Ashley Edwards, 25, will leave the United States Friday and embark on a journey that will take her 8,000 miles from home. The Erath County native, recently accepted a teaching position in Doha, Qatar, in the United Arab Emirates.
Coincidentally, her new job will begin on Sept. 11, the tenth anniversary of 9-11.
The 2004 SHS graduate said the opportunity to teach overseas is an adventure she owes to a supportive hometown, a superior school district and strong faith and family. Edwards was a student body leader, high school sweetheart and state champion.
"My character grew so strong and so stoutly," Edwards said. "The support I felt - and still feel - made me believe I could conquer the world."
Edwards said her mother, Thetis, is a little teary about her pending departure, and her father, Sherman, cannot understand why anyone would want to leave Stephenville. Her sister, Markeshia, is encouraging her to chase her dreams.
"When I was growing up, I had wild dreams," Edwards laughed. "I was really going to be president. I'm a little older now, and a bit more realistic, but my dreams are still big."
Her quest began when Edwards earned a communications degree and teaching certification from Stephen F. Austin University. As "a real people person, who loves helping and being with people," Edwards said pursuing a degree in communications came naturally. As she continued her studies at the university, Edwards decided during her junior year to pursue a career in education.
Following college graduation, Edwards landed a job at Plano East Senior High, where she worked as a communication and leadership teacher. She said the school offered a "sweet balance" with students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
In contrast, her new career will take her to the second wealthiest nation in the world, an idea she doesn't find intimidating.
"Kids are kids and education is education," Edwards said. "I just want to teach and help people. I really enjoyed Plano East, but I am ready for something new."
Edwards has found that something. She accepted a position as a ninth grade English teacher at English Modern School in Doha.
When asked how an Erath County native goes from teaching in Plano to accepting a position thousands of miles from Stephenville, Edwards said a visit to see a friend interning at a church in Qatar, prompted her to apply for the job.
"Amy (the friend) is the kind of person who jumps out there and does things," Edwards said. "She has a great love for the Middle East, so I set a goal to leave the (United States) and visit her in Qatar. I fell in love with the place."
Not yet 30, and with no family of her own, Edwards said the timing seemed perfect when she applied for the opening.
"I'm too young to stay put," she said. "Anyone can teach in Plano, but I am a risk taker. When I do have a family of my own, I want my children to see it's okay to take risks. And, when I am 80, I would like to remember the year or two I spent in the Middle East."
Edwards said she has no fears of living in the Middle East.
In fact, Edwards said she is focused on breaking borders and destroying the notion that the Islamic faith is something to fear. It is her own Christian upbringing, she said, which will help her do so.
Last Sunday at New Bethel CME Church in Stephenville, Edwards said the pastor delivered a sermon and spoke of the Book of Joshua, chapter one. It was the last bit of reassurance she needed.
"You name the place and God is as much in control there as he is here," Edwards said. "I have no reservations and I have no fears, because that would be doubting my faith."
Follow Edwards' journey on ashleyedwardsphotography.com or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.