Ashtyn Clark is a rising senior at East Carolina University with a love for kids. She is majoring in birth through kindergarten teacher education and is planning to become a preschool teacher after graduation.
“I love doing hours here in the child development center and going into other classrooms and seeing the differences and similarities and thinking about how I can incorporate that once I start teaching on my own,” she said.
She is the president of ECU’s Presbyterian Campus Ministry, where she helps run the social media accounts, recruit students, and coordinate events and meetings.
Clark was raised in Aberdeen, North Carolina by a family full of Pirates. Her parents attended ECU, and one of her three younger sisters is majoring in business & marketing at ECU. She is very close with her family and loves to go on trips with them.
But over a year ago, she began noticing some things that weren’t right which later led to a cancer diagnosis.
“I was just here going to class, doing what every other student does, and I started having these moments where it felt like I was dreaming and I was seeing things that weren’t there. I was seeing people doing things that they weren’t doing,” she said.
Later, doctors found a brain tumor in her temporal lobe. After six weeks of radiation every day and chemotherapy, she was able to return to school and take oral chemo treatments at home. After missing one semester, she caught up on the work she missed and returned on track to graduate in May of 2018.
“I would never have thought that going through this I could still stay in school,” she said.
Going through such a battle, she was able to prove to herself that she could overcome anything, and says that she’s a lot stronger than she ever realized.
“I’ve always been close to my family, but just seeing how many other people rallied around me and how many people care about me,” Clark said. “It also showed me how much of a support system I have.”
Clark says she is eternally grateful. She received her last dose of chemo on May 6 and recently went back to Duke for a follow-up scan. Doctors were glad to report that the treatments worked and everything looked as good as they’d hoped.
In 10 years, Clark still sees herself as a preschool teacher, something she’s been passionate about ever since she was a substitute teacher at the preschool at her church.
“I remember having a moment where I just stopped and thought this is definitely what I want to do,” she said.
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year? The bowling alley in Mendenhall.
What advice do you have for other students? The best thing you can do for yourself in college is to surround yourself with people who will be a positive influence on you.
Written by: Bre Lewis
Photography by: Cliff Hollis