IMSA Student Finds Purpose As Debate Team Leader

This article was first published by FOX 59, David Gay,  reporter for FOX 59

INDIANAPOLIS — The moment that Tamaurion Jones, or TJ, knew that there needed to be a change in his lifestyle was when some of his friends were arrested.

Jones, a 17-year-old student at the Indiana Math and Science Academy, was struggling in school, and was getting suspended. But that day was a wake-up call for Jones.

“I was hanging around a lot of bad people– I wasn’t feeling good hanging around those people. They were doing a lot of bad things,” Jones said. “I decided I didn’t want to be another stereotype, I didn’t want to be another digit in the system…

“It was a day where I seen my friends get arrested and my mom was like, ‘I am happy that’s not you.’ And it would have been me if I chose to go out with them that day.”

Now, Jones is the captain of his school’s debate team, works full time and has transformed, according to his family and teachers, into someone with a bright and positive future.

Nancy Baker, the debate coach at the school, said that she believes Jones is a perfect example of a student making a change for himself. Baker said she has seen growth in Jones and growth in his maturity.

“He went from someone who was sometimes angry and frustrated and agitated to being this confident, helpful student,” she said.

Tanesha Jones, TJ Jones’ mother, said there has also been growth in their communication, stressing that they have come a long way.

“It is a blessing. It is just so much better because I love the way we talk, how he has opened up to me, interacted with his siblings. It is good,” she said. “I am proud of him. I am glad he is successful. I am so glad he is not in the streets, he does not get in trouble.”

TJ Jones said that joining the debate team has given him a community to feel less alone. He said it has allowed him to learn skills that help him communicate and said it is a blessing to be a part of something that is bigger than himself.

TJ Jones’ advice to the community is the importance of following dreams and passions.

“Be different. Don’t be like those around you,” he said. “Follow your dreams and your passions because that is what makes you unique.”