Alumna works for organization dedicated to providing suicide prevention and crisis intervention for young people
About four years ago, Ashby Dodge ’98 was a social worker in New York City when her friend, Jason Mraz, a celebrated recording artist she’d known since her Longwood days, asked her to accompany him to a fundraising gala where he was performing.
She accepted the invitation, and it changed her life.
The gala was for The Trevor Project, an organization founded in 1998 by the creators of the Oscar-winning short film “Trevor,” which is about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide when rejected by friends because of his sexual orientation. Today The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.
“I’d never heard of the organization before but had loved the film,” said Dodge. “After that night, I knew I had to work for them.”
Shortly after the gala, she began exploring opportunities and eventually was offered the job of senior crisis services manager in The Trevor Project’s New York office. About a year later, she was promoted to crisis services director, which includes responsibility for overseeing The Trevor Lifeline, a confidential 24/7 service that offers trained counselors via a toll-free number.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people, and LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, Dodge said. There is hope, however. Statistics prove that one supportive person reaching out to a young person in crisis can reduce his or her risk of suicide by 30 percent.
‘In working with LGBTQ youth, I’ve found a way to use my education in clinical social work to help a population that is near and dear to me.’
— ASHBY DODGE ’98
Dodge approaches her work each day with empathy, compassion and optimism to ensure that every youth who calls will receive that help.
“In working with LGBTQ youth, I’ve found a way to use my education in clinical social work to help a population that is near and dear to me,” said Dodge. “I long for a future where youth feel protected and have a place to seek help if they need it. It’s very important to me to be that person who sees and hears people for who they are.”
Born into a Navy family in Virginia Beach, Dodge grew up mostly in Hawaii. She completed high school back in Virginia Beach and then moved on to Longwood, where she earned a BFA in theatre with an emphasis in drama therapy. “For me, college was primarily about learning life tools. As a social worker,
it was important that I was able to build and learn coping mechanisms on how to be an independent, successful person. Longwood provided a beautiful, safe and welcoming atmosphere in which to learn those lessons.”
After graduating, she headed to Manhattan, where she embarked on a busy acting career that included musical theater, daytime dramas, commercials and voice-over work.
After several years, she went back to school and earned a master’s degree in social work. Dodge is married to her partner, a fashion photographer in New York City. Together, they have a baby boy, Sawyer.
Dodge said she hopes to continue her work with The Trevor Project, helping to reach more at-risk youth.
“We run the nation’s only 24/7 suicide prevention and crisis intervention lifeline for LGBTQ youth. It’s really one of the best resources there is,” she said. “Our job is big and admittedly tough. Clearly we’d love to be out of business. Until then, we’ll be here.”—Patrick Folliard