Youth Impact Report 2012: Channeling Talent

High school kids often dream of getting out of class, but MTV star Ashley Rickards made it come true. The poised 20-year-old star of “Awkward” decided to graduate early — not to party or evade books, but because she has “a big problem with the education system — their standardization of one particular type of learning.”

So now Rickards creates her own curriculum: “I read for at least two hours a day. I never stop learning,” she says.

Rickards may not have had the typical high school experience, but that was no barrier to delivering a Critics’ Choice-nommed performance as a misfit teen.

“The beauty of Jenna is she goes through what everyone goes through,” Rickards says, adding, “You’re really never out of high school.”

That widespread appeal has propelled “Awkward” to a third, 20-episode season. It’s clear from almost instant renewals each year that MTV is fully behind the show. And its recent new series orders (the American remake of “The Inbetweeners,” the millenial comedy “Underemployed”) indicate the network could be using “Awkward” as a template for future scripted success.

Rickards appreciates the support. “What network would you invite over to Thanksgiving?” she says. “They really believe in the show, and what we’re trying to do with it. They let us have so much room to play around with the characters.”

Still, Rickards isn’t resting on her laurels. In addition to continuing her education, she’s constantly writing poetry and screenplays. “I try to keep myself a real person. I hang out with my friends. I don’t have an assistant. I do my own grocery shopping,” Rickards says. “I’m always being creative, whether it’s painting, or writing or acting, or watching a movie and being inspired by certain shots. It’s important to balance what you do with reality.”

Impact: Thesp headlines MTV’s acclaimed teen drama “Awkward,” and has also appeared in FX’s “American Horror Story.”
Next: A third, supersized season of ‘Awkward’ and a secret project Rickards couldn’t say much about.
Cause: Project Futures, which benefits the Somaly Mam Foundation.

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