06/15/10 — Helping students find money for college

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Helping students find money for college

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 15, 2010 1:46 PM

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Dr. Jerrelle Jones, right, goes over a career plan for Candice Worrells as part of the non-profit mentoring and tutorial service Get Smarter, Strategize Harder Community Enrichment Center.

Dr. Jerrelle Jones had 30 years' experience as a licensed clinical social worker and provided supervision to community group home professionals. She is also a licensed evangelist.

But these days her mission field is in helping students obtain financial aid for college, and guiding adults in career planning.

Nearly 10 years ago, she launched the non-profit organization GSSHCEC -- Get Smarter, Strategize Harder, Community Enrichment Center -- which provides mentoring, tutoring in reading and math for grades K-8, college and career planning.

"Many individuals in the community from time to time and parents and students would come to me," she said of the early stages. "Even though they had guidance counselors in high schools, some still needed assistance for them to move forward to college."

Jones has carved out her own niche, helping assist many whose college ambitions might have otherwise been stalled.

"I just like to be proactive," she said of her self-taught interest and research. "As a result of that, I would always try to keep myself open, to learn and acquire as much knowledge as I could attain."

Starting out, the non-profit was designed to be in the church where she is associate pastor, Darden Chapel Church in Goldsboro. Because so many already had computers in their homes, she was able to be more mobile.

"I have met them at their favorite fast food restaurant, in their homes, at churches or my home," she said. "I just adjust to the situation to make it easier for them."

Word of mouth helped establish the non-profit, which is currently at capacity, serving more than 100 students. Dr. Jones is aided by a staff of two, both former teachers.

"It's not an easy job, but because it's my heart, I want to do it," she said. "When I cannot personally do it, I have to set up an appointment or make arrangements to do it. Between the three of us, it gets done."

While she appreciates being able to help youngsters do well in school and to pursue higher education, it has also been rewarding to work with adults trying to keep pace in the workforce.

"I had a young man in his 50s, he had lost his job and came by my house ... we talked and talked and then he asked me to pray for him," she said. "When he left, he seemed to feel better."

Another example came in the form of a student who had dropped out of high school, only to later express regret over the decision.

"We talked from time to time," Dr. Jones said. "I asked, 'Why not go and complete your high school diploma?' I asked what she would like to do in life. She said she would like to be a teacher.

"I assisted her in continuing education. She got her high school diploma and went on to college and now she's teaching."

Candice Worrells, 24, is another success story.

The two women knew each other through church, so when Candice reached a crossroads -- dropping out of community college, she had recently moved back to Wayne County -- she sought counsel from Dr. Jones.

"I really didn't know, I wanted something that I could further myself, have a career in. This job that I have now is really what I have always wanted," she said, referencing her job as processing assistant with food and nutrition services, part of the Wayne County Department of Social Services. She was hired there in March.

She said she is grateful for Dr. Jones' guidance and encouragement.

"The mentoring and the motivation really helped me," she said. "I had kind of low self-esteem issues. The push that I needed was given to me and that was very influential for me in my life at that point in time.

"I think this agency is what youths and adults need today if they have any uncertainties about where they want to go. It really puts you on the path of what you need to do -- either financially, interview skills, interview prep, anything that you need that has anything to do with furthering your career or furthering your life."

Dr. Jones said she is happy to be able to make a difference.

And at 63, she said she feels like she's "just getting going."

"I relate to Moses and Abraham and how God blessed them," she said. "It's like the prime of life -- they didn't get going until they were older than I am. ...

"I think in the lives of every individual, they want to be successful, they don't know how. Many I have assisted are getting into college. Sometimes they only thought one thing was available. I have told them, 'Let's evaluate all of your options, determine what your interests are -- go to school, have a career and your degree."