Shared with permission from Rashawn Jones 

Rashawn Jones told our Gala guests in 2019....”5 years ago if you told me that I would be attending college, I wouldn’t have believed it. 

Life has always been rough for me because of my parents’ addiction. My childhood was spent jumping between one foster home to another and back to my parents. My junior year of high school, my father and I were evicted again due to his drug addiction. I tried living with my mom but raising my brother, my sister, and me was basically impossible. I started working fulltime and knew I had to at least finish high school. Between working full time and going to school, I did not have time to do the only thing I loved which was playing basketball. 

When my senior year rolled around, I was burnt out and I knew that I wasn’t going to make it to May, so I decided to graduate early. When I was asked what my plan was, the only thing I could say was that I didn’t know because college was certainly out of the picture for me. Even after working for a year and living in my own place, I still wasn’t thinking about college, but the girl I had been dating was constantly on me about taking classes. I knew she only wanted the best for me, so I just sat down and told myself just give it a try. I knew I didn’t want to be working at Wal-Mart for the rest of my life. And I saw that she worked hard preparing for her future at ISU, so I had to do the same. 

When I first started coming to Lincoln Land in the fall of 2016 I liked being a college student, but it was tough. My first semester I took a full course load while working 40 hours a week. I didn’t really know anyone, and I just went to class and to work. 

I was passing classes at first, but as I started failing my biology class I started to question if college was for me. To be honest, I didn’t know what was for me - or what I was supposed to do with my life. I tried and tried with my biology class and I eventually reached out for help. 

I got involved with the TRIO program. They helped me with my classes but sadly I sought help too late and failed biology. 

My next semester I started taking advantage of all the help Lincoln Land offered. From the TRIO program to the peer tutoring in the academic success center. I even communicated with my professors when I was stuck. I realized there were a bunch of people here to help me. 

My second year at Lincoln Land is what made me. I started talking to other students and I stayed on top of my grades. I even went from an undecided major to finding out that I was good with computers. I started taking computer classes and after the first one, I realized that I wanted to major in that field. In addition, I realized that I was a good writer, and I went from not doing any reading or writing on my own to reading and writing outside of class. 

After a bad break-up, my grades started dropping, I started skipping class and I even thought about being done with school. Once my girlfriend left - her family that I felt were my family - also left and I felt alone again. 

But I wasn’t alone. Lincoln Land staff supported me and made sure I did not give up. 

I took English 101 with Professor Johnson-Tillman, and I wrote an essay called “The Shadow across America” and that is when I realized that not only did I think my writing was great, but the Lincoln Land staff did as well. Many professors suggested I submit my essay in the Lincoln Land Review, publication so I did. I was also taking a computer class that I enjoyed, and not only did I enjoy taking the class, but the professor, Dr. Carmen Allen, enjoyed having me. 

A few weeks later I attended a Foundation Scholarship Workshop and they helped me write my personal statement and submit my application. I didn’t expect much but they still encouraged me to do it. 

I received a letter in the mail from the Foundation stating I was awarded the Jody Rainey scholarship. Later that summer I received another letter in the mail stating that my essay was published in the Lincoln Land Review and I was awarded the best non-fiction essay. 

I told myself since someone else took the opportunity to help me, I needed to do something to help other students. Dr. Carmen Allen asked if I would be interested in being the president of the computer science club, but we both agreed that the vice president role was best because I still wanted to do other things to help people. 

I started working in advising and counseling and in registration 20 hours a week, along with still working 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart. Working more did not bother me because I was helping other people - just like someone decided to help me. The extra money I made helped take care of my nephew whose father isn’t around. 

I know without the community I’ve found and created at LLCC, I wouldn’t be here today. Without the Scholarship I received for the 2018-2019 school year this record year would be non-existent. 

I’ve walked on this road for 22 long years. Despite knowing there is something special at the end, I constantly slow down and wonder, Where is everyone at and why am I walking alone? I do everything in my power to thrive and get to the end of the road, but I sometimes get stuck and ask myself, Rashawn why are you still walking? But I don’t stay there for long because the support system I have at Lincoln Land shows up, and I start to see the end of the road. “