Hard-working. Confident. Inspirational. Paralegal, community activist and mother of two, Ashley Royal Stone radiates those qualities as she serves her clients, dance students and her family each day. A relative newcomer to town, she quickly put down roots in Waco through her professional, volunteer and spiritual life and cares most about supporting people through difficult times and helping them become the best versions of themselves.
WACOAN: How long have you lived in Waco and how did you get here?
Stone: Six years. I moved here from Lubbock, Texas, to take care of my grandmother with Alzheimer’s [disease].
WACOAN: That’s a big job. Are you a natural caregiver?
Stone: When my grandfather called me and said my grandmother was sick, I knew he needed me. I told him to give me two weeks. I found a job. I packed up the car and my kids, and I came to Waco.
WACOAN: You didn’t hesitate. What was the most difficult or painful part about that? And what was beautiful about it?
Stone: The hardest part is just watching someone you love go downhill like that. They were both very active in the community and church. They were hard workers, so to see them not be able to do the things I knew they could once do was heartbreaking for me. That’s why I felt that I needed to come and be that person for them because they took care of all of us — the kids, grandkids.
My grandmother passed away, and then my grandfather died after her. They were so good to all of us. So, being able to allow them to pass away at home, and not have to go into a nursing home, was the best part of that because I kept my word. My grandmother told us when we were young, ‘Y’all better not put us in a nursing home.’ And they were able to go at home and that was the most beautiful part for me.
WACOAN: Tell a little about your career. Where do you work and how did you decide to become a paralegal?
Stone: I work as a full-time personal injury litigation paralegal at the Daniel Stark law firm. I made the decision early on in high school to become a paralegal. I fell in love with personal injury law in 2012 after being hired as a receptionist at Davis W. Smith P.C. in Lubbock. I enjoy helping and taking care of others. Personal injury just aligned with my calling. I’m actually preparing for my first trial right now.
WACOAN: That’s an important and exciting career milestone, I bet. What all has led you to this first trial?
Stone: My first time going to trial is exciting, and it’s a lot of work. I’ve been in the legal field for nine years. I worked in pre-litigation until this January, when I was moved to the litigation department. So, I was able to get into the courtroom pretty quickly. Some courts are rescheduling or moving to Zoom, so I’m hoping this trial happens.
WACOAN: What does it mean to you to finally get this opportunity?
Stone: I’ve waited forever for this. I’m ready to get a glimpse of the jury in relation to personal injury matters and watch my attorney at work and just see the many aspects of the trial.
WACOAN: What is your role as a paralegal during a trial?
Stone: We are there to assist the attorney, but we are also there physically, mentally and emotionally for the client. We want to make sure their needs are met and that everyone is holding it together while the attorney is doing her thing.
WACOAN: How did your job change during the pandemic?
Stone: About 85-90% of our office went to working from home. I was the only employee working in the Waco office for a long time because people were not comfortable going into work. I don’t like working from home, so I stayed in the office. There was very minimal contact with clients, but business never really stopped. Trials got postponed or delayed, but our work never stopped. I never slowed down.
WACOAN: People continue to need legal assistance, no matter what else is going on.
Stone: Yes, and we stayed very busy. Busier than before the pandemic. It amazed me, but we were actually hiring during the pandemic. That was just mind blowing.
WACOAN: What’s the most interesting or fun part of your job? What’s the most fulfilling part?
Stone: The most interesting thing is the alarming number of individuals driving who do not carry insurance. The most fulfilling part is making a difference in the lives of others by just being there and helping them through a difficult time. And the most fun is probably the community involvement, such as our food truck events and our company trips.
WACOAN: What’s a typical day like for you?
Stone: A typical day for me starts at 6 a.m. I pray before waking my babies up to get them ready for school. We are out of the door by 7 a.m. After dropping my children off, I get back home and have a cup of coffee and listen to my daily devotional before attending my morning huddle for work.
WACOAN: Talk a bit about your family. Who are your kids and what are they like?
Stone: My daughter, Rhiley, is very intelligent and funny. She will be a sixth grader at Tennyson [Middle School] this upcoming school year. She has danced since was 3 years old, and she is now a dedicated softball player and cheerleader.
My son, Lathan, is charming and funny. He attends J.H. Hines Elementary and loves to dance. He’s got some pretty sweet moves too! He’s a football player, soccer player and baseball player. They like to TikTok and play around on camera. They are so funny. We are starting a YouTube page this summer, so they are both looking forward to that.
WACOAN: And your husband — what does he do and how does he support you at home, in your demanding career and your community involvement?
Stone: Michael is a personal trainer, and he works in the suite right across from my dance studio, so we are in the same building. He’s also mobile and is available at local gyms. He’s been doing that for close to 10 years. He has a software engineering degree, and his full-time job is as a fleet manager for a transportation company. That’s another industry that never stopped during COVID.
We have so much in common. It’s nice to have someone who is as much a go-getter as I am. So, instead of saying, ‘You’re doing too much,’ he’s always encouraging me and trying to streamline things to make things easier for me. He’s been such a great support system. That’s just made things a lot easier when things do get tough. We help each other, and we lean on each other.
He’s an active dad. He loves to hang out and play basketball with the kids, and he loves to fish with the family.
WACOAN: Describe some of the things your family enjoys doing together.
Stone: We like to travel and spend time with our family in Houston. We enjoy playing at the park, walking by the lake and fishing when we can. We especially like the sculpture trail in Cameron Park. We love grabbing ice cream and going down there. We like to fish in Airport Park.
WACOAN: What are some of the most important things you try to teach your kids?
Stone: The most important thing I can teach my children is to love God, know God, love yourself and know yourself. Work hard, be honest and never be afraid to say no. Ask for help when you need it, and help others when you can. Your appearance and attitude matter, so always be your very best.
WACOAN: As a mother, what scares you most for your kids? What gives you the most hope?
Stone: I pray over my children daily, no matter how big or small. So the fears I once had, I don’t have them anymore. I just try my very best to raise them, love them and teach them how to be amazing people.
WACOAN: You’re teaching some other young people in your life how to be amazing people as well. Tell about FootPrintz Dance Company. When did you start it? What inspired you?
Stone: FootPrintz is my baby. We provide an atmosphere where young people can feel safe, learn, have fun, strengthen themselves mentally, physically and spiritually through the art of dance, exercising, technique and community service.
I’ve been in dance since middle school, and I’ve always loved dance and aspired to have my own studio someday. I love teaching little girls about the arts, self-worth and instilling confidence and self-esteem in them.
I started FootPrintz in 2009 in Lubbock at the elementary school as a part of the after-school program. In Waco, I started teaching in 2016 at Bledsoe Miller [Community Center]. FootPrintz was then housed at The Rock at Mission Waco until the summer of 2020 when we moved into The Shop [on Franklin], located at 2001 Franklin [Avenue].
We meet once a week and dance in community events such as the [Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo], Deck the Halls and Winter Wonderland. At the end of each semester we hold a showcase for family and friends.
WACOAN: You’re definitely a woman with a mission.
Stone: I want to set an example for young people in the community by promoting health and high self-esteem. FootPrintz Dance Company serves children from ages 4 and up by providing dance classes and community service opportunities. Additionally, FootPrintz Dance also created and coordinated the Mr. & Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant, which provides McLennan County high school students with post-graduation readiness classes. Scholarships are paid to the top three contestants.
WACOAN: How have you seen FootPrintz make a difference?
Stone: I mostly help girls overcome self-esteem issues. After one semester with me, we tend to see a rise in confidence, self-esteem and a little more ‘diva’ in each girl. I am teaching the girls fundamentals of dance and preparing them to be able to try out for cheerleading, drill team or a dance team when they enter middle school or high school and even college.
We also adopted a highway on Waco Drive, so quarterly FPDC gets to go out and serve the community through trash cleanup. We also participate in various community events throughout Waco.
WACOAN: How is FootPrintz funded?
Stone: Our outreach program, Anchors Aweigh, and the Mr. & Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant are funded through grants and sponsorships. Dancers pay a $30 monthly tuition or receive a scholarship through Footprintz.
WACOAN: What is your dance background?
Stone: I was a part of my middle school and high school dance troupe and a varsity cheerleader for Lubbock Christian University.
WACOAN: In what ways do you believe the art of dance can change a young woman’s life?
Stone: The art of dance is an outlet for so many. Dance is an expression using one’s body, and sometimes all any of us needs is a safe and honorable way to express ourselves. You can learn so much through movement and music, and I want to provide the space where the youth can come and do just that.
I have had several moms and family members tell me how much more confident their girls are since joining the team. But the moment that changed my life was when a dancer wanted to learn more about Jesus and prayer. We do mini-devotionals at times, and we pray after every class and before every performance.
WACOAN: Is there someone in your life who inspired you or served as a mentor — either professionally or personally?
Stone: Yes. Rachel Pate with the Cen-Texas African American Chamber of Commerce. She is one of the first people I met when opening FootPrintz in Waco. She has always inspired me through her work in the community and her desire to see black businesses thrive in Waco. Rachel has always been a resource for me and has uplifted and kept me going over the years.
WACOAN: How do you hope your dancers see you — as a woman, a professional and someone involved in her community?
Stone: I hope girls see that with love, compassion and hard work you can accomplish anything. I hope they all grow to have a servant’s heart and that they all know that I am always here for them.
WACOAN: With so many things going, how do you prioritize what’s important and still do it all?
Stone: I pray and fast a lot. I do a lot of work late at night when everyone is sleeping. I keep a calendar and a to-do list to hold myself accountable and make sure all of my tasks are complete.
WACOAN: Tell me about fasting and how that works for you.
Stone: I typically fast prior to a big event or when I feel things are getting real tough and I need some extra guidance. I often give up something I feel like I can’t do without. And this go-round, that’s been Dr Pepper. I’m very addicted to Dr Pepper.
I skip breakfast every day, and I don’t eat after 7 p.m. With my fast, I write down the reason I’m fasting and what I need to come of it. I fold it up, put it away and pray on that every day. I’ve never not gotten my answer from God. Fasting brings me clarity and focus.
WACOAN: What does prayer do for you?
Stone: If we take more time out to pray, rather than complain, things just work out better. When I’m getting ready to complain or do or say something that is not going to be productive, I make it a point to pray. I don’t care how small it is, I try to pray.
I work to increase my prayer life every day. If someone cuts me off, I pray that wherever they are going so fast, they get there safely. You never know what somebody else is going through, so I’d rather pray about things.
If I can’t fix something, I pray about it. I have a problem where I want to fix everything — all the things. I tend to do crazy things when I want to fix everything. I try to stay more grounded, more anchored and more focused through prayer.
WACOAN: You mentioned that you start your day with a devotional. Do you have a book or app that you love and could share?
Stone: I use the YouVersion Bible app. I’m currently doing a program where you can read the Bible in one year. That’s what I’ve been doing in 2021; I started January 1. But they also have a devotional that kind of breaks down what you’ll be reading in Scripture that day. Those have been really life-changing and have really helped me think about some of the things I do and say.
WACOAN: Your spiritual life seems really important to you. Where do you attend church?
Stone: We are members of Mosaic Waco. It’s been wonderful for me and my family. I’m on the greeter team, and I recently taught the youth a praise dance for Easter.
WACOAN: Why is having a church home important to you?
Stone: It’s important to be surrounded by a body of people who share the same beliefs, especially with all that is going on today with race and America in general. Our church is all colors and all people, and our pastors talk about these things. They don’t sugarcoat it. That’s been a beautiful thing to me.
WACOAN: How important are open conversations — even uncomfortable ones — about race right now?
Stone: It’s very important. There really is no other way for us to know how others are feeling unless we talk about it. I think we should be able to ask each other questions about race. That may sound weird, but I don’t want anyone to assume anything. We are seeing a lot of things on TV, but if you are not living it, it’s better to talk with someone about it to really know. We’re not going to heal and get better until we have some kind of understanding about what others go through.
WACOAN: Have you had negative experiences related to race? Has that been a factor for you?
Stone: I’ve had some interactions as a younger adult, being called the N-word. My boss immediately [kicked] the guy out the door. He told me, ‘Nobody gets to talk to you like that, and don’t you ever let them.’ I always held onto that. I ignore a lot of people, and I have taught my kids to ignore negative people.
My kids have seen some of it, even here in Waco. So I have to talk about it now. They don’t understand why someone would say something like that. I don’t always have the answers, which is really hard. So, I teach that we ignore stuff like that and move forward. Get yourself somewhere safe — and don’t ever act like that or treat people like that. We love all people. We don’t care what your color is.
Racism is a learned behavior. If you want to change it, you can. You just have to apply yourself. I just want to make sure my kids are not like that. I know who I am and what God has called me to do. Words hurt, but I don’t allow them to overcome me.
WACOAN: What can businesses, schools, police do to support racial equality?
Stone: I’m actually working with Waco [Police Department] right now to host a community softball game through Eastern Little League. I’m on the board there.
I told the representative from Waco PD that I think it’s so important that our kids get to interact with you in a different light. They need to know that you all are people too. Our boys, especially, need to know that not all police are bad. There’s a certain light on officers right now, and I want our kids to see them differently.
There are a lot of businesses and organizations in Waco doing the best they can, and there are a lot of us teaming up. But at the end of the day, everyone just has to love one another and treat each other with some respect and dignity. I don’t know what happened to those things. I don’t want to blame it all on COVID, but it seems to have been exposed during COVID. We’ve got to come out of that right now. We have to treat each other a little better for that to go away. People have to do the right thing.
WACOAN: As a successful black woman, how do you seek to empower younger women?
Stone: I want them to be able to effectively communicate. I want them to take care of their bodies, and I want them to take care of their mental health. If they don’t get anything else from me, I want them to get those three things. These things are important.
Your skin color, your hair, the spelling of your name — none of that matters. You can be successful with any of that. But take care of your body, your mental health and learn how to be an effective communicator.
Ashley’s 5 Must-Have Items
1. Coffee. I like the caramel latte at Dichotomy.
2. I’m very addicted to Dr Pepper.
3. Lip gloss. My favorite is Fu$$y Gloss Bomb by Fenty.
4. My iPhone.
5. Black low top Chuck’s. You can wear low top Chuck’s with anything. They are so versatile.