“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

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

“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

“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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