Non-traditional PDCCC graduate finds passion, purpose

Published 6:55 am Friday, May 3, 2019

Shanika Jones-Smith with Trina Jones, dean of student services and professional counselor at PDCCC. — Submitted Wendy Harrison

By Wendy Harrison


Shanika Jones-Smith, a single mother of two, was working as an office technician when she realized there had to be something more rewarding in life.

“I wanted to be an example to my children and pursue a better life for myself and them,” she said. “I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life, but I later found my purpose.”

Utilizing resources that were in her “back yard,” Jones-Smith decided to enroll at Paul D. Camp Community College. “I came to the conclusion that I could sit around feeling sorry for myself and blame my situation on other people, or I could dust myself off and do something about my situation,” she said.

“I was not sure what I needed to study at first, but I knew I had to start doing something. I met with Trina Jones who helped me decide to enroll in the general studies associate’s degree program.”

Jones is dean of student services and a professional counselor at PDCCC. “We discussed options, and planned her classes according to our transfer agreements so that her credits would transfer to other four-year colleges or universities. This allowed Shanika to maximize her transfer credits and get ahead of schedule,” Jones said. “Jones-Smith persevered above the odds and worked hard to achieve her academic and personal goals.”

Jones-Smith worked two jobs and took care of her children while taking a full load at PDCCC.

“There were times when I was overwhelmed and drained,” she said. “There were times when I failed a class, but I had to learn to take it as a lesson and not a loss, so I went back and tried again. My faith in God and looking at the faces of my two children every day gave me determination.”

Jones-Smith rose above all challenges and graduated with her Associate degree in Arts and Sciences in General Studies in May 2014. However, her goals were not set to end there. She enrolled at Old Dominion University and will have earned her bachelor’s degree in human services in May 2019. Last year, she also became certified by the Virginia Board of Counseling as a substance abuse counselor.

“I plan to continue my education and pursue entrepreneurship opportunities where I can continue to serve people,” she said. “My main focus is on single moms — they have a special place in my heart.”

The soon-to-be baccalaureate recipient noted that taking advantage of local resources at PDCCC opened up avenues and changed her life.

“Speaking on behalf of single mothers who feel like they are at a dead end, Paul D. Camp is an excellent place where you can be yourself and be nurtured while you grow,” she said. “The environment is comfortable and safe, and the instructors understand that each student learns differently.

“If you desire to go to college to take up a trade or get a degree — no matter how old you are or what your past looks like or how long it takes — you can pursue an education and you can succeed,” she said.

She shared one of her favorite quotes by David O. McKay in hopes of providing more inspiration to others when they are thinking about their futures: “’Find a purpose in life so big that it will challenge every capacity to be at your best.’”

WENDY HARRISON is the public relations specialist for Paul D. Camp Community College. She can be reached at