Tracy Jones

jones-t1There is “coming a long way” and “going the distance” and Preston Heights native Tracy Jones has them both covered.

Despite giving birth to her first child at 16, and generally being a poor student with low self-esteem, she has lifted herself up to where and what she is today — a candidate for the highest degree possible in academia.

Having earned her bachelor’s degree in 2005 and her master’s in 2008, both from the University of St. Francis, Jones is currently pursuing a doctorate in education (anticipated completion in 2017) with a concentration in USF’s new Stewardship, Leadership and Learning program.

In her current role as an aca¬demic advisor at USF, Jones helps young people reach their highest potential, using her own story as an example of how far one person can go. She plans to expand on this mission once she earns her doctor¬ate and transitions into an advanced leadership role.

It has been a long road. Already a teenage mother, Jones gave birth to her second child at age 19. She worked two and three jobs at a time. Despite Tracy moving her family to the best neighborhoods she could afford, her daughter was severely beaten one Labor Day by a group of girls who left her for dead on the street.

Experiences like those would cause most people to just give up, but Jones has stood up to her challenges and used them to propel herself forward. She credits her parents, who did the best they could to raise her, and her own personal motivation to succeed.

Today she is a homeowner, and her oldest child is about to turn 21. Like most successful people, Jones knows that the kindness and advocacy of others have been key to her achievement. She credits people such as Dr. Jean Norris, Annette Jelinek and the late Sheryl Paul, who in 2002 gave Jones the opportunity to work as a gradu¬ate admissions counselor with no prior credentials in that area, and attend undergraduate classes at the same time.

Later in her career as both a student and employee of USF, Jones was encouraged by Dr. Steve Midlock to enroll in his new doctoral program.

“You just have to keep going,” she says. “You have these ‘why me?’ moments, but I have been so for¬tunate to meet the most wonderful people who have seen in me what I see in myself. I have had a lot of people here who have helped me along the way. I’ve had a lot of good people step in at the right time. And I’m forever indebted. Forever. I never lose sight of that.” Jones loves the intimacy and the openness of the Stewardship, Leadership and Learning program, which includes two students from outside of academia now looking to re-career.

“It’s a cohort-type setting,” Jones says. “There are seven or eight of us, and we’re all extremely collaborative and vested in what we are doing. We will be the program’s first graduating class.”

The doctoral program is a perfect fit for Jones, who has spent all of her adult life in service to others, even back when she was helping young people put together resumes so they could go out and find decent work. The tenets of Dr. Midlock’s program are everything that Jones was looking for in her schooling and her career.

“It’s for people who practice what they preach,” she says. “It’s geared toward working profession¬als who want to lead, and it arms them with all of the tools they need to lead in an ethical way.”

That would be Tracy Jones. She has worked through challenge after challenge and has come out on the other side as a person who is stronger, wiser and more confident than she ever could have imagined.

“The survival mode for me involved getting out of an oppressed situation and transcending my social class and never saying ‘no,’” she says. “Graduating high school I definitely did not imagine this Tracy today.”