For Deondre’ Jones, it’s all about passion, making a difference
It was his passion for service and a desire for an international experience that led Deondre' Jones, a rising senior in the NC State Poole College of Management, to join NC State’s Alternative Service Break trip to Belize in spring 2014.
“The trip's focus was sustainability through agriculture, so while we were there, the group built fermentation boxes and drying sheds for the local Belizean farmers to use with their cacao beans,” he said. Cacao is the plant used to produce chocolate.
“By helping produce more of these facilities for the farmers, they can ferment and dry their own cacao beans. This means that they will fetch a higher price on the market. Thus, our work helped the ecosystem and the economy of the area,” said Jones, who is majoring in economics with a concentration in business economics and a minor in nonprofit studies.
The trip was a perfect fit for his academic studies, but Jones cautions against selecting one of NC State’s international service experiences based on career goals.
“Career wise, the trip definitely helped me learn that every person on a team has something special to contribute to the team. Also, it helped me realize that there are always new skills to be learned,” he said.
As an economics major, Jones said he understood why the service project was helping the local economy of Belize, but his academic major “didn't play a huge role in what I was doing on my ASB trip. My minor in nonprofit studies, however, was integral in helping to rationalize what the impact of our service was on all parties involved,” he said.
“However, I can't stress enough that one shouldn't apply to an ASB trip simply because it fits in with their academics. ASB is about passion and desire to make a difference. As long as you have that, you're perfect for an ASB trip,” Jones said.
“It's very difficult to put into words how amazing this experience was for me,” he added. “I learned so much about the culture, traditions and lifestyle of the Belizeans while putting in honest work to serve the community. Plus, the locals really immersed us in their culture with their hospitality. I left a piece of myself in that country, and I will miss it for every second until I go back.”
The community was supportive of the students’ efforts, Jones said. “By the time we left the town of Punta Gorda, Belize, we were greeted in the mornings by the people we had met. The community was grateful that we were serving them, but more importantly, we were grateful that the community was serving us,” he said.
“One of the locals named John told me something that I'll never forget. He said, ‘Everything that we take from Belize, we give back in some way.’ “That became my mantra very quickly,” Jones said.
Jones is also 'giving 'back' at NC State, where he is a member of the Inter-Residence Council. The residential resource organization represents on-campus residents and provides leadership, services and opportunities for linkages between residents and the larger university community and educates the residents to promote diversity and serve as a voice to the university. Jones has served on the council for three years.
Jones provided his comments in an email interview for this story.