Editor’s Note: This story was submitted by Mia Ramos, Phi Theta Kappa’s Director of Alumni Engagement.
In 1999, Sam Jones was 18 years old when he dropped out of college in South Africa after attending for only a month. He entered the job market, but in his heart, it was always his biggest dream to go back to school and get a college degree.
As time passed, he started to think he was too old and that he couldn’t afford college, so, for years, he kept putting it off. Then, in 2011, after struggling to earn a living in London, he decided to take a risk and move to the United States to pursue an education.
Sam settled in Washington, D.C. and began studying graphic design at the University of the District of Columbia Community College.
“I put everything into my school work and made sure to get involved in as many college activities as possible,” he said.
Sam was one of four students nationwide named a “DREAMbassador” for Achieving the Dream, a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping community college students — particularly low-income students and students of color — stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.
Through a friend, Sam heard about Phi Theta Kappa and discovered that his college was putting together the first chapter in Washington, D.C. Not long after the Beta Sigma Upsilon Chapter was chartered, he was elected president, and he made it his goal to properly establish Phi Theta Kappa at his college for future students.
As graduation approached, he learned about the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. He decided to apply even though he didn’t believe he had any chance in getting it — he thought going through the application process might help him with undergraduate college applications.
“It was probably the biggest shock in my life when the deputy president of my college announced that I was one of the 60 students in America to be selected,” Sam said.
The JKCF’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship program is the largest private scholarship in the country for students seeking associate degrees. It provides up to $40,000 per year to each of the deserving students selected annually. The application period is open now through noon October 24. Apply today.
In 2016, at the age of 35, Sam finally received his four-year college degree, graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Motion Design.
After not seeing his parents for five and a half years, Sam was able to share his graduation experience with his parents firsthand. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation flew Sam’s parents to Savannah, Georgia, from South Africa, and they watched him cross the stage to receive his college diploma.
Sam is also the recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship, which is helping him on his next journey at the California Institute of the Arts, where he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts this year.
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