The Ohio State University at Newark


First-Generation Student Ashton Shook Becomes a Peer Leader on Road to Graduation

August 3, 2022

Ashton Shook headshotAs a high school student, Ashton Shook wasn’t sure if he was “college material” — but he was willing to give it a try.

Shook, a first-generation college student, knew when it came time to shop for colleges that he wanted a smaller campus located close to home; somewhere he could be mindful of his budget while immersing himself in an intimate learning environment, getting to know fellow students and professors.

Immediately, the Newark campus of The Ohio State University felt like home for Shook. While he started out with an interest in finance, Shook took a single class in social work and began to feel drawn to that field. He decided to make social work his major and never looked back.

“I’ve struggled with my mental health a lot. It was a big barrier the first couple of years. I’ve lost friends to suicide,” he said. “I wanted to do something that mattered — something I felt I could be good at.”

It wasn’t long before the Newark resident was getting involved beyond the classroom. His experience in the Buckeye Generation Learning Community (BGLC), a program designed specifically for first-generation college students, helped Shook tackle the unforeseen challenges of college life and allowed him to make connections that helped him thrive as a student.

While COVID-19 temporarily shifted Shook’s learning experience online, during his junior year he became involved on campus in the Office of Retention and Student Success, working for the organization that had helped him early in his college career. As an academic peer coach, Shook came alongside new students — as he himself had been — to help them adapt to student life.

Additionally, Shook became a student ambassador, helping freshmen acclimate to campus.

“That was something I really wanted to do because I knew I had no idea what I was doing when I was coming in. So I wanted to give back and help other students in the same position,” he said.

In 2022, Shook was the recipient of the J. Gilbert Reese Next Generation Community Leadership Award. This prestigious award is given annually to an Ohio State Newark student who exemplifies a spirit of volunteerism and community involvement; is involved in student activities, clubs or organizations; demonstrates leadership skills; and has a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5.

With the help of that scholarship, his on-campus leadership experience and an off-campus internship at Newark’s St. Vincent Haven, Shook graduated in 2022 with a solid job prospect ahead of him: serving as a mental health worker at the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, a residential treatment facility for adolescents with mental illness located in Billings, Montana.

Shook feels excited and confident his education and experience at Ohio State have prepared him well.

“I feel like I've grown so much just working on campus and getting involved, and my professors and staff on campus have definitely helped as well,” he said.