Kourtnie Ashford is a graduating senior at Central Michigan University. In the fall of 2017 she will receive her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. In this episode of The Voice, Kourtnie shares her tragic experiences with sexual assault, and most importantly, what she used as an outlet to move past those encounters. After opening up to her loved ones about the incidents (her father especially) she was able to put herself on a platform and share her story virtually through the Cherry Project. With this, she hopes to inspire others who have gone through similar situations, and show that there is a way to overcome it. The Cherry Project is a twitter page, started on campus at Central Michigan University where students share stories of their lives, (negative or positive), that have shaped them, and how they have overcome that struggle. The Cherry Project aims to project “positivity and awareness one cherry at a time.”
Kourtnie Ashford on The Voice- Podcast
In the quote above, Kourtnie describes her experiences with sexual assault, and journey towards recovery through the Cherry Project. Her main message to young women who may be in her same situation is to be positive, and be happy with who they are. She doesn’t want the encounters people face to change them negatively, but to mold them further into the person they want to become-- a person they love to see when they look in the mirror each morning. She also hopes to let young women know that it is okay to talk about it!
Autumn Pinkley is the founder of The Cherry Project, which she started in the summer of 2016 at Central Michigan University. Autumn is a sophomore at CMU studying Broadcasting and Communications. Her inspiration for the Cherry Project originated during a photoshoot with her friend, she was inspired by her friend’s distinct look and her confidence, and wanted to let people know it was okay to be themselves. “She just looked so at peace and unique in the photo that it brought me back to when we were in high school. She always had a very vintage style and people judged her based off of that and thought it was weird. Now, she's even more unique than she was before. She lives in New York, attends New York Fashion Week, and has created her own clothing line. A lot of those people who had made fun of her now look up to her. I'm so proud of who she has become through all of this.” When going through the photos after the shoot, her friends red body suit with the word “CHERRY” on the front caught her eye… and thus, the Cherry Project was born.
Aside from following the Cherry Project on social media, if you want to share your story, or get involved, you can email Autumn at firstname.lastname@example.org. When participating in the Cherry Project, you will have a photo shoot like Kourtnie’s above, and there will be a quote featured about your story, and how you overcame the struggle you were faced with.
The Mission of Cherry Project
Be whoever you want to be. We want to spread positivity one cherry at a time while building awareness.
-Autumn Pinkley (The Cherry Project creator)
Where do you see the Cherry Project in a year from now?
Autumn Pinkley: A year from now I hope to see the project advancing to other aspects, such as video, merchandise for fundraisers, and possibly making appearances on other campuses!!
How do people who are interested in being a part of the Cherry Project find you?
AP: Everyone can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @cherryproject16, also like us on Facebook at The Cherry Project!!
What reaction do you mostly see when people partake in the Cherry Project?
AP: After doing a story, (I hope) and see a lot of positive feedback. Strangers comment on each other’s stories with nothing but kind remarks and uplifting them and that’s all I want to see. One stranger’s story can help influence another person’s life. I just like to see people happy and let them know they have a purpose on this planet.