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Alum Rashaun Jones' Own Story Enhances His Role as Counselor for Youth College

6/12/13


West Windsor, N.J.:  For alum Rashaun Jones ’09 (A.A., Liberal Arts), enrolling at Mercer County Community College was the key to discovering the importance of higher education.  Now an academic counselor for MCCC’s Youth College program at the Trenton campus, Jones is using his own experiences to mentor high school students.

MCCC’s Youth College offers five enrichment programs, counseling middle school students, as well as teens, on academic and personal success.

Born and raised in Trenton, Jones decided to enroll at Mercer because his high school friends were going to college. “I wanted to prove to them and to myself that I was smart enough to go too,” said Jones, adding that he later discovered he was the only one of his friends to follow through and graduate.

When he first came to Mercer, Jones was unconvinced about the value of a college degree.  “My biggest struggle as a student was myself,” said Jones.  “There was a long period of time when I was unfocused and in search of motivation.”

It was his mentors at the college, those he calls his “four pillars,” who helped him see the value of an education.  They included Rakima Stokes-Little, assistant director of S.M.I.L.E./GEAR UP (Youth College program), Bilquis Zaka, associate director of Financial Aid, Al-Lateef Farmer, student development specialist for PASS (Programs for Academic Services and Success), and Charles Weatherspoon, PASS program coordinator.

Alum Rashaun Jones '09

“Without these people in my life, I never would have understood how college was important to my situation.  They helped me remain focused on my studies and steadfast when it came to achieving my goals,” he said.

Soon Jones was finding more ways to get involved at the college.  He became an active member of the Student Activities Board, and traveled with the group to Canada.  “Education went from being something I was interested in, to something I loved,” he said.

Jones also became a mentor for S.M.I.L.E./GEAR UP, a Youth College program he had participated in as a high school student.  “I wanted to give back to the program that had done so much for me during my own youth,” he said.

Jones recently spoke at the Men’s Alumni Forum at the Trenton campus. Pictured from left: panel discussion moderator Terrence Carter, panelists Jared Coleman and Nathan Mayfield, Trenton campus Assistant Dean Barbara Jefferson, panelists Rashaun Jones and Stuart Grey, and moderator Ariel Matos.

After earning a Liberal Arts degree from Mercer, Jones continued his education at New Jersey City University, while continuing to serve as a Youth College mentor.  Soon after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in History last May, he received a call from S.M.I.L.E./GEAR UP Director Wayne Murray, who offered him the position of academic counselor.

“Youth College is a huge part of who I am today,” said Jones.  “I love having the ability to help motivate students to better themselves the same way mentors did for me when I was their age. No one is perfect: we all fall short sometimes.”
Jones recently spoke at the Men’s Alumni Forum at the Trenton campus to encourage students to take advantage of what the college has to offer.  He listed Mercer’s convenient location, down-to-earth faculty and staff, and academic challenges as some of the key benefits.

“Attending MCCC was one of the best decisions I’ve made as an adult,” he said.  “The faculty and staff encouraged me to be better, the students I met helped me to grow, and the opportunities offered to me opened doors that I wouldn’t have been able to unlock on my own.”

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