Student Profiles: Jamaal Barnes
Jamaal Barnes, junior
Hometown: Sanford, North Carolina
St. John's has helped me develop as a leader.
Jamaal Barnes grew up in a rural Southern town and attended a small prep school with just 36 students in his graduating class. As the first in his family to attend college, he had to convince his parents that St. John's was not an impractical choice. Since arriving on campus Jamaal has spearheaded community programs, assumed leadership positions, and now is looking ahead to graduate studies. His many interests include choral singing, reaching out to at-risk youth, and academic pursuits in philosophy, theology, gender studies, and education.
"I am the oldest sibling and the first generation in my family to go to college, so it was a very difficult pill for my parents to swallow that I didn't go to a "name" school, even though I was accepted to more than 20 institutions, some of them Ivy League. But they see that I have made a choice and that I am thriving. My parents and my grandmother trusted that I was making a decision that was best for me. They see that I am not in an 'ivory tower,' but that I will go out and touch the world in my own way, that my St. John's education is making me a good citizen."
The Right Choice
"I was nervous. What does it mean to go to an institution that at first glance doesn't prepare you for anything? That gives you a broad liberal education, yet is seemingly an unspecialized education? Yet I found that was exactly what I needed. No one here is an expert—this makes it okay to ask questions and try to learn more. The students here take pride for being unabashedly unique, not afraid to push out limits and ask questions. It's like a large family. In and out of the classroom we are all learning together, students and tutors together struggling with the same questions. We live together, we even sing together."
Becoming a Leader
"St. John's has helped me develop as a leader. You cultivate confidence in the classroom. You feel free to ask questions, get comfortable with people. You are a thinker and have original thoughts, propose original ideas, outside the classroom as well. I want to support and empower others and take what I learn here at St. John's—the theoretical, the passion for humanity, the knowledge, the learning—and apply it."
"I am a student representative to the college's Board of Visitors and Governors, and the Alumni Association Board. I am also a member of the Delegate Council, which is our student government. The college supports and cultivates student endeavors. Students write a charter and create new clubs, like the Melee club, a fun athletic game. There's Epoch political magazine, and I am a co-founder of Epigenesis, a student program that builds long-term relationships with at-risk youth in the Annapolis community. If the campus seems too small, you can make friends off campus in church or through community service, get to know the Graduate Institute students, or transfer for a year or more to Santa Fe, where there are 450 new faces studying the same program."
March 30, 2009: Mr. Barnes was recently named a 2009 Truman Scholar. Read more ...
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