Perseverance pays off

Henrico student, mom earns fellowship
Daphne Jones
A Henrico woman is one of 10 outstanding students recently selected by The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) as part of its second class of Valley Proteins Fellows.

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College student Daphne Jones was a perfect candidate for the program, which was created to celebrate and enhance leadership capacity of students who have demonstrated great potential in the community college system. Jones leads a busy life as a single mother of four who also has custody of her 17-year-old
special needs brother, who is the driving force behind her perseverance to become a nurse practitioner.

“I hit a point in my life where I made a decision to help understand my brother and educate people about taking care of others,” said Jones, who describes her life as layers upon layers of lessons.

“I can say to people, ‘I know the pain you’re going through,’ because I’ve been in their position. I know how it feels to wonder what the next step is, and I know how to help them through it; there’s a brighter side to everything.”

As a recipient of The Valley Proteins scholarship, Jones’ full tuition and fees will be covered at JSRCC. The Fellows also participate in a unique leadership curriculum through community service and receive individualized assistance in obtaining financial aid and transferring to four-year institutions. This added bonus will help Jones on her long path of continued education.

Valley Proteins is a 50-year old family-owned business based in Winchester that operates 12 plants in 7 states.

“I was nervous to go to school but I went in with the idea that once I start this, no matter how hard and frustrating it will be I’m going to do it,” Jones said. “I was scared but then excitement took over, then the excitement went away and I was filled with love. I’m in love with school and I’m learning to love what I’m doing; it gives me confidence.”

Jones is fully dedicated to her family despite her busy schedule, as she manages to communicate and get reports from her children’s teachers weekly to make sure they are on the right track. She hopes that her devotion to education will set an example for her children as she stresses that they should do what she’s doing but “100 times better,” while striving to go above and beyond normal expectations.

During her first year at JSRCC Jones did just that, as she earned a perfect 4.0 GPA.

JSRCC English professor Barbara Walsh remembered when she first met Jones on campus in the cafeteria and could sense that she was a hard-working student with a kind heart.

“She struck me as being a really good student, so I said, ‘Why don’t you sign up for my English class’ and she did,” Walsh recalled.

After a short time, Walsh became thoroughly impressed with Jones’ dedication and unusual habits. Jones would come into class a few minutes early with a vocabulary word of the day for the class and would teach the students around her, willing to share knowledge and help other students.

Walsh has been at JSRCC for six years and had never nominated a student for the Fellows program.

“When I got the email for nominating, I knew I should nominate her,” said Walsh. “I have never seen someone totally dedicated, and I have a lot of students that work hard but they don’t go above and beyond. I really have never met anyone like her before.”

Jones manages to balance her school and home life, involving her children in the studying process as she studies on average six to eight hours a day.

“My kids tell me I’m going to get a brain cramp,” said Jones with a chuckle. “If I’m studying science I’ll bring in Jayson, my 10-year-old, and I’ll go on Google and watch videos, make flashcards and a Powerpoint, and then I’ll have him test me on everything we just went through.

“Not only does he know about it and we both learn, but it is a bonding experience, it’s how I keep them involved, and I don’t have to leave the house for hours to study.”

Jones will begin her second year at JSRCC this fall with the goal of earning an associate degree in nursing. She hopes to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing degree and a minor in education.

She also wants to earn a master’s in nursing and then become a nurse practitioner. The schooling will be costly and timely, but Jones is dedicated and knows what she wants and intends to get it.

“I need to work even harder because so many people believe in me and think extremely highly of me,” said Jones. “Eventually one day I know I’ll be finished with this. Until then, I won’t stop.”
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