Kathryn Jones (seated) is joined by Dr. Debra Gresham, Bill Milford and Dr. Susan Fowler, all faculty in the Division of Social Work at Thomas University. After missing the TU Commencement on May 3 due to health issues, Jones received her Bachelor of Social Work Degree during a special presentation on May 22 at Mitchell County Hospital.
A dream achieved
Kathryn Jones knew that she needed to stay active when she retired a few years ago. That’s when she decided to complete a college degree that she began back in the 1970s. On May 3, Jones was scheduled to graduate from Thomas University with a Bachelor of Social Work Degree.
Due to health issues, Jones missed that graduation and she missed the Honors Reception on May 2 in which she would have received the Outstand Social Work Student of the Year Award. On Thursday, May 22, three of her Social Work professors traveled to Mitchell County Hospital in Camilla to present Jones with her degree and award.
Bill Milford, Social Work Division Chair, along with Social Work faculty Dr. Susan Fowler and Dr. Debra Gresham made the presentations in front of a couple dozen of Jones’ family and friends, including her son Darryl Jones. A tearful Jones told the trio how touched she was by the event, which was organized by Terri Lasseter, Social Service Director at Mitchell Convalescent Center. Lasseter also supervised Jones during her internship at MCC.
Jones, who lives in Pelham, originally enrolled at what was then Birdwood College in the late 1970s as a business student. Over the years she worked on her degree at various times until 1989. After the death of her son Edgar, Jones lost interest in working on her degree.
Over the years Jones’ life took several different directions. From 1977 to 1988 she worked as treasurer for the City of Pelham. She earned a certificate in medical records coding and another as a customer service specialist, both from then Thomas Technical School. For 13 years Jones worked as the document coordinator for Archbold Home Care, a job that included tasks such as verifying insurance and making referrals for durable medical equipment.
Jones also competed in Mrs. Georgia pageants, winning the title of Mrs. Congeniality for Middle Georgia in 1986, and Mrs. Southwest Georgia in 1987.
In 2011, Jones decided it was time to earn a college degree. At first, the idea of working with computers intimidated her. Even though Jones needed some help to learn how to format documents, she quickly picked up on how to type her assignments for class.
“I didn’t know how to operate a computer when I came here,” she said. “Now I can hunt and peck pretty well.”
Jones’ first obstacle was taking the Critical Writing Reading Thinking Exam, also known as the CWRTE, a requirement for all undergraduate students. Jones heard about the exam’s difficulty, but she was not deterred. She passed the CWRTE on her first attempt.
This time around, Jones decided to change her major. She thought about her mother’s time in a nursing home and the elderly people to whom she felt drawn. That’s when Jones decided to pursue a degree in Social Work with the goal of working with the elderly.
“I want to work with the elderly,” Jones said. “I want to work in geriatrics. Someone needs to be an advocate for the elderly, and I want to do that. I have a passion for them.”
As part of her coursework, Jones interned at the Convalescent Center in Camilla. She also conducted research into the use of scent therapy to help with Alzheimer’s patients. The direct at the Center was impressed with Jones’ findings and began using scent therapy at the Center.
While a student, Jones has been touched by those outside her family who’ve supported and encouraged her. One has been her classmate, Theresa Wright, who also graduated on May 3.
“She’s been a real godsend,” Jones said.
Wright has often assisted Jones as she navigates campus with her walker. Three times while a student Jones battled pneumonia. When she missed class due to the illness, Wright sent emails letting her know of assignments so that Jones would not fall behind.
Another supporter and encourager has been her god sister, Bettye Williams of Thomasville. Each Tuesday while Jones was in class, Williams prepared supper for her so that she wouldn’t have cook.
“Bettye always said that inspire her because of the way I go, go, go,” Jones said.
In fact, it was Williams’ support that encouraged Jones to continue on her path.
Jones is quick to pay forward her support from others. As part of a class project, she wrote a grant proposal requesting funding from a local corporation to help pay for meals for participants at the Pelham Senior Center. Jones is waiting to hear whether her request will be granted.
Now Jones has another goal – learning more about computers and software.
“As long as I have breath in me, I’m going to do something,” Jones said.