OAKDALE, Minn -- The gown is striking. A black, ruffled skirt affixed to a white top, adorned with silver decorations. But, a closer look reveals this prom gown is actually more trash than treasure.
"This is trash, Ok, black trash bags, white trash bags", says Hill-Murray High School senior Ashley Xiong. "And then, these here", referring to the silver decorations, "are staples."
The dress is Ashley Xiong's entrant into the senior art show at Hill-Murray.
But, Ashley's ambitions run a little bit deeper.
"I hope to bring health and happiness and just the same thing that I feel inside myself to everyone else that I meet", says Ashley.
It's somewhat ironic that Ashley wants to bring health and happiness to others, when she's been through times when those two qualities were in seriously short supply.
"We've been through hard times and I can change that" says Ashley. "I just have to work on it."
Before we talk about Ashley's work ethic, you should know that her dad lost his job in 2006, and he left the family after suffering a breakdown.
After struggling for two years Ashley, her mom and siblings were finally reunited with him in New Mexico in 2008.
Says Ashley, "He showed us where he grew up and then we were driving to Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and that's when we were hit by the truck."
A double-semi, that crumpled the family's rental car, and took the life of Ashley's younger brother, Nicholas.
"I had to have brain surgery so they could relieve the pressure on my brain that was because of the blood" says Ashley. "And I had a fractured pelvis and some lacerations."
While Ashley's physical injuries would heal, the scars left behind by her brother's passing were causing her to struggle in her freshman year.
"He was with me through everything that we went through and he was a positive force so, I figured well, I can't let him down", says Ashley.
Ashley rebounded to forge a 3.7 GPA, scored a 32 on her ACT, and won 1st and 2nd place awards at the State Fair for her school work, all while completing 56 college credits at Century college and the U of M. Now, she's finishing high school by attending Hill-Murray full-time, even if it means 2-and-a-half hour bus rides to and from her home in Coon Rapids.
"I feel like it's me being an inspiration to other people and that's what I've always wanted to do", says Ashley. "I've always wanted to inspire others, so."
If you're wondering what Ashley does in her spare time, she volunteers at Unity hospital and is a 'Future Doctor's Scholar' through the University of Minnesota.
As for college, Ashley's already been accepted to Bethel and the U of M, but she's still waiting to hear back from a couple of schools on her wish list.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )