Ashleigh Durst

The Smiling Face at Your Car Window


Ashleigh Durst

Lyndsey Case, Staff Writer

Anyone who has left for lunch is sure to be greeted with a cheery smile before leaving campus. Ashleigh Durst, Portage Northern lunch hall monitor, has been working at Portage Northern since April of 2015. Originally from Central Pennsylvania where she lived in an Mennonite, community,  her childhood was not the same as ours.

Mennonite, Conservative Mennonite and Amish are three very different cultures and not to be confused with one another. Amish clothing tend to be plain, women’s hair must always be covered, primary horse and buggy transportation, men and women separated at church and huge emphasis on tradition.

Conservative Mennonites are Christian: Anti Baptist/Swiss, women can only wear dresses and skirts (depending on church), typically no electricity, only solid color vehicles, no nail polish and hair must be wrapped up in a covering.

The Mennonite community that Ashleigh belonged to were Christian, Anti Baptist/Swiss, they wear modest clothing, hair and makeup of any style is okay, any car is acceptable and they have electricity. Growing up she didn’t have a T.V, only a VCR, but daily routines were pretty similar to your average suburban child: playing outside, running around barefoot, and working on chores. Except, her chores were a little different than ‘pick up your toys’ or ‘clean up your Cheerios.’ “I would help my family milk cows, plow the fields and clean the barn. I can milk a cow by hand, ride horses and drive them, drive a tractor, cook, sew and grow a garden,” said Durst.

Originally, Durst packed her bags and headed off to Veterinary Technical Institute of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania but her love for dance stopped her.  She began to study Dance in Las Vegas while waitressing. “I am a certified ballroom dance instructor with Arthur Murray International, ballroom is my favorite,” said Durst. She then married the man of her dreams and headed off to California. So why would Durst choose to live in Portage, Michigan over sunny California? “My husband’s job [is why we moved], he is finishing his schooling at Western, he’s a pilot,” said Durst. In fact, for fun on the weekend she enjoys flying around with her husband, when she isn’t exploring, gardening, spending time with her families, sewing civil war costumes, and playing with her two cats: Pheobe and Ozwald.

“My goal is to just let everybody know they have somebody to talk to and to be a smiling face and to hopefully impact students in that way.” I think we can all agree that Ashleigh Durst can put a smile on anyone’s face here at Portage Northern.