“Ashley’s workshops with our winter sports teams were fantastic. She met with me prior to personalize the workshops based on each team’s needs, and kept the student-athletes engaged and moving. We had a big group, but Ashley kept the interest level high throughout the workshops. Her positive attitude, energy level, and knowledge was infectious, making her presentation resonate and stick with students well beyond the workshop.”

Steve Kendall

Athletic Director, Ayer-Shirley Regional High School

“Working with Gus is always empowering. She makes us think about leadership, sportsmanship, and our potential as individuals and a team. When we leave her sessions we have a new outlook on the little things. We learn that our minds have power, if we believe we can then we can. We leave Gus with a new desire to work hard, a new appreciation for our team, and the confidence within ourselves to be the best we can be.”

Abigail Boggio

Junior, Girls Varsity Soccer, Shepherd Hill Regional High School

“Ashley did a great job engaging with our students. She was able to pull them out of their shells to provide an all-around experience for everyone. By sharing her own story, she was also able to connect on a further level with our leaders. I would highly recommend Ashley to anyone who is looking for lasting impact/training for leadership roles. She is AWESOME and you will not regret!!”

Oscar Chavez

Nichols College, Academic Advisor – NEXT Coordinator | Assistant Coach – Women’s and Men’s Volleyball | Recruiting Coordinator

“I really enjoyed the leadership workshop. I felt that it helped me gain skills that will not only make me a better leader, but a better person. I also thought that I could connect more with my classmates and be more open/honest about how I felt. This felt like a great way to bond with people and connect on a more personal level by saying what we truly mean.” 


Junior, Leadership Club Auburn High School

“Last night’s leadership workshop was very productive for me. It revealed a lot about myself that I didn’t even know. Even though I can see myself as a leader, I also saw that I can be the type of person that is difficult to lead. I think the most important and interesting lesson was when we paired up and yelled at each other. Having two leaders in the same room trying to overcome the other will never work. You need to be able to work together and share ideas, but also make the rest of your teammates or classmates feel engaged. ” 


Junior, Leadership Club Auburn High School

“Ashley provided us with an engaging and high energy leadership workshop! Leaders were engaged with one another, and time for reflection was included as well. Ashley as a facilitator engages the audience for an interactive learning experience.” 

Luanne Westerling

Talent Development Program Manager, Human Resources, MAPFRE Insurance

“The Leadership/Team Building Workshop led by Ashley Gustafson was the perfect experience for my team to participate in at the beginning of our season. We had just been through tryouts and needed a team building activity that would help the team to get to know each other, have personalities gel, and start to create a team identity. We have a lot of new players on this year’s team and Ashley’s workshop did bring them closer together, but it also was beneficial for each of them to individually reflect on their life experiences and identify what it takes to be a leader and good teammate. This workshop is a no brainer for any team, sports, or business, that is looking to create a positive culture. Highly recommend!”

Lee Diamantopoulos

Varsity Baseball Coach, Shrewsbury High School

“This leadership and team bonding workshop allowed for us to create trusting relationships and built team chemistry we can use both on and off the field. I love how she motivated us to not only challenge ourselves, but our teammates as well. This workshop has taught me to push others to be their best. I learned more about my teammates capabilities and how strong they are. Ashley is so amazing and I loved hearing about her inspiring story.”


Girls Varsity Lacrosse Captain, Plymouth South High School

“I personally think that the Team Building we did a couple weeks back, was very effective in having us communicate with others that we might not have if not for this exercise. One specific thing I liked was how engaging Ashley was and how she had us working on mental and physical activities at the same time.”


Senior Manager, Shrewsbury HS Varsity Baseball

“Overall I think the Leadership workshop we did as a team was really beneficial for us as a group, and each individual. We all learned what it takes to be a leader and the traits that are required to be one, which is very important to having a successful season. The workshop made me realize that stepping out of your comfort zone is important whether it’s on, or off the field.”


Sophomore, Shrewsbury HS Varsity Baseball

“I enjoyed the Leadership workshop we did as a team. I went into it with low expectations thinking it would be a waste of time and not very engaging, but after it was finished I was pleasantly surprised and actually had a good time. I felt like it built team chemistry and got everyone more comfortable with each other. It was a great way to start off the season building chemistry along with getting everyone on the right page wanting to compete not only as an individual but as a team.”


Senior, Shrewsbury HS Varsity Baseball

“Ashley is amazing and has definitely showed me the meaning of creating my own life and making memories! She has definitely helped me with my confidence and overall self! I’ve grown a lot from where I was to where I am now thanks to her!”


Aspiring X-Ray Tech @ QCC, Confidence Coaching Client

“Loved having Ashley speak in our High School. Her positive mindset and motivational tools left students with a positive take away that students will apply to all aspects of their life. I look forward to working with Ashley again with our student athletes and more leadership workshops.”

Meg Brunelle

South High School

“I reached out to Navigating Through Quicksand because I was so unhappy with so many aspects in my life, including work and family. Things that I used to enjoy or things that once brought me joy now seemed like daunting tasks that I just needed to get through. Throughout my twelve weeks with Ashley, she helped me to identify why and how that happened throughout the years. As a wife, mother of four, and a demanding career I seemed to lose the importance of making sure I was also taking care of me. Ashley raised my awareness of the basic needs that we as human beings need to live a well-rounded and fulfilled life. I have completed my sessions with many tools to use and goals to reach and feel very confident that my new outlook and priorities are attainable. I can honestly say that without this “reconnection with myself” I would have continued on a path of negativity and unhappiness.”


Confidence Coaching Client

“Ashley Gustafson was a breath of fresh air. Our school did a series of 3 30 minute wellness workshops back to back and I participated in Ashley’s 3rd and final workshop of the day. Her energy was as if it was the first session. She was upbeat, passionate and captivating throughout the presentation. Virtual engagement can be difficult but throughout the 30 minutes she was able to check in with everyone participating using a chat box and that helped keep me engaged rather than feeling I was being talked at. As one of the coordinators of the event we had students/staff complete surveys, as I looked through responses there was an overwhelming positivity around Ashley G. and all three of her sessions from the responses that we received.”

Jordan Young

BRYT Clinician, Wachusett Regional High School

“When you are an educator, you always know those people in your school you’d want your own children to work with. They are caring, attentive and professional, and they never give up on their students. In my experience working with her, Ashley Gustafson is one of those people.”

Gregg Desto

Former Superintendent, Dudley-Charlton Regional School District

“Ms. Gustafson (Gus) is very fun and energetic and also a loving person. She can make anybody’s day go from crappy to absolutely amazing in a matter of minutes. She is a great positive person. She also teaches us life lessons and to never take life for granted cause some people are not as fortunate as we are to be able to have an education like we do. She also tries to bring the good out in everyone. As soon as I walk into her classroom everyday I can see the big smile on her face. It makes us all happy. There for I think she is the best person to go to when times get hard. Everyone should have a Gus in their life.”
Costa Karamanakis

Shepherd Hill Class of 2018

“Ashley’s presentation was passionate and energetic.  Her story showed vulnerability and strength.  Ashley included story-telling and hands-on experiential activities making her presentation not only moving to hear but also fun to be a part of!  Ashley taught us to remember to breathe through the quicksand and never forget that we have the ability to impact each person we encounter and can “Make a Difference”.  Thank you Ashley for empowering us and sharing your story.”

Jillian Alfeo, LMHC

Vice President of Quality, Y.O.U., Inc.


I had Ms Gustafson, Ashley, as a teacher in high school. Years later we reconnected on Facebook and that is when I learned about her inspirational speaking business, Navigating Through Quicksand.

I invited Ashley to come and speak to my 5th grade students in Worcester about positivity, motivation and lifting others up. When she came she blew me away with her ability to captivate such a young audience. We had two days left in the school year (which means that all of the kids were in summer mode) and Ashley took them all in. She conducted hands on activities that got each child up and out of their seats. She had each child think deeply into how they make the world a better place and to recognize others who help make their world a better place.

The lesson that she left us with will be everlasting for both the students and myself. I would recommend Navigating Through Quicksand to anyone! Ashley is truly an amazing human being and will be able to connect and make a difference with anyone.”

Brooke Packard

5th Grade Teacher, Vernon Hill Elementary School, Worcester, MA

“The workshop Ashley presented to our track team was an awesome bonding experience. The activities reinforced us all to work with those we might not automatically think to work with. It encouraged us to go out of our comfort zones and talk to new people. This was great considering our team is rather large and sometimes it is difficult to create these bonds and relationships with new team members or simply those who do different events. I think the workshop also taught us a lot about empathy and that we should always be trying to uplift those around us.”

Marissa G.

Junior, Indoor Track, Ayer Shirley Regional High School

“The workshop was fantastic! As a coach, it was awesome to observe the girls get thrown into different scenarios and watch how each one reacted. I learned a lot about the team! Great ice breaker as it pushed everyone to get out of comfort zones and embrace their authenticity. Ashley’s energy is unmatched and I was very impressed by her ability to instantly connect with the team. Would highly recommend and repeat each year with the different teams!!” 

Vanessa Kent

Girls Varsity Field Hockey Coach, Shepherd Hill Regional High School

“Through the Captain’s Summit, we learned so many valuable and important lessons that we will take with us throughout our season. Ashley has great energy and had an immensely positive impact on us. She helped us gain confidence, understand the power of a positive mindset, as well as remind us of the power we have in cultivating a welcoming and supportive environment. The activities were well thought out and each one had a clear purpose that related back to a specific topic or point that was being talked about. We really enjoyed spending the day with Ashley and would definitely recommend it. We left feeling motivated, inspired, and even more excited for the seasons to come.” 

Abby & Paige

Girls XC Captains Shrewsbury High School

“I thought the leadership workshop was awesome! It was super inspiring and motivating. Also, the lesson(s) weren’t necessarily predictable and it was enjoyable and fun! I would definitely recommend attending her talks to my friends. It was really cool how it all tied up at the end to what we started with. I keep my sticky note on my dashboard driving to and from school, sports, etc. Overall 10/10!” 


Senior, Leadership Club Auburn High School

“The leadership workshop was very interactive and I think it helped me really get to know my teammates and new friends. This workshop really showed me what a leader is and how people look up to us as a group. The biggest thing about the workshop was when we wrote down a good and bad leader and then talked about how some days we won’t be 100 percent because we are human but it helps to have others to at least help you get through the day. This is what a leader needs to do we need to be that helping hand. I think it was majorly beneficial for not just the group but for our entire school because as leaders we are going to pass around these motives around the school.” 


Junior, Leadership Club Auburn High School

“Working with Ashley was an amazing experience and I would do it all over again if given the opportunity! The program Navigating Through Quicksand helped our lacrosse girls gain confidence, enthusiasm and an understanding of roles a person has in different situations on and off the field. This program allowed the girls to be open and expressive about obstacles they have overcome and how they can now assist others in similar situations. Ashley does a fantastic job with encouraging and pushing athletes to become better not only on the field but off as well. She pushed our girls to step out of their comfort zones which allowed them to step away from the program with a new and more positive outlook not only in athletics but in life.” 

Kylian Kelly

Assistant Coach Girls Varsity Lacrosse, Shrewsbury High School

“Gus was a former teacher, mentor and coach of mine. She was always the teacher checking in with her students just to show how much she truly cared. I reached out to her after learning she stopped teaching to become a motivational speaker. I needed to bring her energy, motivation and liveliness to my team because it is contagious. Every activity throughout our two workshops had a purpose. That purpose related back to sports, but more importantly it related to life outside of high school. PSHS Girls Lax was very appreciative of her time, and will take away many lessons learned from Ashley Gustafson.”

Bri Borus

Girls Varsity Lacrosse Coach, Plymouth South High School

“I really enjoyed doing the Leadership workshop for many reasons. I appreciated moving around and doing some exercises and then seeing how she connected them to what she was trying to teach us. The main thing I took from it was learning that in many cases actions speak louder than words when it comes to being a leader.”


Senior, Shrewsbury HS Varsity Baseball

“I liked the Leadership/Team Building because it helped me get to know my teammates better. As a freshman I didn’t really know my teammates as well before the Leadership/Team Building, but after I was more comfortable and learned some things I didn’t know. Also, I feel this has benefited our team, bringing us closer and creating more of a family that everyone will remember as we leave Shrewsbury and go on with our lives.”


Freshman, Shrewsbury HS Varsity Baseball

“Ashley Gustafson’s BRING IT! Workshop was a true inspiration for my high school soccer team. My team needed something to BRING IT for. Ashley came in and showed us exactly who we needed to BRING IT for. She reminded us that every day we needed to BRING IT for our teammates. Ashley gave us the positive mindset to BRING IT that we needed in order to have a successful rest of the season. I am incredibly thankful for the inspiration that Ashley gave my team.”


Sophomore, Nashoba Regional High School

“Ashley has been a huge part of our program at Shepherd Hill ever since I became the head coach. She was my JV coach for a year before she embarked on her Navigating Through Quicksand journey. She has found her niche and has become an integral part of our season with her monthly visits. The girls love when Ashley comes in for a session or two to work on their confidence as a team and trust in one another. Her workshops work off the previous one so that the players learn how to develop their abilities and challenge themselves as individuals to be better teammates all around, not just as players. Ashley has impacted so many young people and I know she will continue to do so with her energetic self!”

Amanda Brotherton

Girls Varsity Soccer Coach, Shepherd Hill

“Ashley is a true teammate and advocate. She encourages everyone around her to be the best that they can be. As a teacher and co-worker, Ashley supported my students and me both in and out of school. She leads by example and truly wants what is best for everyone around her. “

Shannon Sullivan

SHRHS Special Education Teacher

“Ms. Gustafson (Gus) has such a positive outlook in every situation, no matter how grim it may seem. She is a model teacher, one who cares about a student in class, but more importantly in their life beyond the classroom. She truly dedicates herself to changing every life she encounters, mine included, and I am forever grateful for crossing paths and for all she has taught me.”
Mike Tilly

Shepherd Hill Class of 2017

“Ashley Gustafson is dynamic, passionate, inspirational and engaging! Her presentation connects on a personal level with all those in attendance; while conveying a strong message of hope, perseverance, courage, resilience, and caring for each other. Her story illuminates moments of transformation and celebrates kindness and individual strength.”
Sean M. Gilrein

Former Superintendent, Dudley-Charlton Regional School District

“Ashley is inspirational in her words and her actions. She is masterful with an audience of kids.”
Chris Stowe

SH Social Studies Department Coordinator

“Ashley is a super presenter.  Her energy and enthusiasm lights up a room and engages all ages in her story.  She explains her life experiences in a meaningful way which helps others learn to turn life’s challenges into obstacles that can be overcome with a positive and grateful attitude.  She walks this walk with her positive energy and cheerful attitude.”

Kathy Sullivan

Community Prevention Director, RI Student Assistance Services

“Ashley Gustafson was our keynote presenter for the annual Varsity Athletes Above Substance Abuse (VAASA) Conference this fall.  Ashley captivated this group of 200 high school scholar athletes with her story of risky choices, personal vulnerability and profound resilience. Ashley’s retelling of events from her own adolescence is both alarming and inspiring.  She reminds us that even the brightest and most talented young people may be struggling with family, emotional and substance use related problems that are costly in many areas of a young person’s development.  She taught our students to tap their own inner strength while humbly seeking support and remaining grateful for the kindness of adult mentors in their lives.  Ashley galvanized the crowd with energizer activities and facilitated a lively “Owning the Room” communication workshop.  Most important was Ashley’s message about making a difference, whether standing up for a friend, or sincerely asking about how someone is doing.  VAASA members are tasked with making a difference by acting as role models for younger students.  Ashley Gustafson is a role model for our students!”

Colleen Judge, LMHC

Director, School Based Services, RI Student Assistance Services

“I had the pleasure of having Miss Gus as a teacher in high school. To this day, I can still hear her yelling after us in the hall “Be safe, make good choices”. Later in my life I had no idea how much I would still remember those words as I help mold the lives of my adolescent clients. Reconnecting with Ashley in a different role was incredible. I have worked in the social work field for almost 10 years, 9 of which have been in an adolescent girls group home. It dawned on me that everyone could benefit from a little Gus in their lives. Ashley was able to come in and talk with my clients and share with them some of the events that took place in her life and how she got through and decided to make a change. She was able to touch the lives of 6 teenage girls, and break through again to her once student, now life long connection. I couldn’t be more grateful for Ashley and all of her words and positivity.”

Marissa Brown

Asst. Program Director, Grafton House, YOU, Inc. an Affiliate of The Seven Hills Foundation

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