Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series of feature stories that highlight diversity on Florida Poly’s campus and celebrate Black History Month.As associate director of career services at Florida Polytechnic University, Pairris Jones revels in her front-row seat to student success.
“I feel like a proud mom. A lot of students will come and tell me they got the position they wanted, or their interview went well and I have the pleasure of celebrating with them,” Jones said. “They’ll say, ‘Thank you for your genuine care or concern,’ and that is something I feel is a gift.”
Jones works to connect students with potential employers and internship sponsors and build relationships with the business community throughout Central Florida. She also helps students improve their résumés, interview skills, and professional confidence.
Jones currently is preparing for the spring career fair, which will bring dozens of employers to campus to connect with students. The event will be from 1-4 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Saddle Creek Logistics Commons in the Innovation, Science, and Technology building.
“I always like to tell people that I have the pleasure of helping students transform the curriculum into currency so they can live the lives they want to live,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun because I get to help them see the bigger picture.”
The position Jones holds today is the natural result of a lifetime spent wanting to help people. Growing up, she wanted to be a pediatrician before realizing it might not be the best fit. By college, she considered becoming a hydrogeologist to help with water purification in third-world countries.
“My roommate told me, ‘If there’s a theme going on here, it’s that you genuinely love helping people,’” Jones said.
She soon shifted her focus to student success and never looked back.
“I love this – being in the trenches and helping students develop into the stars that they are,” Jones said. “I get to be the person that holds the mirror up, helps them see themselves with different lenses that do not magnify their imperfections, and encourage them not to doubt themselves.
“They are capable of doing so much and sometimes they need to hear that.”
Jones carries the same positivity into all her interactions around the campus.
“I think I’ve always been a positive person, but I have seen the negative effects that can happen to an individual who doesn’t know their worth,” Jones said. “I’ve been extremely intentional in making sure people know that they’re noticed and valued.”
Jones said she is honored that women and minority students may look to her as a role model as they make their way through the university experience. She said while she tries to connect with all students, she encourages female and minority students to positively impact the world around them even if they are underestimated and underrepresented.
“My advice is to focus on the lessons learned and appreciate the process as you move forward to where you want to go because this will strengthen you and help make you who you are,” Jones said. “Stay focused on the bigger picture and build relationships along the way.”
This mentality has helped her throughout her own life.
“I always encourage students to make sure their footprints are as big as possible in the sand so when someone comes up behind them, they’ll be able to follow the blueprint they’ve laid out.” Jones said.
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