'I just kept going'

DATE: Friday, March 1, 2024

"I felt so defeated at times, because I felt like I had so much to offer but nobody was seeing it. And I just cried. I screamed. I felt all the feelings, but one thing I never did was give up." – Kandice E. Jones '14

Kandice Jones '14

Kandice E. Jones '14 returned to campus this week to be part of a "Phenomenal Black Women's Panel," the final event in HCC's celebration of Black History Month. Jones studied human services at HCC and Westfield State University before heading on to Cambridge College, where she earned her master's degree in education with a concentration in mental health counseling. At the time of the panel discussion, Jones was just weeks away from her dissertation defense at American International College, where she is pursuing her doctorate in education with a focus on mental health counseling. For the past seven years, she has been working as a mental health counselor at the Center for Human Development in Springfield.

"Despite facing challenges associated with cerebral palsy, her faith and perseverance, Kandice has consistently leveraged her experiences as a catalyst for personal and professional growth," said panel moderator Julissa Colón, director of El Centro, in introducing Jones. "She firmly believes in the power of resilience and determination, embodying the philosophy that life's potential is only limited by one's willingness to embrace it fully." 

The following Q&A is adapted from her remarks on the panel. 

Q. Why did you think it was important to be here today for this discussion? 

Jones: "As an HCC alum, it is a pleasure to be here. Just having come back from an operation, I felt like I didn't have time since I had just gotten back to work. But I said, I'm going to make time, because HCC is my home, and so I'm glad to be here. As a person with a disability, I think it's important to show up for other people that may be experiencing the same thing, just to show them that they can use their voices, and that there's power in their womanhood as well." 

Q. What has helped you through the challenges on the path to success?  

Jones: "My faith is one of the biggest things that has helped me get to where I am today, and also surrounding myself with genuine people, good people that have my best interests at heart. I have a family that, even at my age, is still overprotective, but I realize that it's because they care about me, and I'm grateful for that, because not everybody has that." 

Q. You are now just weeks away from your doctoral dissertation, did you know when you were here that you wanted to reach that pinnacle of academic success? 

Jones: "Well, no, I didn't know. I started here in what they call remedial (developmental) classes, like 075 and 095, so, I absolutely did not see a doctorate in the picture. But HCC has molded my education and allowed me to want more education, honestly." 

"Even though HCC is a two-year college, I was here for four years, and I got discouraged being here for four years, but once I accepted that, and once I became my true authentic self, I got comfortable, and I just said, this is what it is, and I just kept going. Now that I am three weeks away from my dissertation defense. everyone is asking me: How do you feel?  How do you feel? How do you feel? For one, I can't help but cry at times, even though I have made it this far. I'm gonna try not to cry here." 

"I've had difficulties because of my physical disability, having major surgeries, back to back to back. I've hit roadblocks in the workforce. Because of my physical disability, people often see the outward appearance, so you're often judged on that outward appearance, and I was like that for most of my adult life, I didn't really start working til I was in my mid 20s. And I felt so defeated at times because I felt like I had so much to offer but nobody was seeing it. And I just cried. I screamed. I felt all the feelings, but one thing I never did was give up." 

"I allowed myself to have those moments. I allowed myself to scream, to cry, to talk, to express what I was feeling at whatever time I was feeling it. And that has allowed me to get to this point today, which I'm so grateful for, and I can't wait to roll across the stage to receive my doctorate." 

PHOTO by CHRIS YURKO: Kandice E. Jones '14, during her Feb. 28 visit to HCC for a "Phenomenal Black Women's Panel" discussion.