“I’ve Learned a Lot”: Ashley’s Journey to a Varsity Letter in Community Service

young blonde white woman smiling


Ashley Dockter is a sophomore at Byron High School. Last year, one of her friends told her about United Way of Olmsted County’s Varsity Letter in Community Service program, which rewards local high schoolers for their community service. Since then, Ashley has spent 100 hours with organizations in Rochester and Byron: at The Landing making Easter cards for the residents there, helping out in her church’s nursery, bell ringing with the Salvation Army, creating bracelet and snowflake kits with Ronald McDonald House, packaging and sorting food with the Community Food Response, and more. 

Her time with the ladies in the Memory Care Unit at Madonna Summit – part of Benedictine Living Community-Byron – was her favorite. 

“My friend and I would go there, and we look pretty similar,” Ashley said. “So the ladies would remember us after a while, and they would call us ‘the twins.'  Toward the end, we figured out what things were best and how they can be involved in different activities, since a lot of them are in a wheelchair or have a walker. They have this big table, and we got everyone seated around it and we blew up some balloons and they would toss them back and forth to each other. It was so fun because even some of the ladies who aren't really able to function as well were still able to participate in it, and it was so cool because they were all having the best time. They became like our grandmas.” 

Through the various volunteering she’s done, Ashley says she’s grown as a person. “I've learned how to interact with all different types of people, from the babies in my church nursery to the older ladies at the nursing home.” 

“It's helped me be more kind and compassionate to everyone that I meet,” she shared. “I'm hoping to get the varsity letter again next year, and I'm already starting to work on that.” 

This year, she found opportunities through UWOC’s Get Connected volunteer portal and through word of mouth. Next year, she said, “I would definitely be willing to try new things, but I also think we've made a lot of good connections already and I would love to continue volunteering in all the places we have.” 

Her advice to other students who might consider joining in? “I would definitely tell them to try it. Even if they don't get the 100 hours [required to get a Varsity Letter], it's still such a great experience, and I've learned a lot of different things from it – and just meeting new people that I wouldn’t normally talk to is really cool and fun to do.” 



About United Way of Olmsted County 

United Way of Olmsted County (UWOC) is a community change organization with the mission to unite people and resources to improve lives in our community. 

We fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community in a variety of ways: we collaborate with local organizations, businesses, and community leaders to mobilize their expertise and resources; we accelerate impact by strengthening systems and cultivating leaders to build a community where all people can thrive, regardless of race or place; and we participate in a collective effort that empowers local residents to create lasting transformations in their own communities through our focus on community-driven change. 


Adele McLees 

Communications Coordinator 

United Way of Olmsted County