HOUSTON (KIAH) – One Houstonian graduated from Texas Southern University (TSU) valedictorian of her class after taking a five-year break. Now she’s heading to the East Coast to pursue her dreams.

Ashely Gillis finished head of her class with a 3.94 GPA after overcoming several obstacles.  In 2013, she went away to music college to pursue a career in audio engineering after graduating high school.

Soon after, Gillis realized she wanted to change directions. She came back home to work part-time jobs in Houston and later enrolled in Texas Southern University.

Shortly after moving back, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The high-performing student majored in radio, television, and film. She says although they missed a couple of years of hands-on experience. She still gained valuable skills.

It’s those same skills that helped Gillis achieve the unexpected goal of becoming the valedictorian of her class.

“Going through college during this time was actually a benefit long-term because it gave – it gives you that fight like… I got through college during COVID. Everybody can’t say that,” said Gillis.

“A lot of people they have this fear in their heart or they feel like they’re not about to do something or they don’t have the tools to do it. All I can say is… go get the tools. Seize your opportunities because they are there. Having been here it’s made me realize that Houston has so much to offer. It’s the land of opportunity and you can grow so much here,” said Gillis.

Gillis is heading to Connecticut this week to work for ESPN in the audio department. Her long-term goal is to be a producer for television and film.