Ralph Jones, a 16-year-old engineering student from Atlanta, isn’t your ordinary college freshman. He has dedicated himself to his education, allowing him to excel academically.
Jones’ family placed a high value on education throughout his childhood.
Jones’ mother, a teacher, prepared Jones for a rigorous school curriculum at a young age.
“I started preschool at two and kindergarten at the age of four. By then, I was already reading at a fourth grade level,” Jones said.
He credits his success to his parents pushing him and encouraging him to succeed.
“They want the best, especially when they see potential,” Jones said. “They wanted the level of intensity to stay up or go even higher.”
At only 16, Jones’ competitive edge and independent personality have given him the tools to set him apart, he feels, from other students.
“There is no celebration for being mediocre. The normal people are forgotten,” Jones said. “Everyone wants to be liked. What greatness is there for being average?”
Jones doesn’t feel deprived of a fun and eventful childhood, but believes that academia and an active social life can co-exist.
“I had fun growing up,” Jones said. “I would raise my hand, sit in the front and do all my work. When school was over, I would relax and watch T.V. or be with my friends.”
Palmetto Phase III Resident Assistant Shekinah Davis, 20, agrees.
Davis said Jones is no different from any of her other residents, and doesn’t seem bothered by the age difference between he and his peers.
“Ralph is very mature for his age,” Davis said. “He handles himself very well. He fits in like all other college students [and] is very intelligent and unique in his own way.”
Jones said that although age is not an issue for him, he never openly shares his age with anyone.
“I’m always the youngest person in my class; it’s nothing new to me,” Jones said.
“It is great to have in him class, but he is putting us older students to shame,” said Michelle Driver, one of Jones’ classmates from Gainesville. “He is a lot more advanced than us and knows more.”
Jones’ decision to come to FAMU stemmed from his desire to branch away from his family’s roots at Fort Valley State University.
“I didn’t want to go to Fort Valley due to who my grandfather is…I would have gotten in easily; it’s a tradition in my family to go there,” Jones said. “My cousin goes there and my father went.”
“I wanted to go where I earned a scholarship, and I earned it from FAMU.”
“I work for what I want. I earned my scholarship, I will earn my place at graduation and I will earn my place walking across the stage,” Jones said.
Jones now spends the majority of his time in Coleman Library, where he does most of his studying.
“There shouldn’t be a time to crack. If you work hard before the final there’s no need to stress the semester. College is bringing out the best in me,” Jones said of his judicious study habits.
When Jones is walking on campus, he is referred to as the “smart guy,” a comment he receives as a sincere compliment.
“I feel he has a promising future if he works hard, stays focused [and] don’t let college life get to him…he will be fine,” said Dianna Smith, a junior animal science student, 20, from Ft. Lauderdale and Jones’ classmate.