Six years ago, as a 33-year-old military veteran with a thriving family in Jacksonville, Fla., Jeremaine Jones had just accepted a post with the U.S. Merchant Marines when a tire on his family’s SUV blew out on Interstate-95. The accident changed his family’s lives forever. In fact, it claimed the life of his youngest daughter, Nakia, who was just five years old. His 11-year-old middle daughter, Charmaine, suffered a brain injury; his wife Mary had minor injuries; and Jeremaine was left a paraplegic.
After months of rehabilitation, with Charmaine along side, she made nearly a full recovery, and Jeremaine learned to live with a spinal injury that confined him to a wheelchair.
Before the accident, he had started classes to earn a degree at Everest University-Jacksonville. He wanted to complete it, yet, making the decision to return to school under these circumstances was trying. But, inspired by the motto: “the world keeps moving forward – with or without you,” he found the inner strength to overcome his disabilities. He could not stand to look at that chair and the obstacles that came with it, but he knew had to make the decision. He says he never looked back since.
In November 2009, Jeremaine proudly graduated with an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice. That accomplishment became even more meaningful when his oldest daughter, Jessica, who was not in the accident, gave birth to his grandson, Khamari, who is now nearing his second birthday.
Then, unexpectedly, he was honored by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) as the 2010 Graduate of the Year in the state. Mary was by his side as he proudly accepted the award.
Jeremaine, who was interviewed by the Florida Times-Union newspaper and has spoken at subsequent graduations, wants to share his story, because if he can overcome all the grief he endured to go back to school, others can see that a college degree is attainable for them, too.