Andrew Jones was the very first student our organization helped in 2016. He was the Valedictorian at Amite High School but was denied the right to graduate because he refused to shave his facial hair. His story made national news when investigators reported kids of other races were allowed to graduate with facial hair in the same school district.
Jones was not only the sharpest student in his class but he was also the captain of their winning football team. Many speculated his denial to walk across the stage had much to do with the fact that he was a bi-racial student in a small town, from a poor family, and was the first Black valedictorian in the school's history with so many affiliated honors.
Reaux Fareal, Founder of the Parlay Brand, reached out to his political friends and helped to arrange a special graduation specifically for Jones in his hometown. Senator Katrina Jackson, helped to organize the event. With her influence more than 10 colleges made offers to Jones. Ultimately, he accepted a full scholarship to Grambling St. University. New Orleans Businesswoman, Fox Rich, was even present and presented him a car from one of her dealerships in front of the whole audience.
Stories like these warm our hearts and they grab immediate media attention in the moment. But, as the days pass, people tend to forget the magic of the moment. Many people didn't even know, when Andrew Jones graduated high school, he had just found out he would be a teen father. Juggling so much, he was still determined to pursue his college education at Grambling.
"I stayed in contact with Andrew while he was at Grambling. I even went there to visit him a few times to keep him focused. He was always humble and polite and determined to make it," said Reaux Fareal. "Within 30 seconds of talking to him, anyone could tell this young brother was special."
In 2020, Covid's impact prohibited public forums. So, graduations were canceled all over the country. But, due to Jones' triumphant journey, Parlay was able to get both Jones and Grambling St. University President, Rick Gallot, on a Zoom. President Gallot was so impressed with Jones' journey that he gave him a personal graduation via Zoom.
Jones became the first graduate in Grambling St. University's entire school history to get a private commencement by the President of the University. "I have followed this kid's story and we are proud of him. He exemplifies the courage and the determination it requires to be successful in this world and we are glad that Grambling could prepare him for a bright future," said Gallot.
Jones graduated from Grambling with Cum Laude status in 2020.
"Andrew's journey inspired me to continue using my platform to help students get quality education opportunities. Working so closely with his family and his commuinity, I saw the need for an organization to really focus on higher education, especially in the HBCU sector," said Reaux Fareal.
Andrew Jones was the first student to receive support from the Parlay Foundation and 7 years later we are about to help our 100th student with Financial Assistance attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Here is a link to the original story about Andrew in 2016: Amite High student given graduation after being told he couldn't walk (wbrz.com)