In a room full of eager to learn freshman, one student may be a little more focused than the rest.
At 16 years old, Ralph Jones is far from your typical freshman. As an engineering major, he's learning things that many adults don't even know, and he's doing it all before he is even legally a grown up.
"My friends in Atlanta are actually my age, and they're just getting excited about things like prom and their senior year of high school coming up and I'm kind of moving away from all that but at the same time they look to me for advice on things such as college decisions," he says.
He's only driven a car 3 times. He just got his license right before coming to college. He enjoys things like bowling and skating, and says his mom still checks in on him every day. Ralph is here on the Life Gets Better Scholarship and turned down offers from 3 other schools before deciding on FAMU. Those who know him say he's adjusting just fine away from home.
"They can't vote, they can't go to most of the campus activities, the parties, because they're not 18 years old, so they spend a lot of the time socializing during the day and studying at night, which is a good thing," says Dedra O'Neal, who works in the university's scholarship office.
As for finding a girlfriend while he's here....
"I tell everyone, you wanna know who my girlfriends are? I got one named Calculus, I have one named Chem, and I have one named Sociology, so it is what it is."
Ralph is on target to graduate at 20 years old, and plans to get his masters. He says its always been a dream of his to work at Lockheed Martin.
Tallahassee, Florida –
Florida A&M University (FAMU) freshman, Ralph Jones Jr., a 16 year old from Atlanta, Ga. turned down offers to Howard University, Fort Valley State University and Morehouse College to attend FAMU. In addition to these institutions, he also turned down prominent Ivy League institutions such as Harvard University to become a Rattler.
With an SAT score of 2,120 out of 2,400, it is understandable how he was admitted to the top institutions in the U.S.
Jones is a recipient of the Life-Gets-Better Scholarship and a National Achievement Finalist. Jones was awarded $120,000 in scholarships, which includes a stipend, tuition and fees, room and board, books and a laptop.
Being a member of a family who has a three-generation history of attending Fort Valley State University and parents who are educators, Jones feels that his childhood played a huge role in his development.
“My background growing up is a little different,” said Jones. “My parents are both educators. My mother is a first grade teacher and my dad was a college professor for some time. Needless to say, a large focus was on education in my house.”
By the time Jones was four-years old, he was adding, subtracting, dividing, reading at the ninth grade level and doing basic algebra.
As impressive as Jones’ ability to learn at a young age may seem, he continued to excel by setting a record of having the highest SAT scores in the past five years at his high school.
Jones’ former SAT math prep teacher and FAMU alumnae Kemberlee Pugh Bingham challenged her students by promising them an “A” in her class if they scored high on the SAT test. As a junior in high school, Jones scored a 1,910. The following year, he increased his SAT scores by more than 200 points.
“You could never forget a kid like Ralph,” said Bingham. “He is a child prodigy and has always been different from his peers. He would often provide a challenge. One day, we went toe-to-toe and he strongly argued his point. I appreciate a kid who
thinks critically; it shows that they care.”
When Jones shared his score with Bingham, she immediately inquired what college he planned to attend.
“When I first told her, she was excited,” said Jones, a mechanical engineering student. “One thing I can say about FAMU alumni is that they will lobby for their school. Before I knew it, she had gone over to her FAMU billboard and gave me a brochure on the Life-Gets-Better Scholarship, which was the first time I heard of the scholarship. She was like ‘Baby did you know you can go to FAMU for free for four years with a full scholarship and a computer?’ and I was like ‘no ma’am.’”
The following year, Jones attended the recruitment fair that FAMU hosted in Atlanta, Ga., where he felt the energy in the room as President James H. Ammons began to articulate the Rattler Charge.
“When Dr. Ammons got up, he began to say ‘When the dark clouds gather over the horizon’ there was this atmosphere of tension and I knew something was going to happen,” said Jones. “I did not know exactly what; it was very exciting. Then suddenly you heard hissing from all over the room and you saw people with fingers in the air and that is when you start to feel it. I was like wow! This is something bigger than what I could have expected.”
During the award ceremony, Ammons awarded Jones with a $120,000 scholarship for four years along with a list of other incentives. It was Jones first scholarship before he learned about being selected as a National Achievement Scholar.
“I am so pleased to know that he decided to attend FAMU,” said Bingham. “I love my alma mater. When he told me what he made on the SAT, I was in shock because you do not come across those scores in my environment.”
Jones expressed that he has earned his place at FAMU.
“Everything that I have worked for has helped me earn my place here,” said Jones. “I am going to earn my right to stay here and when I graduate, I am going to have earned my degree.”