THE LIVES CHANGED
I wanted to go to Bowling Green State University because that was my mom’s dream school. I didn’t know much about college before attending. The Thompson scholarship has shaped my career.
I remember being in one of our monthly President's Leadership Academy meetings and guest speakers came in to talk about careers. I was lost and uninterested in my major at the time when one of the speakers asked what I wanted to do. I said “I really just want to bring leadership programs like the PLA to other college campuses… take kids from the hood of Detroit like me, to college and expose them to something new.” Afterwards the speaker actually connected me with other professionals on campus and I learned more about the profession.
From that point on, I prepared to work on college campuses. I went on to graduate from BGSU and then attended Western Michigan University where I earned my Master of Arts in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Higher Education and Student Affairs and I worked in Student Activities and Leadership Programs. I’ve been in higher education for 10 years now, at Trinity University, Texas A&M University and the University of Florida. I now own my own consulting company, I’m an author and I work for the City of Gainesville as an Inclusion Manager.
The main opportunity I had as a scholarship recipient was the mentorship that made navigating college less scary. The Thompson Scholars during my time, mostly Black and low income, came in rough around the edges and left poised and polished. I learned discipline, time management and accountability in the program. Under Andrew and Ana’s guidance, failing was not an option. I appreciate them never giving up on me. After my mom passed freshman year, they made sure I didn’t give up and quit. They set high expectations while challenging and supporting me every step of the way. I developed into a bold and authentic leader because of this program.
The Thompson Scholars during my time, mostly Black and low income, came in rough around the edges and left poised and polished.
Today, I pay it forward through volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, mentoring local high school students and through a college scholarship I created for young girls who have experienced maternal loss.
I truly thank you for investing in the lives of so many kids like myself. I love the PLA and I have also LOVED being a Thompson Scholar! We had to work a little bit harder, a few more meetings or tasks, but it was all worth it when we could sit around the table at homecoming and talk to you both. The work you’re still doing in the southeast Michigan community and in Bowling Green is remarkable. You’ve shown us first hand what it means to be a Servant Leader. The LOVE you’ve poured into this program is unmatched, that’s the true gift. The hugs, the listening and the confidence you all gave me has stayed with me all these years. I truly thank God for blessing me with you two and I pray I can continue your legacy of service and excellence.
Paunita “P.J.” Jones, 2005 Cohort
Updated: 04/26/2021 01:49PM