Inspirational CWU graduate double majors after serving in milita - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Inspirational CWU graduate double majors after serving in military

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ELLENSBURG, WA - All college students deal with adversity on the way to earning their degree, but some have a lot more challenges than just those in the classroom.

One Central Washington University graduate got her start in college much later than most students on campus. Kristin Ashley is not your typical college graduate.

"I deal with stress a lot more productively than some people," Ashley said. "I am more motivated to accomplish and conquer challenges."

She grew up 26 miles outside of Ellensburg, without running water or electricity. Then everything changed when she was 16.

"That's when nine-eleven happened and we had seen the planes fly into the towers," Ashley explained.

That night, she tried to sign up for the draft but was rejected.

"That was very moving for me and I wanted to immediately do something about it," she said.

She joined the army at 19, but only after getting her GED and basically running away from home to live in Colorado Springs with a friend's family.

"I'm really grateful for being an American, and being born here, especially as a woman," she admitted. "A lot of people all over the world don't get the opportunities I get."

One of those opportunities? The post-9/11 GI Bill, providing education benefits to veterans.

"The only stable thing in my entire life was school," Ashley said. "The only thing I really looked forward to consistently was going to school and learning new things."

After leaving the military, Ashley went back to school...double majoring in Global Wine Studies and Tourism Management at CWU in Ellensburg.

"I really appreciate wine because of how it draws cultures together and has a great history, and it's very tied into the land as well," she explained. "It's kind of the best parts of science, culture, and economy all tied into this one beautiful thing that you can enjoy with friends."

Five years later, the 32-year-old has her diploma, and the Veterans Excellence Award for highest GPA. But she's most proud of planning the study abroad trip for the global wine studies program.

"To be part of something that changed so many people's lives and their perspective when they got back to the United States...I don't know if I'm more proud of it or humbled by it."