Ny-jhee Jones will graduate from Monticello High School on Wednesday, and then he’ll try to accomplish something no one else in his family has done yet: earn a bachelor’s degree.
Jones will start his collegiate career at George Mason University in the fall, hoping to major in either global affairs, international business or a similar field.
Jones has been actively involved in his school’s drama department, he’s maintained good grades and he’s been involved in the local chapter of 100 Black Men of America for most of his life.
Jones is where he is today because of his hard work and dedication, but he said he owes a great deal of the credit to the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia and its mentor program.
“I think they’ve been absolutely critical in shaping me as a man, as who I am, so to speak,” he said.
“Without the 100, and pushing me as far as they did, I don’t know if I’d be where I am today. I don’t know if I would have gotten into Mason.”
Jones was part of the organization’s first class for M Cubed — Math-Men-Mission — which aims to increase enrollment of African-American males in upper-level coursework during middle school.
It was there as a fifth-grader rising into sixth where Jones met his mentor, Juandiego Wade, who became an important part of Jones’ life on both developmental and personal levels.
Monique Banks, Jones’ mother, said Wade’s presence in her son’s life has been critical and that she could not have asked for a better mentor for her son than if she had picked one herself.
“He’s been very active in Ny-jhee’s life as far as 100 Black Men … got him involved in a great community church,” she said. “I feel like he does more than what is required through 100.”
The mentor program changes when students reach high school, becoming more of a group-mentoring setting rather than the one-on-one environment with M Cubed. But Wade and Jones’ interaction continued.
It’s even helped him with his post-secondary education. Jones started attending Wade’s church and later was connected with a family that was willing to help Jones out financially for school when it became apparent his lack of funding might affect his dream of attending college.
“Juan started out as my mentor and we’ve been really close ever since then,” Jones said. “He really is just like a second father to me. He looks after me, makes sure I have everything that I need and he was even able to find people that provided me with a substantial amount of money for college.”
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Wade has been a mentor to several people over the last 30 years. He’s seen many of them through their formative years in school and move on to forge their own paths in life.
But of all the mentees he’s worked with, Wade said Jones is one of the most memorable.
“Mentoring someone like Ny-jhee has been really special because not only did I get to know his family, but he got to know my family,” said Wade, who is a member of Charlottesville’s School Board.
“He’s like a big brother to my eighth-grade daughter and he’s been over to our house numerous times.
We’ve broken meal together in my house plenty of times and he feels comfortable there.”
Bernard Hairston, president of the 100 Black Men of Central Virginia and executive director of community engagement for Albemarle County schools, said it’s difficult to say where some of the boys will end up when they first join the M Cubed program.
But as he looks at Jones now, “the sky’s the limit for him.” Hairston also mentioned Wade’s mentorship as one of the reasons Jones has gotten to where he is now.
“I mean, he’s got charisma, he’s one of those sponges who is looking to suck up as much information as he can,” Hairston said of Jones.
“… [T]his kid could end up being an ambassador somewhere, he’s got that potential,” he said.
Source: The Daily Progress | MICHAEL BRAGG