Most College of Charleston students stay busy. But Angela Jones’ on- and off-campus schedule could overwhelm even the most accomplished multi-taskers.
The senior rushes from class to class, drops in on club meetings and keeps up with people considering the Peace Corps as an ambassador for the international service program. Later, she’s got to head to an engagement with the College’s Bonner Leader Program, a service and leadership organization that requires as much as 300 hours of involvement a year.
On any given day, she also juggles shifts at a retail job, mentoring sessions in an after-school program and an internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. If she’s lucky, she’ll also be able to squeeze in a few step aerobics classes.
In fact, the public health major’s schedule is so jam-packed that the only time she can spare to chat about her day is while she’s quickly scarfing down a kale mango smoothie, honey wings, rice noodles and broccoli at a restaurant near campus.
“I go from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” she says. “I try to keep in mind, ‘this is preparing me for the next level.’ If I stay motivated it’s worth all the sacrifices.”
If you can catch her between her many obligations, Jones might also tell you something else that sets her apart from most other CofC students: she is a product of the state’s foster system.
“I spent nine years in care, aged out of the system and am the first person in my family to go to college,” she says.
Being a product of that system obviously presented challenges to Jones. She entered care at 9 and, like most children in the foster system, moved around a lot. But when it came time to apply for college, things got even more tricky.
For most students, choosing a college is an exciting time, complete with visits to campuses across the country. Many also have parents who pick up the tab for application and test fees.
Not so for Jones; she was dismissed from school early every day her senior year so she could head to work, and couldn’t travel to campuses throughout the region. Her foster parent at the time wasn’t too keen on helping, either, so Jones says she relied on herself.
“It hurt at times,” she says. “I was used to it at this point, others getting treated better than me. I used it as motivation: ‘I have to do this, I have to make it, I have to go to college.”
She had a little help along the way – a CofC admissions counselor brought her to a Multicultural Overnight Visit Experience and later, orientation – but Jones’ drive paid dividends. She decided to enroll at the College after being accepted into seven universities and received several grants and competitive scholarships, including one from the Horatio Alger Association, a nationwide organization that helps young people overcome adversity to attend college.
It also helped her save enough money to buy her own car, a 1999 Dodge Stratus, and is probably a big part of why she’s chosen to be so involved throughout her college career.
“I’m very passionate about two things,” she says. “One, everything I do has something to do with diversity, and two, I’m very passionate about mentoring youth. I don’t want anyone to be forgotten.”
Kenyatta Grimmage, assistant director of admissions at the College, says that Jones’ journey to and through CofC has been inspirational.
“During her duration here at CofC, Angela has had little support from home, yet she has been able to thrive here at CofC,” he says. “Last year, she even studied abroad in Ghana, which was an experience she says was life changing. The many things she has and will go on to accomplish after coming from such a difficult situation has been and will continue to be amazing to watch.”
In just a few weeks, she’ll push pause for a couple hours so she can make her walk across the Cistern at Spring Commencement. She says she’s grateful for her mentors, professors and peers who supported her “when the going got tough but also motivated me to keep going.”
Jones’ active approach won’t stop after she graduates, however. She plans to catch her breath with a gap year before heading to graduate school for a master’s degree in health administration or healthcare management, and she knows she wants to stay involved in her community for the foreseeable future.
“I always keep in mind that there’s worse situations, and I don’t like to waste my time,” she says. “You only have one life.”
Images by Reese Moore.