Jazzmin Mitchell was first accepted to Lipscomb University in Nashville as a college freshman in fall 2013. It was her dream school, but she couldn’t afford it. Six years later, this fall, she’s beginning at Lipscomb as a junior with a full scholarship, and PTK’s Golden Opportunity Scholarship helped her get there.
“I got in contact with Lipscomb through PTK,” she said. “I wouldn’t have applied there otherwise.”
Jazzmin, of Nashville, Tennessee, was the first in her immediate family to graduate from high school and enroll in college. After high school, when she couldn’t afford Lipscomb, she enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). She would meet her future husband, Cameron, there, but otherwise things weren’t going well.
She was on academic probation after the first semester and flunked out after the second.
“I was really overwhelmed, and I was under so much pressure,” she said. “I wanted to succeed. I didn’t tell anyone that I was failing. I was really stressed out.”
Jazzmin began working at a fast food restaurant in 2014. She and Cameron were dating by 2015, and she often complained to him about her job. He had graduated from MTSU with a degree in aerospace, but he was finding success as an actor, model, speaker, poet, and teacher.
For the next two years, Jazzmin continued to work in fast food, but she knew she wanted to do more. A mission trip to Haiti sparked an interest in working with youth, but with no experience, she didn’t think she’d find a job in that field.
Cameron was a constant source of encouragement, telling her to start looking anyway. She didn’t have to look far — a Boys and Girls Club down the street from her house was hiring, and she said goodbye to fast food in 2016.
Jazzmin helped plan programs for the 75-80 teenagers they served each day. It was challenging — she cried almost every night at first — but Cameron, the Teen Director, and even the CEO encouraged her to stick with it.
“I’m so glad I did,” she said. “Most of the kids there are in foster care or they’re adopted or they’ve been abused — they come from hard backgrounds.
“I’m still mentoring a girl I met there. They will always have a place with me.”
As she worked, Jazzmin was asked often whether she’d be returning to college. She regularly talked of the importance of college with the teens at the Boys and Girls Club, and she continued to watch Cameron’s career flourish. She also didn’t want her future children asking why she never went back.
“But I didn’t have the money, and I was afraid of failing again,” she said.
In May 2017, Jazzmin and Cameron were married. It seemed like the perfect time for a new start at school, and Cameron told her if she didn’t go now, she might not ever go back. So, that fall, at 22, she enrolled at Motlow State Community College.
She finished her first semester with a 4.0 GPA. Her goal was to get into Phi Theta Kappa, which she’d learned about at a club fair. She did her research and put it on her vision board. Her invitation came in the spring of 2018.
“I was really excited, and then I saw the fee, and I wasn’t sure,” she said.
At Cameron’s urging, she asked the advisor about financial help. She applied for PTK’s Golden Opportunity Scholarship, earned her advisor’s nomination, and received the membership fee waiver.
“I think it was one of the best things I could’ve done in my collegiate career,” she said. “I needed that accountability. I had my husband and my family, but I knew I needed a circle around me to keep pushing me forward.”
Jazzmin went with her chapter to the spring regional conference, where she decided to run for Regional Secretary. Winning the position made her an instant role model to other nontraditional students. Sharing her failures and how she made it through the low point of her first try at college has motivated others to keep going.
“It was amazing,” she said. “So often students fail the first time, so I was someone they could relate to in a leadership position.”
As a Regional Officer, Jazzmin attended PTK’s centennial convention, PTK Catalyst, in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2018. It was there that she connected with Lipscomb. She shared her story with the recruiter, and he told her about the Community College Transfer Trustee Scholarship.
She was one of just five students from Motlow and one of 80 from the entire state to apply and make it to the second round. From that, 25 were invited for interviews.
Only eight Tennessee community college students would receive the full-tuition scholarship, and Jazzmin was one of them.
“It was a gamechanger for me,” she said. “This is something that’s going to change my family’s life. I would never have thought I would have a full ride to my dream school.”
Now 24, Jazzmin hopes to get a bachelor’s degree in social work, followed by a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She wants to start a nonprofit that would target teens but ultimately help the entire family through preventative care.
While she’s on the right path now, Jazzmin needed a few pushes to get there. Whenever self-doubt crept in, Cameron helped her move forward.
“You really don’t know unless you try,” she said. “if I’d stayed in that mindset, I would never have applied for (the scholarship). You have to apply yourself.”
Jazzmin is adamant about keeping your options open and staying open-minded about your future. Apply to as many schools as you can afford, she said. Do your research and talk to people. And, be proactive — if you need help with letters of recommendation, writing applications, or prepping for interviews, ask for it.
And if you have a plan, don’t be shy about sharing it. In her application essay to Lipscomb, she outlined her vision so they could see exactly why they should invest in her and her life.
“You have to take control of your education,” she said. “It shows people you’re not playing around, that you have a plan.”
Support students like Jazzmin by participating in PTK’s first-ever Scholar Dash Virtual 5K, September 15-30. Register now!