Monday, September 17, 2012
Fishin’ Outta Ditches- Chase Jones
My birth name is Charles Christopher Jones Jr., but my friends and family call me Chase. Raised in the sticks of Arkansas, I knew from the beginning I was going to make it out of there, I just didn’t know how. Before I go any further I want to toss in warning or two. My story is not for the faint of heart nor is it shared for sympathy. I want to be honest in what I reveal so that those who read this may be inspired and know that there are others who have faced life’s obstacles and overcame.
I did not do it alone. That is an important piece of the puzzle, I was lifted up on the words, praises, challenges, little pushes, and prayers of a community of people who saw in me the potential to make a difference. I lived with my grandparents most of my life. Other members of the family would float in and out but considering a majority of them had detrimental behavioral or substance addictions, it was hard to know who would be around the next week. Now don’t get me wrong, my family was comprised of great souls that had befallen to the spirals of worldly recreation that often lead to the diminishment of potential and the loss of ability and access to institutions outside of their rural experiences. Over the years I saw many of them pass, from one ailment or another, drug overdoses, and even murder. In each of these instances I had two things, a choice and others standing behind me. The choice was simple, either be a victim of my circumstances or use it as motivation…and the obvious choice was motivation. To succumb to the perils of self-proclaimed victimization is to give up hope, lose faith in self, and fold a hand you’ve yet to see all the cards for.
Those who stood behind me pointed at the cards life had dealt me and said, metaphorically speaking and literally in some cases; “Play this one here.” or “Discard these, they can’t help you.” Each statement made more powerful by the previous. I knew I would indeed make it.
Confidence in your own abilities is key as a first generation college student. Not many can tell you what will and will not work; you just have to believe you have what it takes and try your darndest to manifest that desire. The desire to be successful, to be an achiever, and to move beyond the accomplishments of your family and set a new standard for the next generation of (inserts your family name here).
When I lost my grandfather in 2003, I saw the first examples of love from abroad. My closest friends in the area stepped up to let me know I had family in them. When my grandmother passed in 2005, I found myself facing the possibility of being homeless, without money, and would likely have to drop out of high school (this was my senior year). Instead, members of my community stepped up and gave me a home, food, jobs, and everything else I needed to graduate in the top 10% of my class, to be an honors graduate, and to receive a full ride scholarship to the University of Arkansas.
As I navigated my college years I immersed myself in social student affairs programing. I was a campus ambassador, a first year experience mentor, and orientation leader, and so much more. I thrived off the energy of others and to give back in some way was what I knew I was destined to do, for it had been modeled by others in my life for years. This is when I decided to become a student affairs professional.
So why am I professional, plain and simple, is to give back. To do for others what was done for me. I may not always work in student affairs, but I’ll always work with student affairs to illuminate new avenues for student success, the development of self, and to advocate for those whose voices are quaint amongst the crowd. As a professional, being first generation has been motivational, one of the many moving parts of my past that drive me to be so much more than anyone ever imagined. For those of you reading this as first generation students concerned with your ability to reach the summit of your circumstances know this; Life is a gift to each of us whose wrapping paper and bows are never the same, for the gift is inside. Peace and Smiles my friends, Peace and Smiles.