Marquan Jones, a senior at Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy, cried as he was recognized in front of thousands at a local basketball game Monday night for being accepted into Cornell University, an American private Ivy League school in Ithaca, New York.
The audience cheered and clapped as an announcer listed Jones’s credentials, which include his status as a three-sport athlete and as an inductee into the National Honor Society.
“When they started reading off the things I did, it was like waterworks. My mom was consoling me,” Jones said. “I always told my mom how I would do all of these amazing things. To actually accomplish those are amazing.”
The crowd gave Jones, 18, a standing ovation as he stood in the center of the basketball court at the 2015 Proviso West Holiday Tournament at Proviso West High School in Hillside. He was joined at center court by his mother Chanicka Jones, his father Eric Jones, his brother Jalen Jones, 12, and his sister Ericka Jones, 7.
“I had my whole family there with me, was able to show my family to the world and how much of a support system I have,” said Jones, who lives in Maywood. “I got my name out there and earned the support of thousands of alumni. That’s greater value than any plaque or monetary reward.”
Chanicka said she’s very proud of her son and that this is the first of his many accomplishments.
“When he was in second grade, he always said he wanted to go to an Ivy League school. He even said he wanted to be president,” Chanicka said. “It’s really an indescribable feeling. I always knew he had it in him.”
Dr. Patrick Hardy, principal of Proviso East High School in Maywood and Theresa Kelly, board president for Proviso Township High Schools District 209 also joined Jones at center court for his moment of recognition.
Jones, who holds a 4.714 GPA at PMSA, plans to attend Cornell University next Fall and major in Food Science. He wants to mentor kids on financial literacy and how to keep a healthy diet.
The 18-year-old is a member of the debate and theater clubs at PMSA, but plays basketball, football and track at Proviso East since those sports aren’t offered at PMSA. He’s captain of the varsity track team and co-captain of the varsity football team.
Scottie Ware, who coached Jones in track, football and basketball for all four years of high school, said Jones has as much tenacity for athletics as he has for the books.
He said the 18-year-old has a great deal of drive and determination, and is a great example for kids who will come behind him.
“His nickname is ‘5.0,’ because that’s normally what his GPA was,” Ware said. “I want the entire Proviso Township to realize that kids can make it out and go to Ivy League schools.”
Ware, who has coached sports at Proviso East for 12 years, said the high school has had students in the past who have applied to Ivy League schools, but that Jones is the first to be accepted to one.
“Marquan was very coachable and very respectful. He wasn’t the most athletic, but hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard; he’s an example of that,” Ware said. “I look forward to the day when we put his picture up on the wall of fame at the school. Marquan will be the next one to hit that wall.”
Jones helped lead East’s track team to fourth place at the West Suburban Gold Conference meet last year. He said he prides himself in being a renaissance man.
“I know a lot of kids that have higher GPA’s than me, but it’s like they’re robots that just sit in the room all day and do nothing but their homework,” Jones said. “When you spend all of your time on one thing, you’re going to be good only at that one thing. The real challenge is being good at multiple things.”
Jones said his parents instilled in him that they would support him in anything he does.
“If I didn’t like sports, they would support that,” Jones said. “They want to teach me how to think, not what to think. From that I found my own passion and will to be successful. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.’ Make sure you question everything; just because something is like this in the world doesn’t mean it has to be. You can change it.” VFP
A previous version of this article incorrectly noted that Jones led his track team to second place at the West Suburban Gold Conference meet, instead of fourth. This post has since been updated. We regret the error.
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