By Karizma Greene, Golden LEAF External Affairs Intern
Zach Jones, a Golden LEAF Scholarship alumnus, finds home in rural Robeson County, North Carolina.
Jones attended Robeson Community College (RCC) for two years then transferred to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) in 2008, where he studied education. UNCP’s motto, “Education changes lives,” resonated heavily with Jones as he reflected on his past and his future.
“Rural and poverty can sometimes be synonymous,” Jones explained, “and I know from my upbringing that education changes lives and provides a way out of poverty.”
Jones began his educational career in Robeson County as an elementary school teacher. Because of a decline in literary success, Jones took on reading skills as his main focus. He taught a second-third grade combination class that included students at various reading levels. This required learning four different educational standards and methods of teaching, said Jones. In order to enable his students to thrive, he had to create and build relationships with them, which he describes as “the art of teaching.”
There was a dire need for K-2 support across all subjects, said Jones. Upon recognizing the urgency and consistent dedication the youth of his hometown needed, Jones accepted the position as the Curriculum Supervisor for K-2.
“I’ve lived the life many of my students live,” said Jones. “That’s where the understanding is and why the relationships you build matter.”
This same appreciation for interpersonal relationships was how Jones connected to a college recruiter at RCC who helped him discover the Golden LEAF Scholarship. At the time, Jones was considered an independent student, which meant he did not have any financial support from parents or guardians.
“It meant a lot because I was an independent student,” said Jones. “Because of Golden LEAF, my bachelors degree was free and I graduated without college loan debt.”
Scholars such as Jones continue to exude the mission of Golden LEAF Foundation by pushing others to succeed in rural communities.
“We are shifting the narrative and it wouldn’t be possible without people digging in,” said Jones.
To learn more about the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program, click here.