Tuesday, March 20, 2012

James Jones - My Life Through College

I originally decided not to go to college.  I figured since most of my older brothers did not go and my mom did not go, why would I?  Being raised mainly by my older brothers and my mother really made me think I should help out my family before thinking about myself and spending more time and money on college.  I didn't really think about college until my friends started to ask me about it.  They were all going to the same school and hang out together so why not my twin and I?  When I told my mom I was going to college she was happy and was willing to help me with everything she can.  Since my one of my older brothers went to college she knew about financial aid and FAFSA so money was rarely a problem for my twin or me but I always felt somewhere in the back of my mind I had to help out one way or another.
I gave little thought on what I wanted my major to be.  I figured since I was already working in the restaurant industry why not go for culinary arts.  The school I attended, Pennsylvania College of Technology had many course offerings so it was easy for my friends and I to find the major we wanted.  The first year was great; I had my friends and my brother with me the whole time so if I had any problems with classes I could talk to them about it.  I had no reason to look for others outside of my own group for community and it showed in the next year.
After the first year of fun times with my brother and friends I found it was difficult to stay connected to the school.  My friends that spent too much time partying and staying up late decided to either leave school or were removed due to grades.  This left my brother and I in a school we knew nothing about and since we were already there a year before, orientation were not something we could have done.  That next year was one of the most difficult times for me, I knew nothing about the help I could get from school and since I did not try to make friends the year before how was I suppose to make them this year.  School started to become harder and the harder it became the easier it seemed to leave.
During the end of my second year I started working in the resident life office as a summer conference assistant for money and a place to stay while working an internship at a local restaurant.  During my time in the Res Life office I learned a lot about what college really is; the problems students deal with, the problems staff have to deal with from parents and students, and over all how a college functions behind the scenes.  Towards the end of the summer I was offered a Resident Assistant position and gladly accepted it thinking what is better than free housing but learned there was much more to it than just free stuff.
As a RA I was given a fresh start from the person who did not belong in college, the position gave me the power to talk to those I never thought I could and I learned about departments in the college that I never knew existed.  There were departments that were willing to help me with problems and people that were generally interested in what I wanted to do in life.  It was not much longer after working as a RA that I knew I was going to stay in college and enjoy the rest of my time there.  As an RA I learned about conferences and groups dedicated to Student Affairs and graduate schools aimed towards creating Student Affairs Professionals.  The idea of more time in college was a plus for me, but more time out of school meant less time making a living for me and my family.  When I told my mom about my dilemma she told me, “I understand you want to help but I want you to get the most education you can before you start working.”  I felt if she had not told me that I would not be where I am today.  With out my mom and those helping I do not think I will be where I am today, so I feel to pay it forward I will help those that are in a similar position as I was.


  1. James,

    I think it's great that your mom was such an encouragement to you throughout the entire process, despite your being a 1st-gen student. You story echos the stories of the others who have posted below you--an entrance into residence life/student affairs as a student employee helped you see the great opportunities offered in the college/university setting. Although you didn't specifically mention mentors, it sounds like there were people in your life who led you towards Student Affairs--another common trend. I enjoyed hearing your story!


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