The Foundation of Ashanti

Ashanti Cummins’ story of trials, perseverance, resilience in the shadow of Kentucky’s foster care system. 

When one thinks of Kentucky, they may think of the Kentucky Derby, where thousands of horse spectators travel from all over the world to cheer for the beautiful and powerful racehorses. Others might think of the University of Kentucky’s nationally recognized basketball program breaking sporting records at Rupp Arena. It is no secret that Kentucky breeds greatness, but there is a different story that must be told. A story that tells of the other side of the bluegrass, which is not so green.

When one thinks of Kentucky, they may not know that it is the leading American state when it comes to child abuse, or that the foster care entry rate has been rising exponentially over the past decade. One may not know they the poverty rate in Kentucky is one that sweeps across the state at crippling rates and directly affects our communities on a daily basis. One may not know that though Kentucky is full of culture and community, there are invisible neighbors living among us who are living in a different reality, playing an entirely different ball game.

Ashanti Cummins is one of our invisible neighbors. As an 18-year-old Lexington native, Ashanti is an example of a neighbor who has seen both sides of the Bluegrass. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Ashanti had a seemingly normal childhood for the beginning portion of her life. She went to private school, participated on the cheerleading squad, and spent her days celebrating birthdays and holidays with friends and family like most other children in the community. For most of her life she was the only child and loved her little family.

As time progressed things began to change. Ashanti’s home life began to become less of a place she was excited to come home to and more of a place she avoided at all costs. Financial issues took the household by storm. There were days that they would have no hot water to bathe or lights or heat. Family time was not the same. They would move from place to place, house to house, and even sleep in cars in between. Ashanti had no clue that her life was about to change forever.

While her parents filed for divorce during her middle school years, the tumultuous battle for custody landed Ashanti in Kentucky’s foster care system, joining about twenty thousand other Kentucky children state-wide. There she was faced with hardships that she never imagined she would. The huge changed the way she viewed the world, and inevitable dimmed her light.

That was until she transferred to Henry Clay High School. HCHS welcomed Ashanti with open arms and reminded her of her worth. She was no longer invisible. The students and faculty at Henry Clay gave Ashanti the community of support she needed to find herself again. With community comes confidence. With confidence, anything is possible.

Ashanti’s story is an example of how community can make all of the difference. Recognizing that though we all may be sitting next to each other at work or school, some of us have completely different home lives.

Ashanti is just one of the thousands of invisible neighbors that we live next to every day. They are just as much a part of our community as Capilouto or Calipari.