If not for band teacher Mr. Daniel Boyd at Haile Middle School when senior Ashley Gillam was only a sixth grader, she may not have found her passion and talent for the arts.
"I originally wanted to be in orchestra, but the band teacher was very relatable, so I chose band. I have been very happy with that decision ever since" said Gillam. She has been the drum major for the marching band of Pirates for the past two years as well as involved in solo and ensemble up to the state level.
The senior was approached by Mr. Alan Ramos, assistant principal, a few weeks ago and asked a few simple questions about her classes and extracurricular activities. Little did she know, these questions would lead to the Academic Ace honor representing the Arts and Communications academy as one of six in the county. On top of that, she is also a finalist for the National Achievement Scholarship Program, one of two in the entire county. Gillam will continue in the competition for one of 800 scholarships awarded from a total value of $2,500,000.
"I didn't really know what it was, but this was a huge honor definitely," said Gillam.
Although she loves art, Gillam has not been in the class since 9th grade. She likes creating pieces with meaning. One day she hopes to make portraits of people who are important to her. This year, the senior is in advance placement art history with Mrs. Jennifer Dobbs, and she has this to say about the subject: "I think art is one of the most beautiful ways of expression."
Gillam has also begun her first year in the drama department at the River. Last year she would peek in and do some acting exercises with the class, because of her connection with Mr. Aaron Stone through marching band as assistant band director.
"With acting, there is nothing to hide behind. No band like being drum major or instrument like playing with Wind Ensemble."
In addition to the arts, education is also very important to Gillam, who has never earned a "C" in her educational career. She is currently 4th in the 2013 class. The senior claims, "Education is free, so why not do the most you can with it?"
As well as the arts, another main influence in her life is God. Gillam explains, "I wouldn't even be here without him. He is my refuge and my strength. He is my best friend."
Through this relationship, Gillam decided to bring the passion of church to students. As the founder of the new club Rocket Power, she wants kids to be able to talk about faith and not be embarrassed.
In the future, Gillam plans to attend the University of South Florida and major in nursing. She would like to help children inn third world countries fight diseases. "I know what I am capable of and I do not want to settle for anything."