For Tametria “TJ” Jones, an associate of arts degree at Lone Star College-CyFair has turned a life story of poverty, homelessness, war and blue collar work into a story of academic, career and personal success she wants to share with everyone.
Growing up in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Jones said she remembers times of violence, exposure to drugs and even bouts of being homeless. Jones said she took her problems to the basketball goal until she graduated high school. Then she joined the U.S. Navy and served in Desert Storm before she got her first job with the Maximus Coffee Group (formerly Kraft Maxwell House Coffee).
Fast forward 17 years later and Jones is still at the same company but now holds an operations supervisor position with the Maximus Coffee Group and is pursuing her master’s in global management at University of Houston-Victoria. She gives back to the community as a motivational speaker with CyFair Education Center.
“I’m 39, but I’ve had a full life. I’ve experienced poverty, homelessness, a war and now personal success,” said Jones. “And the biggest motivator is my family.”
As a role model and guardian for her niece, Jones moved to the Cy-Fair area and began taking classes at LSC-Fairbanks Center and later the Barker Cypress campus. Jones juggled raising a teen-ager, attending classes and working 8 to12 hours a day on a rotating schedule.
“TJ was in my Finite and Business Calculus classes and she really struggled with the material. But she would come by my office almost daily and she called me for help every day on her breaks at work at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.,” said Professor Heather Gamber, who Jones considers as her favorite instructor. “I have never had a student as persistent as she was.”
Persistence paid off academically and professionally. Jones admits even though the only “c” on her transcript is Gamber’s Business Calculus class, she was determined enough to not only complete the associate degree with honors in December 2006, but 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.
“The more adversity I faced at work the more driven I was at school. The more I enjoyed the liberal arts education, the more I was hungry for still more,” said Jones. “As soon as I got my associate of arts, I was offered a management position. 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 to gain appreciation for things she never thought she’d like, such as philosophy.
“I have a tremendous passion for Socrates,” she said. “I enjoy thinking out of the box. I’m also more open and more tolerant about things around me.”
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 youth. In fact, Jones said her niece, a future nurse, is following in her footsteps with her own success story. She attends Cy-Creek High School as well as Dual Credit courses through LSC-CyFair. She is earning a 5.77 out of a 6.0 GPA and is already receiving scholarship offers to universities.
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 the thirst for education is not over for Jones. Her goal is to obtain a PH.D in the management industry and then to give back to her community as an educator. She said the University of Houston-Downtown has already offered her an adjunct position when she graduates. In the meantime, she’s following another passion – motivational speaking to area youth – with her business partner Karen B. Cotton.
“I want my motivational speaking to reach every corner of not just the city, but the nation. I want to reach as many youth as possible,” said Jones. “It’s easier to relate to someone when you’ve had a shared experience. By sharing my past, I can give them a vision for their future.”
Jones said there were educators and mentors who helped her as a child and an adult, so it’s her turn to give back. Among those important people are her college math instructors Gamber and Iris Ball as well as her Great Aunt Hazel Jones, a former educator. Jones also mentions a former middle school assistant principal who later became her high school dean, Jane V. Walker, and educator Otho Raye White, both of whom are now her dear friends.
As Jones continues to add new chapters of success to her story, one thing is for sure, she said, “I will always attend school, whether it is for advanced degrees or simply to acquire knowledge to satisfy my curiosity.”
For information on academic programs at LSC-CyFair, go to LoneStar.edu.