Donated photo.  Ashton Saunders, 2015 Haywood Community College associate in arts alumna, is pictured in Washington, D.C., where she works as staff assistant in Senator Thom Tillis’ office.There are vast differences of life in small town Clyde, North Carolina and the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., but for 2015 Haywood Community College associate in arts alumna Ashton Saunders, there is one thing that is the same. It’s helping your neighbor.

“I always wanted to live in a big city,” Saunders explains. “But Western North Carolina is still my home.”

Since finishing her degree at HCC, Saunders has spent little time at her mountain home. She transferred to Lee University in Tennessee, where she received a bachelor’s degree in history. During one summer of her college time at Lee, she held an intern position with U.S. Senator Bob Corker. The day after graduation, she left to study abroad in the United Kingdom.  

Returning from these studies, Saunders interned with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In this position, she assisted with hearings, completed research for professional staff members and researched protocol for head of state visits.

When Saunders’ internship ended, she was excited to head home to Clyde for some peaceful mountain time. Two weeks after settling back in, she was offered an interview with Senator Thom Tillis’ office. Torn between staying in her hometown or returning back to the big city, Saunders knew if she wanted to take advantage of the momentum she built, she had to do the interview or possibly miss her only opportunity.

Saunders got the job and is now a full-time staff assistant. Her primary job function is specialized tour coordinator where she books White House and Capital tours and leads the groups through.

“Washington is the heart of the nation,” Saunders says. “It’s full of people who want to educate others and inspire the next generation. I want to associate myself with this kind of people. It’s inspiring. Living here is all about building connections and relationships.”

Saunders is always working to add to her skill set. She wakes up every morning at 6 a.m. to scour through the news sources and pull together all the stories that broke overnight. “I just want to stay ahead of the curve. I like to help with the press team and would eventually like to work in communications or in a press role.”

Saunders says that she is thankful for the really good people she met as a student at HCC. “The instructors always called you to a higher standard. They encouraged you to reach for the highest branch.”

Saunders continually holds herself to these high standards and is dedicating her life to educating and inspiring the next generation.

For more information about HCC’s college transfer programs, please call 828-627-4579 or visit online at  

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For more information on enrollment, programs of study or financial aid, call 828.627.2821 or visit