Richards Career Academy celebrates first-ever Gates Millennium Scholar

Demareo Jones,18, is the first student from Richards Career Academy to ever receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Jones will be attending Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University in the fall. (The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

Demareo Jones,18, is the first student from Richards Career Academy to ever receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Jones will be attending Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University in the fall. (The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

Getting scholarships for college has become increasingly competitive, and the Gates Millennium scholarship is no exception. Richards Career Academy Senior Demareo Jones, 18, was recently awarded the prestigious award that will cover tuition expenses all the way to the doctorate level for students pursuing coursework in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

The application process took a little more than a year, Jones said, but it was well worth the effort. “I knew I wanted to do aviation, but there was no way I could afford it,’” Jones said. “And I only had two options, go to college, or go to the military.”

Jones will be attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida this fall. He plans to major in aeronautical science and minor in political science with the end goal of becoming a commercial pilot when he completes his studies. He is also interested in eventually attending law school and has political aspirations as well. He will be the first person in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree, with the option of pursuing his Ph.D, all debt-free, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. During his time at Richards, Jones served as student body president, CEO of the CPS Student Advisory Council, Senior Council chair, co-founder of Richards Student Council, a member of Richards Local School Council and a youth activist. He was also asked to serve as the president for Student Government District Leaders, a national organization.

The young scholar has been very vocal in his school, engaging his fellow students and organizing around issues ranging from school lunches to the CPS budget. “When you give students power and you give them a voice, they want to come to school and they feel like they can accomplish something in life,” he said.

Jones said there are many lessons he will carry with him from his time at Richards and the numerous extracurricular activities he has been a part of during high school. Like many young people, his hero is his mother because of all the struggles she has overcome as a single mother.

“We’ve been in the shelter, we’ve been homeless and with her persistence, she kept moving forward no matter what came her way,” Jones said. He said he and his brothers always found peace of mind in his mother’s reassuring words—“Don’t worry about it, we got this. We got it, we got it, [mothers] don’t lie.”

With his infectious optimism, Jones said he is also inspired by the world itself and acknowledged that the many challenges we face on a global scale fuels his passion to fight for solutions. “You know how most people say students are the leaders of tomorrow? That’s completely false. Students are the leaders of today who are going to change the world of tomorrow.”

Jones had some very specific advice for his fellow students, which was basically to remind them to seek help or guidance whenever needed. “Students think they don’t have someone with them, but they have to know that there’s always somebody watching. There’s always someone out there to help them with open arms.”

Jones also encouraged aspiring student leaders to step up and question the myriad of social injustices they face on a daily basis with the eloquent wisdom of someone who would seem to be much older than 18.

“Don’t stand in the shadows. If you see something that is wrong, you question it and continue questioning it. Don’t settle for the answers the government gives you; you keep questioning it. Don’t let anyone tell you not to fight for what you believe in, because passion is stronger than anything on this planet. If you have passion, you just have to keep feeding your passion with the injustices that you see everyday, because the injustices you see everyday are a never-ending fuel. It’s like a renewable source of energy. You can continue feeding from it even when it’s gone. And there’s always something to fix. Even though youth think they’re powerless, you’re never powerless. You are less powerful standing by yourself, but obviously together, there’s strength in numbers. Nothing will come to you in this world easily, even if you work hard. You have to fight for everything.”