CAMBRIDGE — The college waiting game is over for Cambridge-South Dorchester High School senior and Next Generation Scholar Sa’Shea Jones. Jones, who knew she always wanted to go to college, was accepted to Salisbury University and will attend at no cost to her thanks in part to the Howard P. Rawlings Maryland Guaranteed Access Grant.
Jones learned from MBRT’s Next Generation Scholars program that college is a possibility and she won’t have to struggle to pay back the grant, which is helpful as she plans to pursue her dream of becoming a brain surgeon following a start as a registered nurse. Her interest in the neurology field is fueled by her sister’s Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis.
Jones’ parents always emphasized education was a priority, and now the first-generation college student will put ideas into action.
Jones said the biggest challenge of her senior year has not been learning from home during the pandemic, it’s been getting ready for college.
Her parents didn’t complete high school, and while her older siblings earned high school diplomas, they did not pursue a college degree.
“Being a Next Generation Scholar has opened a lot more opportunities for me,” Jones said. “I’ve always known that I wanted to go to college; it just made the path a lot clearer.”
The Maryland Business Roundtable for Education Next Generation Scholars program has helped prepare Jones for life after high school. The guidance of retired teacher Lauri Bell, who returned to Cambridge South Dorchester in this new facilitator’s position beginning in the 2019-20 school year, also helped.
“As the first person in my family to go off to college, my family doesn’t know the stresses I’m going through. I’m so lucky to have Mrs. Bell to guide me through this process,” she said.
Meeting Jones was one of the highlights of the year for Bell, Bell said. With COVID affecting the school year, Bell said she knew the year would be challenging, but building relationships with her students made it all worthwhile.
“I’m thrilled that Sa’Shea has been accepted to Salisbury University and now doesn’t have to worry about her immediate financial future,” Bell said.
Success has always been a key driver for Jones. In addition to maintaining a 4.0 GPA, she works part time at the local Arby’s.
“Money has always been a big issue for college, and that’s why I have kept my grades up, because I knew it would be something to help me get my ride to college,” she said.
When she was in the sixth grade, her sister was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As her parents cared for her sister in Baltimore, Jones took on more responsibilities at home, including helping her grandmother cook and care for her younger siblings.
“Sa’Shea’s drive is fueled by persistence and goals,” noted Jen Raider with Red Start Creative, a group committed to sharing empowering, positive change, “she doesn’t let anything stand in her way.”
“Being a teenager is a challenge itself, and I was forced to grow up quickly,” Jones said. “You go through changes and have to find the confidence to be yourself.”
“No matter what you are going through, don’t give up, don’t look behind,” Jones said, “look at what is ahead.”
On Thursday, June 16, 75 graduated seniors from Kent County High School, North Caroline High School, Colonel Richardson High School, Cambridge-South Dorchester High School and Wicomico High School will gather in person at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay for a full-day Next Generation Scholars event, NEXTGen NextLEVEL.
Designed by the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education to help inspire and lead graduates into their young adult life, whether that’s pursuing college or career, NEXTGen NextLEVEL will offer a career fair with local businesses, lunch with entertainment and a talk by DJ Heat, and a variety of interactive workshops focused on education, career, life hacks and self-exploration. Each attendee will receive a laundry bag full of useful goodies to help jumpstart their next chapter.
“Our goal is to help students figure out what is next,” Bell said, “whether it be college, career or trade school. We don’t disappear just because these students have graduated. We will be available all summer.”