Building a Better Future

Alumna Tierra Jones focuses on the women of tomorrow

Photograph by Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice.com
By Tom Nugent

While Tierra Jones, MS’13 (Flor), was growing up in North Philadelphia, Pa. — where an estimated half of the population lives below the poverty line — she witnessed numerous lives being destroyed by drug abuse, alcohol addiction and gun violence.

But now, at the Penrose Recreation Center in the North Philly neighborhood of Hartranft, the 28-year-old Jones volunteers as a dedicated mentor teaching young, economically disadvantaged girls how to achieve success in life.

For Jones — who says she learned how to create and then run leadership-training organizations while studying nonprofit development, global leadership and technology at FDU — helping children from “the old neighborhood” is simply her way of giving back.

“For many years as a kid, I lived at the corner of North and Dauphin, only a block away from the Penrose Rec Center. Those were difficult times, for sure, and I saw some terrible things happening,” she recalls. “I saw drug dealers being arrested, and a childhood friend was shot to death while riding his bicycle.”

Those were painful experiences. But then, during my last couple of years at Penn State, I did some volunteer work in my old neighborhood, and I realized that I wanted to go back there and help rebuild that community.”

A professional medical auditor who has worked in recent years for Aetna Inc., Jones has gained a citywide reputation for doing good. Her most successful philanthropic effort is A.T.T.R.A.C.T. (A Team Taking Responsive Actions with Conscious Thought) — a mentoring system in which college students, directed by Jones, teach economically disadvantaged children and teens about everything from building self-esteem to dressing for success to college readiness.

“I know I was extremely fortunate to receive the kind of loving support I got from my extended family,” says Jones. Spurred on by their confidence and encouragement, and by a crucially important FDU graduate course on strategic partnerships, she was able to develop the leadership skills needed to build A.T.T.R.A.C.T. from the ground up.

“That course was absolutely terrific,” says Jones today. “We looked in great detail at how Starbucks became hugely successful by forming some very creative partnerships with other fast-growing companies during its first few years in operation. The insights I gained from studying those partnerships have been very helpful in my career so far.”

To learn more about A.T.T.R.A.C.T. and how to help, visit http://attractphilly.org/.

Ed. note: A version of this article first appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of FDU Magazine.