Beverly Jones spends a lot of time behind the wheel to get to and from Saint Leo University's Morrow, GA Education Center in the Atlanta area. But the longtime military veteran is proud to do it to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services at a place she says feels like home.
The 53-year-old native of Atlanta now lives in Hogansville, Ga. She served in the U.S. Army for three decades, spending a good amount of her enlistment as a chaplain's assistant and some of this time in the reserves.
Why She Chose to Serve Her Country
Jones says choosing to wear an Army uniform was kind of just in her DNA.
"It was really a family thing to enlist in the military," Jones explains. "There were lots of members of my family who went in before me."
She was stationed at a variety of posts in the U.S., including at Army bases in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and California. Her duties abroad spanned stints in Egypt, Germany, France and Ireland.
"As a chaplain's assistant, I really enjoyed being able to help other soldiers and their families in the unit," she says. "I had to make sure we held our services and also helped those who needed counseling and other support. We did basically everything a church would do."
The relationships she developed with others in the Army were perhaps what she cherishes most from the experience.
"I made friends who've lasted a lifetime. In fact, the first person I met in the Army 30 years ago is someone I'm still friends with today. As veterans, we all have something in common."
She offers up some advice for anyone entering or currently enlisted in the armed forces.
"Do what you're told, and you won't have problems," she advises. "Take advantage of every opportunity afforded to you. Be willing to learn new things and help out."
Selecting Saint Leo for School
After thorough research and talking with other schools, Jones ultimately enrolled at Saint Leo's Morrow, Ga. Education Center. She began her classes in January 2017.
"I went to some of the traditional colleges and talked with the advisors there," she recalls. "At most of them, I would have had to go to school Monday through Friday for 6 or 8 hours per day. After retiring from the Army, I just didn't want to take on something that would have been like a full-time job."
She also was attracted to Saint Leo's eight-week semesters, especially the fact that she could complete two courses simultaneously within these short timeframes. Jones has taken both day and night classes at the Education Center, which is a 70-mile drive each way for her from Hogansville.
"On a good day, it takes an hour and 15 minutes. Otherwise, it can be up to an hour and 45 minutes. But it's worth the trip because I really like the adult learner environment, and it's a mix of younger working professionals and students like myself. If I went to a traditional college, I know it would mainly be kids out of high school and those in their 20s. I just can't relate to that age group because they're just starting out their lives, and I'm trying to enjoy mine now."
She has enjoyed many of her classes, particularly those taught by Dr. Tara Miller. These include Giants of the Arts and Television in the American Family.
"I really like her style of teaching," she says. "She really makes you feel like you're at home in her classes. After taking that TV class, I now think differently about what I watch, the commercials, and just how everything is presented in a certain way."
Future Educational and Career Considerations
For 25 years, Jones worked for the State of Georgia as a site supervisor while also serving in the Army reserves.
"I worked with adults between the ages of 21 and 81 who had various disabilities," she explains. "I helped them find jobs and get connected with their communities. One woman told me she had never gone out to eat at a restaurant before, so I took her out for a meal and even took her to the zoo. I remember her talking about that experience for a year after that. Even though I was getting paid to do this kind of work, I was really doing it to make a difference."
With a year and a half to go to earn her BA degree, Jones is already pondering her future. She is considering earning a master's degree from Saint Leo and has a goal in mind to join the Division of Family and Children Services to help aging adults with disabilities.
For those who may have hesitation about going back to school later in life, Jones has some insight to share based on her own adventures.
"Know that you can do this as an adult learner. You just have to find the right school that's a good fit for you. Don't get into a situation where you might be overwhelmed. You should look for a place that offers flexibility so you'll still have enough time to devote to your family, job and any other obligations in your life."
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog post was provided by Beverly Jones and is used with permission.