Hurdles didn’t stop Southwest High School grad

Ashanti Jones is the epitome of perseverance.

The Southwest High School senior, who graduates Friday, has faced tremendous odds in her home life that many people will never experience.

Before Jones was in high school, her mother had to have open heart surgery. The procedure left her mother disabled and forced Jones to shoulder some of the responsibilities of holding down the house.

She had a hand in raising her little brothers and sister, helping them with their homework, as well as cooking and cleaning house.

Despite being displaced from homes -- officially being considered homeless -- and living out of a motel, Jones devoted herself to her studies and will attend Spelman College this fall.

“My mom always told me not to let your situation basically choose what you’re going to be in the future,” she said. “Just because you’re in a bad situation doesn’t mean that you won’t do anything great in your life. I’ve always held on to that.”

Jones said her graduation still seems surreal. She called it “bittersweet” because while she has an affinity for school and learning, she will miss the friends and relationships she’s developed over the four years she’s been in high school.

One of those relationships was with her chorus teacher, Levita Carter. Jones described her as a “second mom” who would often mentor her and give her words of wisdom during particularly difficult periods.

“You know there are times you see these neat stories on TV about these incredible people who face all this adversity and they still rose above it and did something really great and awesome with their lives,” Carter said. “She’s one of those kids that’s going to do it. She’s just going to make it no matter what.”

Jones said she would always try to stay focused and knew the “best way out of a situation” was education.

“I wanted my little brothers and sister to be successful as well,” she said. “I want to be a great example for them.”

If she gave up, she said, she knew her siblings might too.

When she gets to Spelman, Jones said she’s interested in studying psychology and criminal justice, perhaps heading to law school after that.

“You can never be limited by a situation, and you can’t say there’s no one there to support you,” Jones said. She added that everyone, “no matter what’s going on in (their) life,” should always work to better themselves so they can, one day, help others as well.

To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382.