How Jones’ servant heart impacted many students at APU and will continue to do so in her future endeavors.


On APU’s east campus, right behind Seven Palms, you will find a small building. That small building is the offices of TRIO Student Support Services, a program that works with first generation college students.

This program, which helps first generation college students navigate university life, has been led by Rhonda Jones since May 2020. From in-person to online Zoom meetings, posting scholarship lists, spreading the word about workshops and simply being there for someone to talk to, Jones has always been there to serve students.

Her spirit of serving is always felt and has been a consistent trait throughout her life and her family.

“My father and great aunt were a part of the civil rights movement in Alabama. That part of bringing equity and civil rights is part of me wanting to serve this community,” said Jones. 

“On my mother’s side, my grandfather was a baptist preacher. We would have people in our home every weekend for Sunday dinner … whether my grandmother had a lot of food to serve or a little,” laughed Jones. 

Even though those memories cause her to crack a smile, witnessing the hospitality, acts of service and giving to those in need being modeled in her family left an impression on her heart. Jones knew from that moment on, reaching out to others was going to be her life’s main goal.

Jones, being a first generation college student herself, knew that the extra support academically and socially would have benefited her back in her education journey.

“I didn’t benefit from a TRIO. I want students to have the help and have that support. To be able to ask questions and share what they are going through,” she said.

As TRIO director, Jones made sure to address the struggles of first generation students.

Programs and activities for commuter students, workshops provided throughout each semester, visiting graduate school, academic and financial support and the ability to schedule a meeting with TRIO advisors have flourished under her.

Jones’ stewardship also inspired former and current volunteering TRIO students to come in and become ambassadors within the program. 

“We were able to identify leaders. People who had excelled in TRIO and came in like many first gen students. They mentored the younger students who were just coming in,” explained Jones.

New students were able to find study groups, meet other students in the same major, have a mentor that knows what they’re going through and make connections in the APU community, all thanks to the ambassador program.

Under Jones’ leadership, a TRIO advisory board was also created. The board notifies and explains the situations that first-gen students are facing to the academic success center, the student financial services and other offices.

“By having this advisory board and being able to explain students’ unique challenges, we now have more allies and referrals to the program. They now know this is a place where we will work with and cultivate students,” said Jones.

Another goal Jones accomplished during her time at APU was getting her doctorate while serving as the TRIO director.

“APU was definitely instrumental in their support for me getting it. I began my undergraduate and graduate degrees here [APU]. It was special for me to work here and get my doctorate degree while working in this program,” she said.

Jones is going to continue her mission of serving as the Director of Diversity Retention and Student Success at Liberty University, striving to highlight and showcase the needs of first generation students on an institutional level. 

While it’s sad to see Jones go, the impact she had during her time here at APU has been felt and will continue on.

During this interview, Jones wanted to leave with a few words of encouragement: “Continue. All the days are not the same. There are going to be great days and there will be tough days. But if you continue, eventually, you will reach your goal of getting your degree. If you can just continue through the good and bad days and not get distracted. Remember why you’re here. You’ll get there and you’ll be so grateful that you did.”