Jaevon: Developing the college mindset

In high school he was, in many ways, an unusual student. Jaevon was well-rounded and possessed many gifts, but had many unconventional interests.

Unlike most American teenage boys, Jaevon was far more interested in researching Socrates and analyzing the deeper meanings of his philosophy than he was in internet gaming.

“I was known as the kid whose hand was up first, who read extra pages and would prioritize work over fun,” Jaevon, a Rutgers University student and economics major, wrote in his college personal statement. “I was born and raised in Newark, but am I defined by Newark? My commitment to my own free will and refusal to be determined by my inner-city surroundings earned me much contempt from my peers. I was often bullied.”

A Pathways Team Teacher at Jaevon’s school, who also was then his sophomore English teacher, recognized both his enormous intellectual and social potential and his need for a safe space to be smart.

“If you plan on going to college,” she told Jaevon, “and you want to plan for your future, apply to Pathways.”

After just one semester in Pathways, Jaevon wrote of it: “it is a rare creature that is innovative compared to standard teaching… [It] has gotten me into the mindset of college life, along with repairing certain skills.”

Jaevon is the first member of his immediate family to attend college. After his freshman year living and studying on campus, though, the Covid-19 global pandemic sent him back to his childhood home to continue his studies. While taking a challenging astronomy class, it quickly dawned on Jaevon how much the vital lessons he learned in Pathways were influencing his ability to navigate the challenges of distance learning.

“There are 80 students in that class and with science, you have to memorize lots of information for tests,” Jaevon says. “I can read the textbook and access the information, but you need to get other people together, organize study groups and find the right online platforms for having the meetings. Pathways gave me that sense of planning and organizing. I have to organize whatever I do in my life. A lot of skills from Pathways are applicable and going to be transferable later in life.”

It also helped Jaevon sharpen his prioritizing, time management, and critical thinking skills as he decides on a minor.

“Pathways taught me in high school when I was applying for college scholarships to establish a starting point, go through the necessary steps to organize, and track the results — basic perseverance,” says Jaevon, who earned six different ones. “So I’m using those skills to figure out what other courses I might need to take, what prerequisites I might need, and eliminating other fields that don’t interest me.”

For Jaevon, it’s a continuation of a journey that picked up steam as he participated in a Pathways “College Day” session featuring college graduates schooling Pathways Scholars on their experiences, teaching them about college culture, and explaining the different types of available degrees.

“Without Pathways,” Jaevon says, “I wouldn’t have known all the hypotheticals, like how to pick classes, or how to pick a major. I wouldn’t have figured it out from watching YouTube.”

Pathways would salute Jaevon in 2019, naming him its recipient of the Ophelia J. Berry Award for Excellence, the organization’s highest student honor.

Despite social restrictions in the COVID-19 age denting people’s ability to make friendships, Jaevon still has his fellow Pathways to College alumni network. He reaches out to and connects with other former Scholars at Rutgers and nearby Montclair State University.

“We still talk to each other and help each other out,” Jaevon says. “It’s a cohort. It’s the same way how if you spend a certain amount of time with some people, a close-knit group forms and a bond happens — especially if it’s a group where the focus is on bettering ourselves. It’s about having shared values.”