A communication sciences and disorders alumna comes full circle

December 20, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ashleigh Marrella works with students in grades six through eight who have a variety of communication support needs, including students with autism, articulation disorders, receptive or expressive language disorders, fluency disorders, and social language disorders.

Ashleigh Marrella
IMAGE: Ashleigh Marrella

Marrella, who is currently a speech-language pathologist at two middle schools in Wilson School District in Berks County, Pennsylvania, graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders in 2014. She earned a master’s degree in the same field in 2016, also from Penn State.

However, this wasn’t the career pathway she had envisioned when arriving at Penn State as a freshman.

A disappointing internship experience led Marrella to reevaluate the major she initially pursued. Her father suggested that she explore speech-language pathology, thinking it might be a good fit for his outgoing and compassionate daughter.

“I love working with students, particularly children, and helping them improve their communication skills,” said Marrella, who also was a Schreyer Honors Scholar while at Penn State. “Being able to help them find their voice and be the best version of themselves — I’ve found what I love to do.”

Marrella first thought she might like teaching, but found she thrived in the small-group settings that speech-language pathology offered. When she decided to pursue her graduate degree, she applied to and was accepted at Penn State, where she was awarded an assistantship.

The path to her current position at Wilson School District started while she was a graduate student at Penn State. She completed her student teaching experience as a student speech-language pathologist at Wilson School District — the same district she attended from elementary through high school.

Marrella knew one of the speech-language pathologists in the district from her time there as an elementary student. Although she never had speech therapy herself, she grew to admire the fun, energetic and compassionate woman who provided therapy to her fellow students.

“It all came full circle because when [the former speech-language pathologist] retired, I was hired,” said Marrella. “I love the school district so much, and am grateful to now be working there.”

Marrella finally knew as a Penn State sophomore the path that was right for her, but she said that being open to other possibilities gave her confidence in the choices that she made as a student.

“Be open to all the possibilities, but then find your niche. If it turns out not be the right niche, you can always change,” she said. “Penn State shaped who I am today — this University can give you the tools to succeed, you just need to run with them.”

Marrella found great sources of support at Penn State, much of it from professors in the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders, who lit a fire for speech-language pathology and helped her pursue this career. Professor Carol Miller encouraged her to apply to the honors program, and professors Gordon Blood and Ingrid Blood, who are both now retired, facilitated the assistantship during her first year of graduate school.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 23, 2019