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We are excited to announce that we are welcoming a new champion to the CORE Community! Jeff Jones has joined our CORE Board of Trustees and brings nearly thirty years of experience in working with youth and families to our organization. Jeff is a Southern Nevada local and graduate of Rancho High School, who is retiring from a career as a Youth Probation Officer and Juvenile Services Manager with the Las Vegas Juvenile Justice Services Division. His grandfather and mother moved to Las Vegas in the 1970’s and Jeff’s lifelong experiences in Southern Nevada have given him a deep sense of understanding and connection to the local community. He says, “What many people don’t know is that North Las Vegas and Las Vegas are like two different communities, even though they are close together, they are kind of separate and have two different lifestyles – they’re almost like cousins in that regard.”
In reflecting on his childhood, Jeff remembers his time living at Casa Rosa off of Tonopah, and a program there called “Kids on the Move,” that he says “might have saved (his) life.” It was a program that in many aspects mirrors the work CORE strives to do today, and remains in his mind as he joins us in helping the families of our community. Jeff recalls that he “messed up” in his youth and that he “is a product of second chances,” an experience that has informed his career within the juvenile services system. “It’s important to treat people with dignity, to treat people with respect, and to treat people like someone who made a mistake. People make mistakes all of the time,” says Jeff.
For Jeff, his second chance came in the form of service to our country as an active member of the armed forces from 1986 through 1989. He says that he gained a sense of structure and discipline through his service, but knew that he wanted to pursue other avenues for his lifelong career. His childhood friend Lou Collins was instrumental in convincing him to go to Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana. He credits the university’s culture and motto “where everybody is somebody” with helping him to feel like a somebody, and also creating a lifelong mentality of how to treat people that he lives by to this day.
While studying Criminal Justice and Corrections at Grambling, Jeff started an internship with the Methodist Children’s Home that would influence the direction of his life. His manager, Keith Rhodes, who today serves as the CEO of American Red Cross North Texas, saw Jeff’s potential and promoted him to a supervisor position based on his aptitude for understanding kids. Jeff says that “it was tough work, making tough decisions for the kids” but that “it often felt like it wasn’t work” because he had a natural knack for explaining the system and how the kids could accomplish what they needed to. Jeff describes working with corrections as a hybrid job because, “not only do you carry a badge in your pocket, but you’re a social worker, and you might have to be a counsellor, you might have to be a minister, you might have to be a father figure, you might have to be a lot of things to get those kid’s attentions.” Jeff’s compassion for the youth he serves is immediately evident, particularly as he discusses his memories from some of the kids he has worked with over his career. Jeff says of one of his very first clients, Derrick, “I owe him a debt of gratitude because he made an impression upon me and showed me the ropes on how to work with system-impacted kids.”
Now that he’s retiring from his career with the juvenile justice services, Jeff is focused on bringing his experience and knowledge to CORE in order to help guide our outreach and services geared towards under-resourced youth in the 89106 community. In reflecting on what is needed most by local youth, Jeff says that it’s a combination of advocacy and non-traditional resources. In speaking about some of the challenges with expanding our program, Jeff explains that, “kids in our community are very prideful, because in the black culture we’re very prideful, so we think that we can do it by ourselves and that we need to do it by ourselves all the time. We think that if we see another culture involved in something that it’s not for us, and that’s not the case.” As CORE prepares to onboard a new cohort of Scholars this fall, we are committed to expanding our services in a way that more closely reflects the community and meets the needs of the Historic Westside. Jeff recently joined us for our first in-person community event of the year and reflected on his first impressions of CORE. “I saw community, everyone talking together and enjoying each other, and it was centered at Doolittle Park – right in the community – and I truly felt proud to be a part of it.”