont region. In December she will complete her Masters in Social Work degree allowing her to focus on clinical development and case management for clients. Finding ways to do more for the kids at Alexander is at the heart of all Ashley does for the agency and within the community.
To connect with Ashley.
Ashley Sparks is originally from Southern Pines and completed her undergraduate degree at Appalachian State University. Her time is dedicated to nonprofit work in Moore County, including managing her own nonprofit and annual fundraising initiatives. She is an aunt to three nieces and a nail painting expert.
Written by Emily Gordon.