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Sammer Jones was born in Liberia and relocated to the United States in middle school. During graduate school at Boston University, she met and fell in love with her husband Douglas. A stay-at-home mom since the birth of her boy-girl twins, the family relocated to Champaign in 2003, where Douglas Jones is a surgeon at Christie Clinic. An active community volunteer with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Junior League of Champaign-Urbana, Jones — mom to almost 9-year-old boy/girl twins, Silas and Samaia, and daughter Sidney, 4 — decided to go back to school and pursue a doctorate in educational policy. Jones and her husband have been involved with educational programs locally and internationally; it is their goal to open a school in Liberia that will benefit children who otherwise will have no access to school.
See why we think Sammer Jones is a Chambana mom to know.
Why did you decide to go back to school to get your Ph.D.?
I’ve been blessed to have the choice to stay at home with my children but I knew that at some point I would venture into the workforce. After my last child turned 2 and I felt more confident as a parent, I decided to pursue my passion for teaching. Although my work experiences have been in the health-related field, I was drawn to the field of education. I knew that going back to school would be a challenge, but I didn’t give myself any option. I didn’t want to look back 10 years later and regret not doing something I felt passionate about especially since I had the support at home.
How do you balance the rigors of being a doctoral student and a teacher’s assistant with all of your other obligations-not to mention parenthood?
Going back to school while managing a household with three very active children has been one of the most challenging, tiring, yet most rewarding experiences of my life. It is challenging because I no longer have the extra time for leisure activities. On the other hand, it is such a rewarding experience because I truly enjoy what I’m doing. I feel like I’ve found something I am passionate about. However, getting to the end requires more of me and my family is very supportive of my decision to pursue my doctorate. At home, it’s truly a matter of priority. I no longer feel guilty about leaving dishes in the sink or a load of clothes in the dryer. I’ve learned to focus on what’s important for our family.
It has truly been a blessing to have a supportive spouse. During my long nights of writing, my husband would camp out with me so I wouldn’t be alone while I work. He would listen to my ideas and brainstorm with me despite his long days at work. He has been my biggest cheerleader and he would constantly remind me of my goals and boost my confidence during those days when I truly needed a boost. I truly could not have gotten this far without that support and love.
You are very active in the community, especially with the local alumni chapter of your sorority and Junior League. Why is service important to you?
I truly believe the saying, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” I look at my life and I know that God has truly been good to me. He has blessed me by putting positive people in my life that have nurtured and guided me. Now that I’m in the position to give back, I feel strongly about being that positive person for someone else. It is important to me that my children grow up seeing and knowing that their lives have to be more than just about themselves. They have to understand that a fulfilled life is one that surpasses individual achievement but rather one that benefits others through service, love and compassion. Children learn through example, what better way to teach my children?
We all have an obligation to make this world a better place. For me, service is my contribution. The life lessons you learn through your service far surpass any financial reward you can get. For example, you learn humility, compassion, and patience.
What does Martin Luther King Jr. Day mean to you?
This day is big for me as I reflect on King’s life and his teachings. For me, this day means Progress and Service. It is truly a blessing to see how far we’ve come from the 60s. To see my children enjoying the company of their friends no matter what nationality or race they are; and, to see their classmates represented by a diverse group of children is truly progress. However, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life continues to teach us that we all can do great things and make great differences in this world that we live in. He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things through his commitment to freedom and justice for all. As I think of him, I am encouraged by his dedication and his commitment.
You are an East Coast transplant to Champaign-what do you like the most about living here?
I always thought of myself as a “city girl” until after years of living in Champaign and then spending a week at home in Boston. By day three, I couldn’t wait to see the cornfields of Champaign-Urbana. The hustle and bustle of the city was too much for me. Traffic was crazy and finding parking was out of control. I couldn’t believe that I was missing Champaign I can now say that I love the small town living; the quiet of the night; the stars in the sky; the friends we’ve made; and the church family we look forward to spending time with. The community has been amazing place to raise our children. Because Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis are within couple of hours from us, we can get our “city fix” and be back home in no time.
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