January 2023 Featured Alumnus Sharkisha Jones

Waubonsee alumna Sharkisha Jones, of Aurora, has been teaching lessons and planning curriculum for children in a classroom as long as she can remember. In her current role, Jones partners with the Office of Governor Pritzker in redesigning early learning and care systems with families at the center. 

As a teenager, Jones was inspired by her family of educators and her love for young children. When a unique opportunity to obtain a work permit from the Quad County Urban League came her way, a then 14-year-old Jones jumped on a chance to work in her aunt's home daycare. Four years later, Jones graduated from Oswego High School and eagerly followed in her aunt's footsteps by enrolling in Waubonsee's Early Childhood Education program.

"I came from a single-family home, and I was very concerned about not being able to afford college, but Waubonsee made it so easy to enroll and set up payment plans," said Jones. "Every teacher I had at Waubonsee's Early Childhood Education program was super helpful and prepared me for college life and the field I'm in now." 

Jones, who was taking a full-time evening course load at Waubonsee and working full-time during the day, leveraged her experience and knowledge in the classroom and became a lead teacher at a non-profit daycare center at just 18 years old. 

"I'll never forget how supportive the faculty were at Waubonsee. They all recognized that I had to work full-time to support myself and pay for college," said Jones. 

After graduating from Waubonsee, Jones continued working full-time while she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees. During this time, she continued to grow in leadership, advancing in full-time roles as the lead teacher of a four- and five-year-old classroom and a private kindergarten teacher. Soon after, Jones was promoted to Curriculum Program Specialist at a private daycare and later accepted a full-time role as an Assistant Case Manager in East Aurora School District. 

Jones, who has been in early childhood education for over 20 years, is a strong advocate for continued education and professional development. In her current role, Jones partners with local stakeholders to redesign early learning and care systems to ensure the voice of families and communities are at the center. Information is then shared regionally and reported to the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Lewis University, where she teaches a clinical seminar that trains teachers on how to become licensed in Illinois.

Jones holds a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Administration from National Louis University, a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science from National Louis University, and an Associate in Applied Science in Early Childhood Education.

In response to the new statewide Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) grant, designed to expand equitable access to higher education for those interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education, Jones could not be more excited.

"I don't get paid for the recruitment of the ECACE grant, but I always tell people if someone is offering free education, take it," said Jones. 

ECACE was established as part of a broader statewide initiative to advance racial equity and serve the needs of the incumbent early childhood workforce. The grant aims to make college accessible, affordable, and attainable and to even the playing field for a large population of minority childcare providers in underserved communities who may earn low wages.

Any individual who has ever worked or is currently working in early childhood education, including home daycare, and is interested in pursuing additional educational credentials at Waubonsee, may benefit from this grant through receipt of the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Scholarship. Learn more about the scholarship at waubonsee.edu/ece

In celebration of Jones' dedication to life-long learning and improving quality early learning in every region across the state, Waubonsee Community College recognized Jones as the January 2023 Featured Alumnus at its January board meeting.

Pictured above (from left to right): Dr. Diane Nyhammer, Waubonsee Community College Interim President/Vice President of Educational Affairs; Sharkisha Jones, January Featured 2023 Featured Alumnus; Rebecca Oliver, Chair of the Waubonsee Board of Trustees

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