by Sheryl Marlar

Raequon Jones came into this world as a surprise. When Ronette Jones-Milligan went into labor, she headed to the hospital to have her baby. But unbeknownst to her and her doctors, she was carrying twins.

Raequon JonesThe babies were positioned in such a way that Jones’ brother was on top of him, hiding his very existence throughout the entire pregnancy. Imagine the surprise to his mother and her doctors.

Due to his positioning at birth, Jones had medical difficulties and needed immediate care. Perhaps that was one of the factors that influenced Jones to make his mark in nursing.

“They did their best to save me,” he said. “I’m here today because of them, so I’m going to do the best I can.”

Doing his best has certainly paid off for Jones. This spring, he will graduate from the University of West Georgia with a degree in nursing. Jones’ family moved to Georgia from Seaford, Delaware, several years ago seeking better job and school opportunities.

Jones began his career of success at Creekside High School in Fairburn, Ga., and he excelled both academically and athletically, playing basketball, football and participating in track and cross-country.

“Physical health is just as important as mental health,” he said.

Raequon JonesHe came to UWG on an academic scholarship from the Honors College. While he was originally interested in a career in biology, an advisor told him that nursing provided more opportunities to work directly with people, which appealed to Jones’ family-oriented sensibilities.

But this degree hasn’t come without challenges. As an African-American male, Jones is a minority in a profession dominated by white females, and he is the only black man in his nursing cohort.

“When you look different, you’re expected to act differently,” he said. “But I don’t care about anyone’s social or economic status, or their sexuality or their color. Treat me with respect, and I’ll treat you with respect.”

Working alongside his peers at UWG, Jones has learned that the goal isn’t to win or lose, but simply to learn.

“If I could talk to a younger me, I’d say it’s not a competition,” he said. “You’re not here to beat anyone; you’re here to make yourself and your family proud and to make a better life for yourself.”

Jones believes that hard work, persistence, dedication and respect will pay off. He hopes to be an inspiration to younger students.

Facing the Odds: Only Black Male in Nursing Cohort Looks Forward to Graduation“When I walk in wearing my scrubs, and they say ‘Rae, how do you do it? I want to be like you.’ I want to tell them I’m using my potential. Anyone can do it,” he said. “And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. The faculty and staff in the Tanner Health System School of Nursing are wonderful. Amy Farmer, BSN director, and Dr. Cynthia Epps, associate dean, have helped me tremendously.”

Upon graduation, Jones has some options. He has already been accepted into the Nurse Residency Program at Emory and at Wellstar. This program provides the platform for recent nursing student graduates to enter the workforce as nurses. In this program, he would be focused in the ICU/CCU settings.

After completing the program, he would have the choice to stay on as a full-time employee and receive financial benefits for their medical program. This would allow him to pursue his ultimate goal of going on to medical school.

“I’m just a vessel—here to help future generations, my children and my grandchildren,” he said. “If I can make it, anyone can make it.”

Posted on January 6, 2017