Senior Elonna Jones makes it look easy: a government and politics major; Black women’s studies minor; Honors student; Dean’s List. She will be the first to tell you, however, that her journey to success hasn’t been easy.
The oldest in a family of six girls who grew up in her beloved hometown of Baltimore, Jones knew she would be the first in her family to graduate college, and that she would also hold most of the financial responsibility for her degree. Everyday she commuted from Baltimore by car, train, or light rail for classes until she earned a position as a Resident Assistant for the Department of Resident Life.
“I knew I had to go to college,” Jones said. “Since I was seven years old… my grandad would tell me ‘you have to go to college, because that’s the way things are going to get a little bit easier for you.’”
Upon her arrival at the university, Jones began her hard work both in and out of the classroom. On campus, she made her way onto the university’s competitive and nationally ranked Mock Trial team. She also held the position of Activism Chairwoman of the University of Maryland Chapter of the NAACP, and eventually was eventually elected president of the organization. Jones says, as a young person, she has an ability to help make real change.
“Some of the most radical people ever have been young people,” she said. “A lot of college students think that we can’t really do anything, which is such a lie. We need to take our power back.”
Off campus, Jones has participated in multiple internships that have all fueled her passion for reducing health disparities in African American communities. She has spent two summers interning at the Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology at Johns Hopkins University, and has also acted as a Congressional Intern in the office of Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger. There, she attended briefings and reviewed constituent correspondence regarding healthcare and scientific research. This summer, she worked as a research intern with the Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. Center for Education, Justice, and Ethics, where she focused on policy and public health outcomes.
In the spring of 2018, Jones’s father unexpectedly passed away from an opioid overdose at the age of 38. Even after the tragedy, Jones has continued to fight hard for her education, and for justice in the world around her, with the support of her loving mother and stepfather.
When asked how she does it, Jones puts it simply: “Willpower and determination. I know things have to get done, and that everything leads to a greater goal.”
Jones says that while things may not be great in the moment, and that some moments may be hard, she knows everything she does will help her in the end.
This semester, she continues her work at the Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. Center with Dr. Kameron Van Patterson of the African American Studies Department on a juvenile diversion program curriculum. She is also the Volunteer Coordinator for Baltimore City Council District 10 Candidate Phylicia Porter.
Jones has made the Dean’s list for the past three semesters in a row, and doesn’t plan on stopping there. After graduation, she intends to apply to the Health Policy Management Program at Johns Hopkins University. She wants to pursue a career in policy to work to reduce health disparities in African American communities, and act as a representative for her hometown of Baltimore.