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Tametria “TJ” Jones, who earned her associate degree from Lone Star College-CyFair (LSC-CyFair) in Texas, has turned her life story of poverty, homelessness, war and blue-collar work into a story of academic, professional and personal success.
Growing up in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Jones said she remembers times of violence, exposure to drugs and even bouts of being homeless. After high school, she joined the U.S. Navy and served in Desert Storm before she got her first job with a coffee company.
Seventeen years later, Jones works at the same company, but she is now an operations supervisor. She is also pursuing her master’s in global management at University of Houston-Victoria and giving back to the community as a motivational speaker through the CyFair Education Center.
“I’m 39, but I’ve had a full life. I’ve experienced poverty, homelessness, a war and now personal success,” Jones said. “And the biggest motivator is my family.”
Overcoming the challenges
As a role model and guardian for her niece, Jones moved to the Cy-Fair area and began taking classes at LSC. She juggled raising a teenager, attending classes and working 8 to 12 hours a day on a rotating schedule.
Math professor Heather Gamber recalls that Jones struggled in her finite and business calculus class. But she would come to Gamber’s office almost daily and called her professor for help every day on her breaks at work at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
“I have never had a student as persistent as she was,” Gamber said.
Persistence paid off academically and professionally. Jones completed her associate degree with honors in December 2006, and went on to graduate with honors from the University of Houston-Downtown with a bachelor’s in management and minors in human resources and supply chain management. Now she plans to again graduate with honors with a master’s in global management in May 2012.
“As soon as I got my associate of arts, I was offered a management position,” Jones said. “That was the tipping point for the company, as they began to recognize that I added value. It helped me get into the management team. The bachelor’s degree enhanced that value to the organization. I’ve worked in facility operations, logistics and human resources and wear many hats to continue learning everything about the business.”
Her two years at LSC-CyFair taught Jones critical-thinking skills and she gained appreciation for subjects she never thought she would like, such as philosophy.
Continuing her education to earn a bachelor’s degree was significant to Jones for two reasons. First, she knows she’s setting a good example for nieces, nephews and even neighborhood youths. In fact, Jones said her niece, a future nurse, is following in her footsteps with her own success story. She was enrolled in dual-credit courses at her high school through LSC-CyFair, earning a 5.77 grade point average and receiving scholarships.
Secondly, Jones said the last person in her family to earn a college degree was her grandfather Isaac Jones. He graduated with a master’s from Texas Southern University in 1950 when it was Texas State Education College for Negroes. When Jones graduated in 2010, her cap read “60 Years The Drought Is Over.”
But Jones plans to continue her education. Her goal is to obtain a doctorate in the management industry and then to give back to her community as an educator. The University of Houston-Downtown has already offered her an adjunct position when she graduates.
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