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The Reach

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“PTK Changed Everything for Me”

“PTK Changed Everything for Me”

Rashida Jones grew up fast in the East Side of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

She was raised by a single mother who often worked multiple jobs, so she was home alone a lot. She witnessed gang violence and shootings. She graduated from high school in 1998 but received a five-year suspended sentence in 2000 for selling drugs.

“I always did good in school, but I didn’t plan to go to college,” she said. “People said I wasn’t smart enough.”

Rashida believed them. But, she would go on to prove them all wrong — even herself — and rise to be a leader in Phi Theta Kappa and a college graduate.

It took some time. In 2000, Rashida was a mother to a young daughter. She wanted more for her family, so she tried her hand at classes in local for-profit colleges. She finished in 2002 with certificates in medical assistance/phlebotomy and information management.

“I couldn’t find a job,” she said. “They wanted experience, so it was a waste of money.”

Nearly a decade passed before Rashida decided to check out Oklahoma State University at Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC). Now with four daughters at home, she began taking classes in 2011, and her invitation from Phi Theta Kappa came her second semester.

“I scraped up some money and joined PTK, and it completely changed everything for me,” she said.

Rashida joined the Alpha Pi Nu Chapter, and soon her advisor, Catherine Palmer, noticed how outspoken she was and asked if she’d like to be a chapter officer. She began over leadership and moved up to chapter president.

After attending her first Oklahoma/Arkansas Regional Convention, Rashida ran for and was elected regional president the next year.

“Phi Theta Kappa made me know that I could do it,” she said. “I was surprised and real excited to see where I would go from there.”

She next ran for International Vice President for Division 3 in 2014. She was runner-up for the position, and she was selected by the International Officer candidates to receive the Orlowski Award, which honors the candidate who best exemplifies PTK’s hallmarks of scholarship, leadership, fellowship, and service.

Rashida took advantage of every opportunity afforded to her through PTK and her college. She completed Competitive Edge and a Leadership Development cohort on Facebook. She volunteered with her chapter at the local Salvation Army — something she continues today — and received the SHINE Award for completing more than 200 hours of community service.

She was a Martha Burger Mentor at OSU-OKC, an honors graduate, and Student Government Association President. She was an Oklahoma Newman Civil Civic Leader and the Black Student Association Vice President.

She did all this while working full time and raising her daughters.

“It was very tough,” she said. “There were days I felt like giving up, but I knew I had to keep pushing for me and my girls. I wanted my kids to see me working hard so they would know they’d have to work hard too.”

Rashida completed two associate degrees at OSU-OKC, in enterprise development and early care and child development. She didn’t have to worry about her next steps — those plans were already made.

During a Phi Theta Kappa convention, Rashida attended the Senior College Transfer Fair and met a recruiter from Jackson State University (JSU) in Mississippi. The historically black university offers one of the best scholarship programs to PTK transfer students: a full tuition scholarship that includes room and board and an additional $1,000 for books.

“Transfer students — particularly Phi Theta Kappa students — are so strong academically that we know they’re going to do well and graduate,” said Paul Scott Sr., Community College Recruiter at JSU.

Nine Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) offer transfer scholarships exclusively for Phi Theta Kappa members. The details of each scholarship vary but are available at

JSU has an active PTK alumni association on campus, and all Phi Theta Kappa members are invited to join the DuBois-Harvey Honors College. Approximately 800 community college students transfer to JSU each year.

Unable to leave Oklahoma, Rashida joined JSU’s wide online community. Paul said the college has as many services and resources available online as possible to keep its online students engaged, and they are regularly invited to on-campus events.

At JSU, Rashida was inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Chi, Tau Sigma, Alpha Kappa Mu, and Golden Key honor societies. In early May, she traveled to Jackson with her mother, her daughters, and a friend to walk in her graduation ceremony at JSU, where she received a bachelor’s degree in early care and family services.

Rashida plans to get her master’s degree and hopes to one day own a childcare facility for children with special needs.

Rashida is clear that she didn’t do this alone. Her Phi Theta Kappa advisors were key supporters, as was former Oklahoma/Arkansas Regional Coordinator, Dr. Jim Mauldin. And, she developed a wide network of friends and cheerleaders among the PTK members she met at regional and international events.

“They motivated and inspired me,” she said. “It’s always good when you have people like that. I never really had people like that before.

“Without PTK, I wouldn’t have a bachelor’s degree. I might not have finished my associate degree. But there are so many people pushing you to do better.”

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