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This Jewel Shines Bright … Just Like Her Advisor

SkillsUSA Georgia State Officer Jewel Jones has polished her skills to display all facets of her boundless potential. We ask her how while talking to the advisor who helped her sparkle.
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SkillsUSA Georgia’s Jewel Jones with advisor Calvin Gray at Cobb Innovation and Technology Academy in Marietta, Ga. Photo courtesy of CITA.

Jewel Jones

SkillsUSA Georgia High School Secretary Jewel Jones attends Cobb Innovation and Technology Academy (CITA) in Marietta. SkillsUSA sat down with the motivated student to discuss her path toward success, which included overcoming a challenging trauma. Thanks to caring SkillsUSA advisor Calvin Gray (who answers his own Q&A below) and a host of other supporters, Jones has emerged as a student leader bound for future greatness in her career and community.

SkillsUSA: What has being a member of SkillsUSA meant to you?

Jewel: I believe SkillsUSA will help every student who joins. It’s an organization that doesn’t just build skills and talent; they build character and confidence. The experiences of competing and being a part of a successful organization that’s far bigger than me have helped my self-motivation flourish. People and leaders in the organization give great feedback, and competing has taught me to stop second-guessing myself and give it my all because I am enough.

I’ve made a lot of lifelong friendships in SkillsUSA, not just locally, but in different states. I’ve also met plenty of industry friends, so if I ever need anything, I have connections.

What has serving as a state secretary been like this year?

Serving as a state secretary has been both challenging and socially developing. It has broadened my ability to speak publicly and fluently. It has given me the opportunity to connect with many people, not just on a business level but a personal level.

Jewel Jones is studying Electricity at CITA and serves as a state officer. Photo courtesy of CITA.

What are some new experiences you’ve had this year that you’ve grown from?

I have traveled all over Georgia to places I did not know existed. I’ve had the chance to collaborate with many people on speaking, learning about the importance of posture, etc. My all-time favorite experience was our post-election training because I bonded with my state officer team so fast. I learned things like how to properly introduce myself, general etiquette and how even the trivial things you do in a leadership role are continuously critiqued and watched.

What is it like to represent other students and be their voice?

It is not easy, but it is enormously powerful. I try to get everything right because everyone deserves to be heard. I speak for others the best way I know how. I sometimes talk to members on a personal level just to show them I am not a perfect student, but that I am relatable. I bleed if you cut me and I cry if you yell at me. I am just as human as everyone else.

“We all face obstacles in life, but do not let them define you.”

Jewel Jones

You experienced a very challenging situation a few years ago when you were hit three times by gunfire intended for someone else. How did that experience change you?

The experience showed me that I am someone of immense value. I am a jewel, and to grow to my full potential, I must go through things and understand hardship. Being shot changed my train of thought, because I was young, but I was already about to give up on life. When it happened, I realized that I wanted to be so much more than a name on a gravestone. The aftermath of the post-surgery and recovery process was mentally challenging. The bullet sat in my head for a month before surgery. I had many long and painful days.

My biggest takeaway was that we all face obstacles in life, but do not let them define you. The incident left me both shaken and determined to succeed. I was told that the bullet should have killed me, and in a very rude way I was told that I was not going to fully recover and get past what had happened. Instead, I got up and did what had to be done. The bullet took away a piece of me that I thought I would never get back, but by the grace of God and through SkillsUSA, I am now thriving. I did not just dream about a future: I got up and put my hands to work to build a solid foundation for my future. I now believe the sky is not the limit; it is just the beginning.

Your advisor, Mr. Gray, was a big inspiration to you, but many others have been, too. Talk about what it means to have a strong support system in SkillsUSA.

My state officer team, they are a group of support and love, and they have really become one of the reasons why I push myself so hard. They have held me accountable and also had my back. My chapter peers, my advisor and so many others have all been supportive on my journey. Their love helped heal my heart, and that is also why SkillsUSA is so amazing, because the people truly care and want you to succeed.

Calvin Gray

Behind successful students like Jewel Jones, there are usually a group of selfless, dedicated supporters contributing to the foundations of that success. One of those supporters for Jones has been SkillsUSA advisor and construction instructor Calvin Gray, who’s also impacted many other students over more than four decades of a superlative teaching career. “Stick to the goals we have in place” is the advice Gray gives Jones and his other students.

Jewel Jones with advisor Calvin Gray on campus at CITA in Marietta, Ga. Photo courtesy of CITA.

SkillsUSA: How long have you been a teacher and what was your background?

Calvin: I have been teaching in career and technical education and involved with SkillsUSA for 43 years. I am a graduate of Tuskegee University with a double major in Industrial Arts and Vocational Education.

How does mentoring a student like Jewel enhance your teaching career?

It gives me the opportunity to plan with the student from the start of their career pathway through their college career. After graduation, I get to see the student enter their career field.

How has Jewel grown since becoming a state officer?

She has taken on greater leadership roles in our local chapter, the state association and in our school’s activities. She has grown professionally by handling these assignments and by leading various meetings and programs. Each experience helps her grow a little more through the successes and by figuring out what to do when things don’t go as planned. So many others have helped along the way, too. I can’t take all the credit for Jewel’s success. It truly takes a team of people, advisors, teachers, and administrators to make a student successful.

“[SkillsUSA] students learn how to be organized, professional, goal-oriented and how to communicate effectively. You can use these skills in any field going forward.”

— Instructor Calvin Gray

What are the greatest personal gains your students make through SkillsUSA?

The SkillsUSA curriculum teaches a student to be a leader in the classroom and later in industry. Students learn how to be organized, professional, goal-oriented and how to communicate effectively. You can use these skills in any field going forward.

What is the best part about teaching Construction Trades?

Seeing students build structures, wire electrical systems, install plumbing systems, build brick veneer houses and foundation walls have been the most rewarding things. You can see their confidence grow as their skills grow, and they are learning something useful to their lives or a career. They are building a foundation to grow on.

What makes your job as an educator the hardest and what is most rewarding?

With such a limited number of vacancies, the most difficult thing is having to turn students away who apply to the Construction program. The most rewarding aspect is seeing students sign to work with a company of their choice on SkillsUSA National Signing Day, seeing them receive scholarships and then seeing them graduate from high school and go on to college.

What advice do you give to teachers thinking about getting involved in SkillsUSA?

SkillsUSA allows students to prepare for leadership in the world of work no matter what their level of leadership or where they will work. It’s a great way to have experiences that help you grow as an instructor and to connect with other teachers and students in a more meaningful way.

Do you stay in touch with your former students?

I have former students reach out to me on a regular basis. I also have former students serving on my Craft Advisory Board. To know that a student has excelled in their career field and become a productive member of society and to have been any part of that is the most rewarding thing you can imagine.

Interested in joining SkillsUSA as a student? Learn more.

Interested in joining SkillsUSA as a teacher (professional member)? Learn more.

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