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She's a member, too | ASHLEY RICKARDS

Each month, American Mensa’s membership magazine, the Mensa Bulletin, features interesting and intriguing Mensa members from around the world. Find out more about becoming a member today!

A Mensa member since 2011, Ashley Rickards is a budding actress and writer from Santa Monica, Calif. She’s appeared in various television shows, including the CW drama One Tree Hill, and most notably as Jenna Hamilton, the lead character in MTV’s Awkward. Ashley graduated high school at the age of 15 and expects her first book to be published in early 2015.

Get smart: I joined Mensa to be a part of a really stimulating community that challenges me to pursue some semblance of intellectual maturity. I love to learn, and I don’t think anyone ever stops learning. To me, Mensa is an aspect of continued education in areas I’m not necessarily familiar with or privy to in my own life.

Casting call: I went to a really small school. In order to pull together the school opera they wanted to do, they had to make it mandatory. I was not at all inclined to the arts at the time. However, I found myself falling completely in love with it, and I had one of those ah-ha moments.

Making a connection: I played the role of a severely autistic girl in “Fly Away,” and I got a lot of parents of autistic children reaching out to me saying they understand their kids more, or thanking me for something to relate to. That’s why I do what I do.

Fighting autism: Autism has always been something I’ve been familiar with. I grew up with horses, and one of the aspects of that was pet therapy. We would have kids with special needs, physically handicapped, the elderly, and others come out to our farm and just sort of be with the horses and our dogs and cats. There’s something magical about animals and people. I think there’s that lack of judgement. In that, I got pretty familiar with the autism community. I would love to be more involved with Autism Speaks. I’m doing what I can with them, and I would love to do more.

Book of love: I did a social experiment awhile ago where I went without TV. I mean, I still had Hulu and Netflix, but I went without TV for a long time, and I rediscovered my love for reading. And I just can’t do Kindles; I can’t do the iPad version of reading books; I can’t do any of that stuff. I like the feel of the books. I collect vintage books — I love the smell.

Write smart: Carl Sagan is actually one of my favorite writers because there seems to be nothing that he didn’t do. I love his writing in Contact. I love Cosmos. I like any sort of philosophy book written with some sort of scientific backing by a physicist or whatever. If you’re going to write a philosophy book or a book with a more out-there theory, it needs to have some sort of concrete evidence to sway me in favor of what you’re trying to pitch.

The need for speed: I love four-wheeling, dirt bikes, whatever. It would be awesome to head out to any desert within a 50-mile radius of Los Angeles — which, as it turns out, there are a few — and just go crazy and race with some friends. I love cars, racing, and speed, and I haven’t done anything like that, but I do get tickets in my Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Art house: I have eight bookshelves in a not-so-large apartment, and in between those bookshelves I have canvases and paint on the walls and carpet. It looks crazy, but it’s my sanctuary.