Life hasn’t always been easy for Oxford native Ashala Mathis. Growing up, she spent time living with her grandmother because her mother often worked. She also endured the death of several close relatives at a young age.
“I was very close to a few relatives that left me too soon,” she said. “I don’t think I have completely gotten over their passing, but I have come to live with it, and now I try not to take any moments for granted.”
Mathis grew up with two sisters, Jiva and Laken, and one brother, Willie. She has worked as a cook for the past 15 years, first with Sigma Phi Epsilon until the fraternity chapter was removed from the University of Mississippi campus in 2014 because of a racial incident.
Since then, Mathis has worked with other Greek chapters at Ole Miss, such as Kappa Delta. She now works with Phi Kappa Tau alongside her mother, Angie, as a fellow cook.
“I love my job working around these crazy guys,” she said, “and there is never a dull moment.”
Mathis and her siblings attended Oxford city schools. “I loved going to school here,” she said. “I had great friends and relationships that have lasted me a lifetime.”
The most enduring and endearing relationship she gained from school is the relationship she has had with her husband for 18 years, a fact that stuns most college students.
The two met in school, and though their relationship was not always romantic, there was always a spark. “We always used to joke about how we called each other boyfriend or girlfriend in middle school until one day we decided to actually give it a shot,” she said. “Things worked out, and we’ve loved each other ever since.”
From childhood sweethearts to husband and wife, the two are still just as in love as when they had their first kiss in eighth grade. Mathis said the two have always wanted kids, but it hasn’t happened yet, although she and her husband remain hopeful.
Though Mathis has never had the opportunity to travel, she said she’d love to see more of the world, even though she is terrified of planes.
She’d like to visit New York City and Los Angeles. She wants to see a Broadway show and cities bigger than Oxford.
In California, she’d like to visit the beaches and see a celebrity or two. “There is so much out there to see and do,” she said. “I love Oxford, but at times, it can begin to feel very isolated and small.”
Although Mathis did not attend college, she has always dreamed of being a nurse because she wants to help people and make anyone she meets feel better.
She hopes to attend nursing school later in life once she and her husband have saved money for schooling and paid their bills. When she isn’t working, she enjoys relaxing. She also helps take care of her grandmother, who helped raise her. As her grandmother has grown older, she said she has realized how precious life is.
“My grandmother is one of my biggest role models,” she said. “She is the most caring and selfless woman I know, and I love her more and more every day.”