I have always been interested in education and helping youth, but I didn’t realize it was my passion until I worked for a summer as a camp counselor at Camp McDowell. I didn’t realize the importance of the work that I did that summer until 6 months later when a high school camper from my cabin told me how much he looked up to me as a role model and thanked me for the positive influence I had been for him. His words blew me away because I felt I didn’t deserve this.
As I look back on that summer, I realize that I had been aware that I was responsible for the well-being of each of my campers that summer, but I had overlooked at that time that I had a more important role: positively influencing the lives of young people at an important time for growth. I realized the positive impact I could have on the lives of others, particularly young people, and the joy that it brought me. As a result of this experience, my interest in working with and serving others became a passion that I have followed ever since.
While in college at Tulane, I worked in a nearby failing charter school to help high school seniors stay on track to graduate and prepare for college. I also tutored elementary students once a week. At school, my focus changed, and I took classes studying education from the sociological, economic, political science, and policy perspectives. After I graduated from Tulane, I took a year to teach English courses to middle school students in Korea. During my time in Korea, I began exploring ideas about how I might be able to help students as they transition from high school to college.
Division 1 Academics
The idea for A+ Outcomes actually began with discussions that I had with my dad, Barry Jones. My cousin, Anders Carlson, was being recruited by several NCAA Division 1 college football programs, and Barry accompanied him on a visit to Vanderbilt. Barry was impressed by the fact that Vanderbilt, like most major athletic programs, stressed the support network that it had in place to ensure the academic success of its student athletes. Further, this support network was designed to help athletes in all areas of their life, not just in academics. In conversations that followed, Dad and I discussed how this type of structure and support would be very helpful not only to Division I athletes, but also to students who were not athletes.
Given my history and passion for education and youth development, I immediately loved this idea, and we began to discuss what a program for a typical student would look like. We decided to start this effort close to home at Dad’s alma mater, the University of Alabama. Alabama’s incredible growth in recent years points to the outstanding academic environment it provides, but that growth also results in a greater difficulty for some students to be able to adjust to college life and college academics. We felt like the support and structure that A+ Outcomes could provide would be extremely helpful to students in this environment.
How I Arrived at A+ Outcomes
During my academic career at Tulane, I lived a very hectic life with many competing demands. I studied Philosophy and Economics, with a minor in Sociology and took many elective courses to expand my knowledge of Political Science, Visual Arts, and Education. I had a very active social life, was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, and dove into the unique food, music, and culture of New Orleans. I was involved in several branches of Tulane University campus programming, and I volunteered on and off campus. All the while I worked around 15 hours a week at a local restaurant.
I was diagnosed with ADHD in the 2nd grade, and I was easily distracted and fidgeted constantly. At times, I struggled to stay motivated, and, looking back, I realize that I did not always surround myself with the best influences. I was able to succeed in spite of all these things because I employed many of the strategies and practices that A+ Outcomes encourages. By setting both short and long term goals, I had better focus and remained motivated. I found friends and mentors who pushed me to become the man I am. I was able to incorporate more structure in my life. In the end, I was able to graduate with good grades from a challenging academic college, while also making great friends, fully enjoying New Orleans, and maturing and getting to know myself.
I hope to pass along my experience to students who face the same struggles and challenges I did and allow them to realize their potential to be the people they can be.