Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the February issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Jeannette Cruz
Tim Jones’ parents owned a home in Peoria, a middle-class suburb of Phoenix, but they taught in the Murphy School District and had him go to school there to gain a different perspective.
“My mom, Pam Jones, was a curriculum developer for 20 years, and she wanted me to understand that everybody deserved a chance,” Jones said. “She always did things so liberally – she was a child of the ’60s who had a black husband and a mixed kid at a time when it wasn’t fashionable. Her family wasn’t on board with her having a black husband or her working in an inner city when there were ‘good’ schools.”
Now Grand Canyon University’s Co-Director of Diversity, Jones was left in the hands of a caretaker, Maria Guerrero, whom he called Nana. She taught him how to read and write and cared for him after school.
“A lot of my story is about community,” he said. “My mom trusted this little, tiny Mexican lady in the neighborhood who became my grandma immediately. I enjoyed it at my Nana’s and I didn’t want to go back to the middle class.”
Jones recalled how in the second grade, his mother had him ride a school bus with children with special needs. He dreaded it initially, but “two months into it, I loved them,” he said.
Jones also loved his teachers and friends at Alfred F. Garcia Elementary and often gave away his shoes and clothes to his poorer classmates. However, he had to be cautious so that they wouldn’t get robbed.
“Allies, gangs, drugs – we had to be cognizant of that,” Jones said. “That was just a part of life. You had people who were poor and then people who were really poor.
“Other kids wake up, have a hot, nice breakfast and go to school. These kids went through a lot of trouble to get to school, didn’t sleep much the night before and you’re supposed to be able to teach them? These teachers had a tough job and they did it well.”
As he learned to adapt to two different worlds, Jones said it was the foundation he needed for his current role at GCU. “Coming from that dichotomy and being mixed, I’m almost like a chameleon,” Jones said. “I think that’s what President (Brian) Mueller noticed about me – I’m able to talk to someone who’s from down there and also to University executives without having to change my character.”
He said of GCU’s partnership with Garcia, “My family gave so much of their lives to that area, and what makes me sad is that it is still a slum. There are so many people there that are incredibly smart, talented and capable. Hopefully with our influence, we’ll be able to show that. It’s going to be transformative for generations.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected].