News & Events

Featured Student Plans Career in Equine Science

Girl in red t-shirt stands outside an animal shelter.
Waubonsee Community College has named Ashley Gerritsen, of Geneva, its featured student for February. An animal lover, Gerritsen volunteers at the TAILS Humane Society in DeKalb and plans to transfer on to the University of Kentucky to study equine science.

Waubonsee Community College sophomore Ashley Gerritsen, of Geneva, discovered her passion for horses at an early age, and because of her talent and drive, she is well on her way to turning that passion into a career. For everything she has already achieved and those accomplishments yet to come, Waubonsee’s board of trustees has named Gerritsen its featured student for February. 

Like a lot of little girls, Gerritsen grew up liking horses — hanging pony posters up in her room and decorating her folders with stickers of the animals. Growing up in rural Hampshire, Gerritsen had the added advantage of being close to several area horse farms, and so, since both her parents are allergic to the animals, they let her go riding with her friends and their families. “Once I started riding and the ball got rolling, it was unstoppable,” Gerritsen said.

While horseback riding was an important hobby, school was Gerritsen’s main focus, and she took it seriously, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average at Hampshire High School while helping with the theater productions and serving as secretary of the photo club. Her high grades and test scores led to several academic honors, including a Prairie State Achievement Award, the President’s Education Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence and designation as an Illinois State Scholar.

Armed with this impressive transcript and her background with horses, Gerritsen thought about heading straight to the University of Kentucky upon her 2010 high school graduation, but after a move to Geneva, she instead chose Waubonsee.

“Financially, a community college has been a better choice for me,” Gerritsen said. “Plus, I wasn’t sure I was really ready to leave home yet. This has been a great intermediate step for me and has given me confidence to head to a four-year school.”

Gerritsen has continued her academic successes at the higher education level, earning a 4.0 grade point average at Waubonsee and being inducted as a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges.

Her GPA helped her earn two Waubonsee Foundation scholarships that are partially financing her coursework this academic year — the Mary Ann Thompson Memorial Science Scholarship and the Robert M. Sohol Endowed Scholarship.

Gerritsen covers the rest of her tuition and fees with money earned from her job at Oros Saddlery in Batavia, which she has held since August 2010.

“It’s a great way to still be around horse people and things even when I’m not riding as much,” Gerritsen said. “It keeps me up-to-date with the latest news in the equine industry.”

Staying on top of the industry is a must as Gerritsen waits to hear back about her application to the University of Kentucky (UK). She’s hoping to transfer there to major in equine studies after graduating from Waubonsee with an associate degree in the spring. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she hopes to continue on in UK’s prestigious equine nutrition or equine genetics graduate program.

Of course, her job at the saddlery also means Gerritsen has to work hard to maintain a work-school-life balance.

“The balance is always difficult,” she said. “I’ve had to take a lot of night classes because of work. Online classes have been handy too.”

Even though she’s busy, Gerritsen has managed to find time to volunteer at the TAILS Humane Society in DeKalb. She and her boyfriend started donating their time there just this past summer.

“I’m a big fan of rescues,” Gerritsen said. “These are animals that deserve so much more than they’ve gotten. I can’t imagine my life without animals, so this is a great way for me to give back in a way that’s meaningful to me.”