Student Spotlight: Asia Jones
Asia Jones (Environmental Science ’22) was searching for change when she discovered New England College, the place that would become her home away from home. At age 11, Asia had just entered middle school when her mother passed away, leaving Asia and her younger sister in the care of their loving grandmother, Joyce Neal. They lived together in Palm Beach, Florida.
“My grandma even went to the trouble of buying a larger home so that my sister and I would have enough space.” Family support didn’t stop with Neal, though. Asia’s four aunts stepped in to fill any gaps and to make sure Asia and her sister felt safe and loved. “Their support made me who I am today.”
And, when it came to Asia’s basketball games or her sister’s cheerleading competitions, their grandmother could be counted on to cheer from the stands. “She is our biggest fan.”
Asia received offers to play basketball at two Florida colleges, both of which she considered before realizing that her grandmother was right—she needed to be someplace new. As it turned out, NEC’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Erica Ledy, spotted Asia on the basketball court during a recruiting trip to see another player.
“I was at the Unsigned Senior Showcase at Archbishop McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches, Florida, checking out a prospective recruit, Bri Pierreval, when I noticed Asia playing point guard, and I liked how she played,” remembers Ledy. “It turned out that Bri and Asia were close friends, and I figured if I could get them both, I would have hit the jackpot.” Ledy did recruit both women to play for the NEC Pilgrims. However, she couldn’t have known then the legacy Asia would leave at NEC.
“It was February 29, and we were at the NECC [New England Collegiate Conference] Championship game against Eastern Nazarene College on their home court,” says Ledy. “They had beat us twice in the regular season, and the pressure was on. Our leading scorer fouled out. We wrote up a play, and the team ran it perfectly. Asia scored. Nazarene took the lead again. So, Asia ran it back down the floor and scored again.” NEC won the Conference Championship that day, solidifying a two-year reign. Asia was named Most Valuable Player.
A month earlier, Asia’s family surprised her at the January 25 home game against Dean College. Fourteen of them filed into the stands to watch Asia play and to celebrate her upcoming birthday. Asia never missed a beat. “She scored 15 points that game,” Ledy says.
Now in her third year, Asia enjoys the hands-on learning opportunities, including wildlife collection and observation exercises, in her Environmental Science courses. And, like her peers, she has been subjected to course delivery modifications during the pandemic.
“The transition to remote learning hit me hard. I had been thriving in my interactive, on-ground courses, and I suddenly found myself stationed in front of a computer screen. I don’t know how I would have managed without the advocacy and support of my coaches and professors.”
Through it all, Asia’s grandmother still calls her every day to check in and make sure she is doing well. “She reminds me that I have lots of reasons to be really proud of myself. No matter how many times I get knocked down in life, I know that I will never give up. My grandmother taught me that, and my NEC family makes sure I won’t forget it.”