After deciding against college when she graduated high school, Chanel Evans never could have predicted where her community college would take her two decades later.
At the time of her high school graduation, Chanel was struggling mentally and decided against the “illusion of college.” Instead, she entered the workforce full-time as a training manager.
After two decades in the workforce, her family inspired her to revisit her decision on pursuing higher education.
“The decision to return to my academia happened upon me at a time when repurposing the pain of familial loss was my only viable option,” Chanel said.
In 2020, Chanel’s infant daughter, Chantel, passed just hours after her birth. In the following months, Chanel lost her younger brother, Rashad, as well.
“Rashad often spoke of my collegiate completion as he knew of my deep-rooted desire to finish what began nearly two decades prior,” Chanel said.
In honor of her brother, Chanel took his encouragement to heart and dually enrolled at Jones College and Cornell. At Jones, she began studying for her associate of arts degree in psychology. She also studied online at Cornell for a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion certification for human resources professionals.
As a post-traditional and online student, Chanel worried that she would be an outsider among her peers. However, in her experience, she found that the opposite was true.
“I soon learned that my seasoned perspectives were prized and welcomed by both my professors and peers alike,” Chanel said.
At her community college, Chanel excelled in her academics, and was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa. The mission and opportunities offered immediately resonated with Chanel.
“Prior to joining Phi Theta Kappa, I conducted extensive organizational research and was pleasantly surprised to discover the beautiful symmetry in existence between the Hallmarks of PTK and my core values,” Chanel said. “In addition, I felt that the membership would afford me the perfect opportunity to reintegrate into campus-life while strategically positioning me as a highly competitive scholarship candidate.”
Membership in PTK ended up offering Chanel even more than she had initially imagined. She found a family within the Rho Sigma Chapter and support from her PTK advisors and college president.
“My PTK advisors and college president, Dr. Jesse Smith, do not see a non-traditional/online student,” Chanel said. “They recognize and appreciate the value that I bring to Jones College and the Rho Sigma chapter, and they ensure inclusion.”
Chanel became an active member in her chapter. She serves as the Honors in Action director and a chapter officer.
“I made a conscientious decision to be further challenged and enlightened by some of the most brilliant minds I have ever had the privilege of encountering while also doing what comes natural to me—being of service to others,” Chanel said.
Her membership in PTK has affirmed to herself her ability to overcome adversity. Since attending Jones College and becoming a member of Phi Theta Kappa, her life has changed. She has received several private and Foundation scholarships. She also became a member of the 2023 All-Mississippi Academic Team and a 2023 All-USA Academic Team Nominee.
As a result, recruiters from some of the top colleges in the nation reached out to her, including Columbia, Yale, Brown and Amherst.
Chanel recently received her certification, and she graduated with associate of arts in psychology. She is returning to Jones College for her final year there to complete another degree. She will also be serving as a PTK officer.
After her final academic year at her community college, Chanel has made her decision on where she will go next. In the Summer of 2024, she will commence her bachelor of arts in Organizational Leadership at Northern Kentucky University. That fall she will also begin pursuing her liberal arts degree in humanities at Harvard Extension School.
Despite initially not seeing college as the path for her, her plans do not stop there. She aims to complete a master’s and a doctorate in education.
“Ultimately, I aspire to apply my education and more than 20 years of cultivated training and development expertise to a senior role within the human relations or public administration fields,” Chanel said.
In honor of her brother, Chanel has also created the Rashad Evans Memorial Scholarship at Jones College. The scholarship will carry on her brother’s legacy and recognize him for being the catalyst for her return to school. The annual scholarship of $1,000 will be awarded to one deserving, non-traditional student at Jones College.
“I cannot imagine a time will come when the surreal sensation of his absence will be less arduous to process, but I can celebrate his legacy by pouring into others that which has been bestowed upon me,” Chanel said. “This scholarship will allow me to further encourage other non-traditional students who are committed to such an exigent undertaking!”