Growing up in a small town such as Downs, there were plenty of ways incoming freshman Jessie Jones could be a difference maker. She took that to heart and was the kind of person to never turn down an opportunity to make an impact.
Jones said because her school and community were small, it gave everyone the opportunity to help lift one another.
She was introduced to giving back at an early age from her grandmother, who would volunteer at their local food bank as well as cleaning up their community park. However, Jones’ dedication to serving the community began at Tri-Valley High School.
Through her school, Jones was Key Club president, which gave her several opportunities to be involved throughout the community. Jones was also a part of the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund’s Trick-or-Treat fundraising program, made blankets for the Children’s Home and Aid, took part in the Midwest Food Bank, helped raise money for the local Wish Bone Canine Rescue for Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group, and was involved in the National FFA Organization.
This commitment to service led Jones to be selected as one of seven recipients of the McLean County Full Tuition Scholarship, which provides free tuition to students who have a history of leadership, community service, and commitment to the community.
“I learned how much of an impact I can make in a small community,” she said. “You can see how much they’ve given me, and I had to give back to them. It makes you feel empowered to keep on going and shows how much of an impact I can make.”
Jones is also a part of Students Helping In Freshman Transition (SHIFT) and the Viking to Viking program, where she acts as a mentor to younger students helping them navigate their studies and student life.
“I feel like the relationships I’ve had with people are the most important thing—building those relationships with people, getting on a one-on-one basis with them,” Jones said of her mentorship role.
Though community service is her main passion, Jones has had a love for cheerleading since third grade. She said her cheer coach and her team had the big impact on her, voting her as the Most Valuable Cheerleader, which signified her leadership and mentorship to the team.
Illinois State was among one of Jones’ top university choices because of its closeness to home and because her mother—Lisa (Heffren) Jones ’89—is a Redbird alum.
“I wanted to stay local because of how much my community has impacted me and I wanted to keep growing to continue to make a difference,” she said.
When she attends Illinois State in the fall, Jones plans to join the College of Business as a business administration major. She also plans to continue her community service involvement on campus and wants to join as many clubs as she can.
“I plan to use the next four years continuing to explore my academics as well as extracurriculars to the best of my abilities and make my community proud,” she said.