This issue: Summer 2017

Asia Greene

By Kimberly Felton

A Cinderella story? Asia Greene would scoff. Or laugh out loud, depending on the day. Dragging herself out of bed at 6 a.m. to student teach? In that moment, she would scoff while prying open her eyes.

But right after landing another record in the long jump? In that moment, she’d likely laugh out loud.

Unlike Cinderella, Greene has dedicated parents who know she can succeed and who modeled helping others succeed. She intends to pay it forward, aiming to teach in a school that needs her – “which means probably a school that’s more diverse, a school that probably doesn’t have wealthier students,” Greene says. “It would be awesome to work at a school that’s better off financially, but they already have good teachers. It’s the schools that don’t have that support and don’t have the finances – that’s where I’m needed.”

No fairy godmother shows up in Greene’s story – but a track coach who can spot athletic ability figures significantly. No glass slippers involved, but some spikes, a lot of sand, and plenty of school records. If anything has caused a transformation, it isn’t magic. It’s Greene herself.

Greene arrived at George Fox as an athlete, just in a different sport: basketball. But she was injured. A friend offered to teach her weightlifting while she healed. Bench press? She was awful. But box jumping? Now that was fun.

Someone else noticed that jumping came easy to Greene. Right after she left the gym an email popped up on her phone from coach John Smith: “Want to try track?”

Asia Greene

Five years later, Greene is a six-time All-American who holds the George Fox track and field records in the long jump (19 feet, 6 ¼ inches), 100 meters (12.16 seconds) and 200 meters (24.78 seconds). She also holds the indoor record for the long jump (19-5 ¼) and 60 meters (7.84 seconds). She accomplished it all while earning a bachelor’s degree in English in 2016 and, in April, completing the university’s Master of Arts in Teaching program.

But achieving success both on and off the track wasn’t easy. On a typical day, Greene would arrive at her student-teaching site at 7:30 a.m., make it back to campus for track practice by 3:30 p.m., and was free by 5:30 p.m. for dinner, homework and that blessed bed for sleep. She was exhausted. Yet for that moment, it was the right mix.

“I always remembered I was a student before I was an athlete,” Greene says of her time at George Fox. “To compete is a privilege that is given after I have done what I am supposed to do in the classroom. Sports have always helped me stay on track for school. Most athletes would tell you sports force them to get stuff done in a timely manner so you can practice. You need time away to release, and track does that for me. It is my two-hour getaway before I have to go back to homework.”

That mindset has paid off. During her time at George Fox, Greene, an Act Six scholarship recipient, was on the dean’s list more often than not.

With all the busyness, one of her interests has had to take a back seat: poetry.

A writer since age 8, Greene has performed spoken word – poetry strong in alliteration, rhythm and wordplay – in school assemblies, churches, at open mic nights and at events, including the Nike Maxim Awards.

An intense nature produces intense works – covering topics from self-confidence and shunning society’s idea of beauty to gang violence and racism. At TEDxPortland in 2013, Greene persuaded the audience that she could change her world. Change her world by changing herself. Change herself by accepting herself.

Straddling two worlds, a dark-skinned girl on a majority white-skinned campus, she tries to choose wisely when to speak up and educate those around her, because sometimes people just don’t get it.

But she is willing to take the chance when she can make the world a better place. Her poem “Quiet Old Me,” performed at the university’s Spoken Word event her freshman year, exposed the internal battle she wages daily in a culture not her own. Would people hurt her for raising the topic? Shun her for making them uncomfortable?

“I finished the poem and everyone was in tears,” Greene says. “People from my floor were like, ‘I knew but I didn’t know.’ People who were of different races were like, ‘I feel this every day, and I have not said this. I feel trapped. Nobody understands. I’m glad you were able to say this.’”

Her poetry puts teeth into truth and won’t let you shake it off, giving voice to the voiceless. Some of her poetry has already surfaced in her student teaching, and more will come as she leans into the young lives in her classroom and settles into her role in an adult world.

Greene plans to change her world. If her commitment to athletics and academics can filter into the next generation she teaches, and if her determination to make her voice heard clears the way for other voices, there’s a great chance she’ll succeed.

Watch video: Asia Greene - "I See Potential"
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