As a first-generation college student at Jackson State Community College, Kelan Jones didn’t have a clear understanding of how to be successful in college. A standout basketball player in high school, Jones saw the sport as his ticket to success.
Then he was introduced to the Quest program at Jackson State. Quest offers support to African-American male freshmen as they begin their college careers. During their first semester, participants have workshops on several topics, including accessing online class resources and study tips. Jackson State offers a similar program for African-American women, called Journey.
“I had come to Jackson State to play basketball,” Jones said, “but the Quest counselors broke down the process of going to school and helped me to understand what I needed to do to be successful.” The Quest cohort became his college family.
“We had each other’s backs,” said Jones. “If someone from the group was having trouble with finances or food, we were there to help. No one was left out.”
Jones first met with the advisors from Quest before he started at Jackson State. He knew at that point where his educational journey would begin. “It felt like family. Everyone I met treated you like they really cared about you,” he said
Jones said that he kept to himself when he first came to campus. Quest, however, encouraged him to be more social with group members and to make friends with students outside of the athletics program. He learned about accountability and supporting others in the program.
He completed an associate in business degree in December 2020 and is working on a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Blue Mountain College in Mississippi.
His Quest “family” at Jackson State “still checks on me and lets me know that they are there for me. They truly care,” Jones said.
His positive experience in college encouraged others in his family. His mom completed her degree. His siblings have made plans to continue their education, too.
“Quest has been a positive experience,” Jones said. “It prepared me for the college experience and gave me the confidence I needed to be successful. I feel I am now much better equipped to accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself.”
Jackson State's Quest program is one example of the work underway in the College System of Tennessee's Black Male Success Initiative. Launched in 2019, the initiative's goal is to increase success rates for Black men on our college campuses. The College System of Tennessee, governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, is the state's 13 Community Colleges and 27 Colleges of Applied Technology.
To apply for the Quest and Journey programs, visit www.jscc.edu/quest/. Each has a separate, selective application process. Participants who meet the attendance requirements for the programs receive a stipend. For questions about the programs, contact Joretta Ellison at ext. 50318 or at firstname.lastname@example.org