East Lansing High School Students Have a New Advocate: Jerry Jones
In the interest of creating a better connection between students and staff, a new position has been added to East Lansing High School: Student Advocate. The job is now held by a former ELHS security guard, Jerralmier Jones, known to students as “Jerry.”
The hiring of Jones into this role comes as there has been more emphasis placed on mental health and student well-being in recent years, partly in response to the nationwide increase in teen suicides and school shootings.
Thinking outside of the box, the East Lansing administration felt the new position could help with student well-being and student success.
Speaking in a Parent Council meeting last fall, Principal Andy Wells stated that Jerry Jones’ role is “not to discipline the students,” because that would damage his relationship and credibility with them. Jones’ job is to be a positive influence and provide a listening ear.
“In addition to empowering students and allowing their voices to be heard on issues that are important to them,” Jones explained, he and other high school staff are “letting them know that we do believe in them and we’re there for them."
"East Lansing High School wants to show students how important their success and well-being is," Jones said, “by providing assistance and encouraging students in their academics, social, emotional and personal development, as well as helping students know themselves better and find effective solutions to their daily lives.”
Jones has been a part of the greater Lansing community for over 20 years, raising his own children in local schools. In 2009, he earned his GED and later attended Washtenaw Community College where he studied social work.
He has volunteered as a basketball coach at Willow Elementary School in Lansing for the past two years, and for six years he has been opening a local gym for kids in Lansing to give them a safe place outside of school.
Young people seem to excel whenever Jones is around.
"Jerry has had a huge impact on the school by helping students that normally get into drama and skip class see that there is a better outcome," said Tresean Hoskins, a junior at ELHS.
Students have been praising this addition to the staff, many wishing that this change had happened earlier. Jones has helped advocate for the students launching a "Pizza Friday" aimed at supporting the ELHS after-school program.
"It's East Lansing High School's way of saying that we appreciate students and that we ensure the value of student's success," Jones said.
ELHS junior Briana Tran told ELi, "Jerry is one of the only staff members I trust. He’s connected to me and most students at ELHS. He cares about kids and wants them to do better. He’s been a person you can go to for help."
At the school, Jones is also seen as an advocate for minority students, as someone able to connect on a more personal and relatable level. He is widely seen as giving students of color the confidence and ability to work harder for themselves.
In Hoskins’ case, Jerry Jones has made a special impact.
"Jerry's role to me is being a friend that I can talk with, knowing that I'm not going to be judged and I can just be myself around,” said Hoskins, noting that Jones “really made sure that I went to class. … He would check on me and make sure I was straight. He has been a great stress-reliever and a person to go to talk about what's going on with students, and he's just a good person overall."
Students tell ELi that this position has had a positive ripple effect in that students have seen his hiring as a strong example of the administration, too, listening to the students and making accommodations for their benefit.
Report by ELHS student Alex Hosey, graduate of ELi's Summer Youth Journalism Program, and photos by ELHS student Gary Caldwell. You can see more of Gary's photos of Jerry (and download them) here. Please credit "Gary Caldwell for ELi."
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