While most of his peers are taking five to six years, and the state of California wants them to finish in four, California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) student Kendrick Jones asked himself, “Why not finish college in just three years?” So he did.
Jones is studying social psychology at CSUDH and will receive his bachelor’s degree in Africana Studies May 19 during CSUDH’s 2017 Commencement ceremony. To earn the right to cross the commencement stage just three years since graduating from View Park Preparatory High School in 2014, Jones took at least 15 units each semester, the maximum of nine units in the summer, and two courses each winter without having to retake a class throughout his college career.
“When I was a sophomore it was obvious to me that I could handle the workload, so I set a goal for three year,” said Jones, a Los Angeles resident. “It has been a challenge, and I’ve worked during college, too, having two jobs on campus my freshman year. As a sophomore, I worked as a new student orientation leader, and now I am an academic mentor for the Male Success Alliance [MSA].”
The MSA is a student success initiative at CSUDH focused on improving the educational outcomes of men of color through mentoring, personal and professional development opportunities, and civic engagement.
Jones enjoys engaging youth as an MSA mentor and traveling to schools in the local communities that CSUDH serves to work with 12- to 16-year-olds, which adds to his busy weekday schedule that starts each morning on campus at 8 a.m., and ends when he arrives home after 11 p.m. But “it’s all worth it,” according to Jones.
“I get a lot of encouragement from the members of the Male Success Alliance, from such role models as Dr. William Franklin [vice president for Student Affairs], and Matthew Smith [MSA director of Educational Partnerships],” said Jones. “They are all very influential when it comes down to making sure that I had all the resources that are needed. When I asked for additional help or outside support they always had a connection in the community.”
As Jones works with youth from underserved communities—teaching them such important academic and life lessons as “manhood,” college readiness and social justice—he learns from them as well.
…rather than putting all of your energy into thinking about what might happen, put that energy toward what you’re doing right now and what your goals are for the future – Kendrick Jones.
“Those kids are going through much of the same things that I went through, but they’re great and stay positive for the most part,” he said. “They’re young, and not fully aware of their situations right now, so they usually walk around with smiles on their faces. I learn so much from them, so as a mentor I do my best to keep things in perspective and to always address the full scope of what they’re going through.”
Jones recounted a time last year when one of his student’s smile had left his face following the U.S. presidential election.
“When Donald Trump was announced as our new president one of my Latino students was very scared that his family would be deported. My father is Latin American, and my mother is African American, so I can’t really relate to the deportation aspect of it, but I was able to give him some encouragement by telling him not to worry about it,” said Jones. “Instead, I said rather than putting all of your energy into thinking about what might happen, put that energy toward what you’re doing right now and what your goals are for the future. I’m very happy to say that he finished with a much higher GPA than he had when we started working together. He came up and thanked me for that, which was incredible.”
Along with the Male Success Alliance, Jones is active in student government. He started his freshman year as a “student at large” with Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), and worked as a teacher assistant and the front desk before getting promoted to programmer of the organization’s events, and winning a seat on its board of directors as organizations commissioner. He plans to stay involved as a graduate student towards his Master of Arts in Education. In fall 2017, he will serve as executive vice president of ASI.
Jones has also worked as a California State University advocate in Sacramento, lobbying with senators and speaking with legislators in the California State Capitol; work that he believes has had the most lasting impact so far. He also takes pride in being one of three students to re-establish the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. at the university.
Jones has sights on earning his doctorate degree in educational leadership and higher education, and one day taking over the reins from CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan.
In the meantime, if one of his MSA students was to approach him for advice about graduating from college in only three years, he would “simply tell him to not give up.”
“There’s so much going on in the world. When you’re a minority student you really need to learn how to deal with circumstances and find the positives about them,” he said. “Wandering around life and trying to nitpick at all the negative things won’t work. Spending time doing that when you could be doing something impactful for yourself and your community, or focusing on your education, is just a waste of time. Always try to find a silver lining.”