At every event USF St. Petersburg has to offer, there is one attendee that is sure to be there. Every club has seen him at at least one meeting, and each and every person on campus knows his smiling face.
Quan Jones is in his fifth semester this fall at USFSP through Project 10’s Stingray Program, but the one class he takes per semester is the smallest part of his on-campus presence.
“When I got to campus my brother told me that you should always take advantage of every event and club I could because that is the best part about college,” Jones said. “In high school I always stayed home, so I told myself I wouldn’t do that again.”
Before arriving at USFSP, Jones attended Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg. During a field trip in his senior year, Jones visited the campus and knew that it was where he wanted to go after graduation.
Jones was born with an intellectual disability, so instead of applying through general admission he applied to the Stingray Program, which is a partnership between Pinellas County Schools, Project 10 and USFSP.
The program gives students between the ages of 18 and 22 with intellectual disabilities an opportunity for the college experience, developing skills important for employment, strong social relationships and independence.
Before being accepted into the program, Jones was interviewed by members from the program and school district. Danielle Roberts-Dahm is the project coordinator for USFSP that saw Jones enter the program.
According to Roberts-Dahm, Jones was an easy choice for the program because he was so passionate about getting into college.
“Sometime before I graduated [high school] they were going to cancel the program, but they didn’t so I got to interview for it,” Jones said. “It was really exciting to get [the] opportunity to be interviewed. It was even more exciting to get the acceptance letter in the mail.”
A 10-part curriculum is at the center of the program, which teaches students life skills important for adulthood, with an emphasis on off-campus life. Students also take a college course each semester.
In addition to this, faculty and student mentors, led by Mentor Coordinator and graduate student Eric Vaughan, help students in the Stingray Program to have a real college experience.
Following his brother’s advice, when Jones arrived on campus his first semester he started going to any event that he saw happening.
“I started meeting new people right away. I remember that the first club I went to was the Career and Culture Exchange Club. It made me a little nervous, but since I love to get to know new people I got over it.”
During USFSP’s annual Get on Board Day, Jones signed up for every club his first semester. He was everywhere on campus.
“Right now I can’t even list all of the clubs I am a part of. There are too many, but I do run my own club called Bull Buzz that focuses on community service,” said Jones.
Jones and the other students in the Stingray Program connect with the community outside of the campus through the Bull Buzz Club. For the last two years, Jones was voted president of the club.
Along with being the president of Bull Buzz, Jones has two internships on campus. He works at the Reef on the weekends and with Campus Recreation on Wednesdays. In his second year at USFSP, he also had an internship at Haney Landing Sailing Center on the Waterfront.
In the past two years, Jones has taken marine biology, leadership in the great outdoors, environmental science and beginning reporting classes. This semester, Jones is taking photojournalism to hone his skills for his future career path.
“After I am done with the program I want to go to St. Petersburg College for two years and then go somewhere else to get my bachelor’s. I eventually want to be a wildlife photographer.”
Jones has one more year following spring semester in the Stingray Program under the current rules. As long as he’s at USFSP, he hopes to stay as involved as possible on campus.