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Ash had a unique and remarkable life. He was born in poverty in the rural village of Gambela, Ethiopia. Sickness and deprivation forced his birth mother to relinquish him to an orphanage, where he suffered significantly. He was adopted at the age of six into a loving family on Guam with five older siblings and a mother. He enjoyed eight years of a busy childhood full of soccer, taekwondo, friends, birthday parties, swimming, snowboarding and surfing, summer camps, world travel and, yes, homework. He was an outstanding athlete, a born leader, and a loyal friend. Most of all, he was a beloved son and brother.

Ash was an easygoing, cheerful person with a ready smile. He was always ready to lend a hand and stand up for the underdog. His happy demeanor contradicted an early childhood of severe trauma, leading others to falsely conclude that he was perfectly adjusted. As an adopted boy in a biracial single-parent family, Ash also endured racism, bullying, and shaming at school and in sports. He learned to shrug things off with a joke. Few mental health professionals specialize in trauma and mental health challenges related to adoption. A diagnosis of ADHD incompletely addressed the real reasons for his struggles in school: trauma, racism and bullying.

The difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, like social isolation and homeschooling, were difficult for Ash. Police killings of people of color, including that of George Floyd, and turmoil related to the Black Lives Matter movement also affected him deeply as a young black man.

As a typical teen, Ash was heavily influenced by his relationships with his peers. He was devastated by the end of his first romantic relationship two weeks before he died.

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