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Meet Jay Francis

Jay's Headshot

In the weeks leading up to the NISTS 2019 annual conference, we're highlighting the transfer stories of this year's National Transfer Student Ambassadors. All four students will attend the conference and participate in a student panel conversation facilitated by Janet Marling, Executive Director of NISTS, during the closing session on Friday, February 15th.

Tell us about your transfer journey.

I am a dual citizen in two countries and have experienced and witnessed what it means to struggle and overcome in both places. I was born in Jamaica, where getting an education is seen as the ‘golden ticket’ to a better life. So from a young age, I’ve always known I would go to college, even though school in general was sometimes complicated for me. I had a hard time understanding the major concepts, but I persevered and worked through my problems, and overcame them. I may not be the best, but I strive to be, and that’s how I learned the life values that have guided my college journey: perseverance, hard-work, and dedication.

During my senior year of high school, I was constantly bombarded with talk about college and becoming an adult while still trying to figure who I was as a person. I was very interested in music production and looked for colleges in North Carolina that offered that major. That’s when Appalachian State University first came into the picture for me, but it turns out that you must be proficient in an instrument to be accepted into their music program, which I was not.

I thought I found the right school, and all my teachers recommended it. But I could not go as planned, and time was running out for me to consider other universities. I knew I had to go somewhere, so I applied to Wake Technical Community College. At first, I thought that I would spend two years there and then transfer somewhere with an associate degree. Was I wrong!

Around February of 2017, I was in a very dark, sunken place. I couldn’t pursue the career I wanted, and I was not living up to my life values. I spoke to my success coach, Sharia Ards, who—to this day—has always supported me and helped me become a better person. She directed me to the career development center, where I took an assessment that recommended Industrial Design might be a good field for me.

This is where Appalachian came back into view. App is one of the few schools that offers this program in North Carolina, so that discovery was the boost I needed to know I could achieve my dream. I worked hard and am now a Mountaineer, but I recognize that my time at Wake Tech allowed me to mature and get in the right mindset before moving to a four-year university.

Transfer Student Mentors at App State

Why do you want to be a Transfer Student Ambassador?

I believe that we never stop growing and learning, and that we can always learn from others. Although other transfer students may not have the exact same life experience as me, they might find motivation from my story.

As a Transfer Student Mentor at App State, I help many transfer students as they adjust to the App community. I believe that being a Transfer Student Ambassador will better equip me to help these students and grow our transfer community. The transfer community is unique at every college campus, so I’m excited to add to the discussion about helping transfer students.

Jay sitting by a campfire with transfer students new to App State

What is your advice to transfer students?

The most important advice that I can give to all transfer students is to get out of your comfort zone. Change only happens with resistance. Yes, you are in a new unfamiliar environment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your best foot forward.

For example, there are so many different opportunities and people that want to help transfer students on campus, but you must reach out. It’s a 50/50 relationship, and you must do your part to further your education.

Transfer students also must understand how to accept help and know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Get connected with your peers and college faculty. These are the people you see every day, so use that opportunity to create connections that can help you get acclimated to the college campus. Join clubs and surround yourself with like-minded people.

These are some of the reasons why I became a Transfer Student Mentor at App State. People like Jane Rex, who is the Director of Transfer Services, was able to see my potential to become a leader and encouraged me to apply.

No life is the same and not everyone takes the same path in life; we all are creators of our own yellow brick road. Along the way, there may be hiccups or sometimes the passage may be smooth. In the end, it is what you make of it that is important.


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