Mary Jones ’12 wasn’t thrilled to receive 40 Colleges That Change Lives as a birthday gift from her parents, but upon encouragement from her older sister, she read it. When several colleges listed in the book piqued her interest, she contacted each school requesting more information. Earlham’s Office of Admissions was the only school to return Jones’s call, which led to her discovery that Earlham was the perfect fit.
A member of the inaugural class of environmental studies majors, Jones put her passion and education into real-world practice even before graduating.
Among other activities, the Round Rock, Texas, native served as a Bonner Scholar. As a service project, and to also fulfill her environmental studies field experience, she planned, organized and crafted a youth community garden on the north side of Richmond. Creating the community garden helped eradicate a “food desert” (an area underserved by fresh foods), encouraged children to become enthusiastic about growing their own food, established a partnership with Townsend Community Center, and developed networking relationships between city leaders and the community.
Jones honed her skills in grant writing when she and classmate Sarah Waddle applied for the Davis Projects for Peace grant in 2012. The $10,000 grant funded the Townsend Food Project, which expanded the work of the youth community garden by introducing a weekly farmer’s market, offering cooking classes and creating a community cookbook.
Passionate about strong relationships within the wider community, Jones served on the Richmond/Wayne County Environmental Council, where she partnered with local leaders about recycling and other environmental issues.
After graduating, Jones found that she was tailor-made for a position available at Cope Environmental Center due to the skill set and relationships that she had developed while an undergraduate at Earlham. As Program and Development Coordinator, she now divides her time between leading and supervising Cope Center programming (such as field trips and classroom presentations to youth), and working on fundraising projects (including grant writing and donor database management). Looking back, Jones recognizes how her experiences both in and out of the classroom groomed her for the position.
Jones recalls two faculty members who were a special source of support during her years at Earlham. She appreciated Jana Schroeder, director of civic engagement, who served as a guide and mentor. Jones notes that she still seeks Schroeder’s advice to this day. Professor of Art Nancy Taylor introduced Jones to weaving, which she has continued to pursue as a creative outlet.
Jones has seen the value of a liberal arts education firsthand, obtaining a well-rounded education at Earlham and taking it to the wider community for the greater good. As she states, “my life is very rich” because of her Earlham experience.
If you are interested in a career in sustainability, visit the Get Involved! page at Earlham's Sustainability Office website.
— Photo by Rudhian Chlissma ’15