Fred Jones: Small Steps, Giant Leaps
For someone who spends a lot of time in midair, Fred Jones is an exceptionally grounded young man. The winner of the 2006 NCAA outdoor championship in the triple jump and an NCAA qualifier in both the triple and long jump events all four years at Tufts, the senior political science major has strived for nothing less than victory during his time as a Jumbo. But in both his athletic and academic life, it's preparation that Jones cites as key to his success.
"I feel like I'm a warrior getting ready to go compete in battle," explains Jones, describing how he feels when he puts on his uniform and track spikes. "To go out there and put on the colors of this university and for me to represent my team, my family, my background, I feel like I'm taking all that into jumps. Everyone sees what you're doing, and it's all on you."
As a high school freshman in Amherst, Mass., Jones spent most of his time on the basketball court. But while dunking, his vertical leap attracted the attention of his gym coach, who suggested he try out for the track and field team. After joining the team as a sophomore, he found his calling and began racking up wins.
Jones came to Tufts seeking to make an immediate impact on both the indoor and outdoor track and field squads—which he did, heading to the NCAAs as a first-year student and landing just centimeters away from a national championship. This year, he took second place in both the triple and long jump at the NCAAs, and is already a nine-time All-American.
While Jones came to Tufts focused on track, he was undecided on a major. That changed during the fall semester of his junior year, when he fell in love with politics after participating in the Tufts-in-Washington program.
An internship at the National Forum for Black Public Administrators spurred an interest in public policy, particularly with regards to education. Over the past two summers, Jones has also been part of a group of prominent African-American college males selected for a leadership program at the Institute for Responsible Citizenship.
Jones, who plans to pursue a graduate degree in public policy, is energized by the potential of government for changing people's lives. "We, as a country, have so much more to go," he says. "I feel like I want to be a part of the process of getting there."
Unlike some college students who dive into several activities as freshmen and eventually find their niches, Jones took what he calls "baby steps." He became involved with the Pan-African Alliance, of which he is now vice president, and the Black Men's Group, of which he is the co-president. He also does outreach work with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
In the course of these accomplishments, Jones has always sought to lead by example. He cites hard work, a positive attitude, preparation and organization as the keys to leadership both on and off the track.
"I just try to really work very hard, and I use that to even the playing field," says Jones. "If I know I may not be as talented or skilled in a certain area, at least I know I worked the hardest in it."
Profiles written by Georgiana Cohen
Action photo of Kunkes by Joanie Tobin, Tufts University Photo. Action photo of Hester by Melody Ko, Tufts University Photo. Other images courtesy of Paul Sweeney, Department of Athletics
This story originally ran on Apr. 2, 2007.