Ashton Burrell | Chairman of the NJ State Human Relations Council | Founder of the LIVE Mentorship Program | Humanitarian | Author
On his introduction into politics:
I got involved in politics in 2011 when I started a mentorship program called LIVE (Life In Visions of Evolution). In the beginning, I thought it would just be a mentorship program, but from there, I started learning some of the outer layers of everything that was going on with the kids. I started to understand the reason why they were acting up or why they were late to school. In these moments, I realized that this was where the real change could take place in politics. The politicians can change these types of things. Politics truly found me.
On how he balanced his course load while at Lincoln University while running the LIVE mentorship program:
I had to show my commitment to the youth because for them to trust me, they had to see that I was trustworthy. I turned up my grind in school so I could have that accessibility. I went to school at Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania so I had to drive 2-3 hours each Thursday to get home in time to do the program. This kept me in shape because I was on a tight schedule. I missed homecomings and campus events, but it was worth it. If I could do it over again, I would.
On him being appointed to the advisory board for the state of New Jersey’s human relations council and becoming the youngest chairman for the state of New Jersey’s human relations council:
I was brought in by Rich Rivera and I watched how he led, and he called on me at a young age. When I visited the council for the first time, I was the youngest person there. I was at the table with heavyweights and they were doing amazing things. It motivated me to do more and get involved. I wanted to do the same thing that Rich did for me and bring others in. When I saw they were having elections, I threw my hat in and I stepped up to the plate. I had my first meeting as the chairman of the council last month and it went well. We're going to do great work this year.
On his internal feelings regarding the accomplishments he’s garnered thus far (Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian award, NAACP award, awards from Alpha Phi Alpha Inc. and Johnson & Johnson):
I honestly wasn't expecting the accomplishments to come along with everything. They took me by surprise. My first award I received was the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian award from my hometown. I didn't realize how big it was until the actual day. When they started naming the names of the people who won alongside me, I was amazed. I was now in this fraternity of people who've been given this award. When I received NAACP award, that was big because I remember when I was younger, I would go to that same luncheon and see people win awards. I also received an award from my fraternity (Alpha Phi Alpha) which was huge because I love my fraternity and I was honored by their recognition of my work. One of the most interesting awards I received was my Johnson & Johnson award. I received this award at their headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey and it was a powerful night. The same day I got that award, a kid I grew up with received a lengthy sentence and it made me think about our separate paths that we took. I appreciate all my awards, but the Johnson & Johnson award was a memorable one.
How can we stay afloat in such a difficult time in our country?
Being that Martin Luther King Jr. day just passed, he said, Let no man pull you low enough to hate him. I think this is something that we must keep in mind. It's so easy to respond to negativity with negativity, but it only drains you in the long-run. We must invest our energy into our communities. If you don't like something, get involved. If you don't like the education that's being taught to your kids, go to that board of education meeting. Go to the council and county meetings. All these things are open to the public. As a taxpayer, these individuals are required to listen to your concerns, no matter what.