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Familiar face takes on a new role at McKinley High School

Terrance JonesIt’s not unusual to see Terrance Jones sitting at a high-top table in the McKinley Commons surrounded by laughing students. He’s a regular at sporting events and hosts both an annual talent competition for local students, as well as a Spring Break tour of college campuses through his Simply Youth non-profit, of which he serves as CEO.
As McKinley’s Graduation Coach, a new administrative role for 2022-23, he believes his success is directly related to the relationships and trust he builds by spending time with students. 
As part of his job, Jones is using data to identify students who are in danger of not graduating on time, dropping out, or graduating with no solid plans for their future.
“We help them incorporate a plan to get them to graduate on time,” he said. “I identify the why. Why is it important that they graduate.”
And relationship-building, he said, is the key.
“I am comprehensive in getting to know them, finding out who will be proud of them, who will be supportive,” he said.
Jones once served as a family support specialist in the district and is a Canton City graduate. He understands the challenges some students face.
“I have a professional passion for this and a personal one because I was once one of them,” he said. “I needed a Mr. Terrance when I was in school.”
Jones said he tries to motivate with coaching strategies and he is always visible.
“The biggest thing is to make sure they don’t stop. You won’t get this time back and if they stop coming to school, they won’t come back,” he said, emphasizing that credit-deficient students have options. “This school might not be a fit. We have alternative programs. You can be a summer graduate.”
Superintendent Jeff Talbert said Jones is an important asset to the high school team.
“He can reach kids and families and figure out their needs,” Talbert said, “Through his contacts throughout the community, he finds resources for them to be successful. We are thrilled to have him on our team.”
What Jones loves most about his role, he said, is that kids know he is available to them.
“There’s something to be said for knowing that,” he said. “And every day I meet a new kid. I’m intentional about it.”
As he adds to his role by mentoring a cohort of freshmen who require support in adjusting to high school, his goal is that graduation becomes an expected accomplishment and the focus becomes what’s next — jobs, internships, and college.
As a mentor and confidant, he said he hears difficult stories from students which weigh heavily on his mind.
“I pray a lot — I’m a prayer — for strength, protection, motivation. Daily,” he emphasized.

My Go-to Comfort Food … Growing up my Friday food was Pizza. It was a time I spent with family concluding the week and relaxing. Even now, I still love Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza with Bell Peppers - but I love to explore pizza, in general - I like to try Chicago deep dish for example or try pizza from emerging mom-and-pop shops. 

If I weren’t working with kids, I would be ... I've spent my life working with kids in one capacity or another - I can't imagine doing anything else. Kids keep me young - they keep me laughing - they help me grow. I wouldn't want to change that. If I absolutely had to answer, I think I would still pursue a position that inspires and connects with everyday people. 

If I could travel anywhere it would be … Dubai - I think they have an interesting culture. From what I've read and the pictures I've seen, it's a beautiful place. I want to travel somewhere that offers something different than what I already experienced. I would love to indulge in the architecture, the people, the culture, the food - just all of it.  

If I could sit down and chat with a famous person, it would be … Jeff Bezos - the founder of Amazon. I was always taught when you meet a famous person - know your ask - they aren't looking for friends. (LOL) I'd like to ask him how he found balance and how he was able to move from a vision that started in his garage to what Amazon is today. And maybe before we parted ways - I'd see if he wanted to donate to my organization, Simply Youth. 

Something people would be surprised to know about me: That I enrolled back in college. I'm working toward meeting a goal I set for myself many years ago.