Walking into the Alief ISD administrative building, phone in one hand to discuss her latest donation delivery and dragging behind her a cart of food items for a family in need, she greets a new business representative who is eager to provide mentors for students. Delores “Dee” Jones, business and community coordinator for the school district, takes multi-tasking to the highest level.
Jones has been in the business of helping people for more than 43 years. She lived in six states as the wife of a college football coach. Her journey landed her in Houston in 2002 where she quickly worked her way to her current position.
She first opened a student incentive-based “store” at Cummings Elementary. Students would earn points based on grade improvement and use them to “purchase” prizes Jones had received from businesses and community members. The store grew to include food and supplies for families in need. It would be open every evening to support families.
It is that same forward, innovative thinking that she has used to creative unique partnerships and develop programs with business and community support beyond the Alief area and even the state of Texas. A meeting with a recruiter from Alabama State University led her to create a partnership that provided Alief ISD students with a path to a college education at the university, with financial assistance and no extra tuition charge for coming from outside Alabama. Jones organized a bus trip for interested students to visit the campus. She is proud of the success stories that have come from this continuing partnership.
Her influence on students is evident in her leadership role with the district’s mentoring opportunities. She works with faith-based groups to provide support to students and families in crisis as a part of her mentorship programs.
“Having mentors who can guide and lead students is important. It lets our students know that if someone who maybe looks like me or comes from my same background can achieve success then so can I,” Jones said.
Additionally, she coordinates the Real Men Read Program for Alief.
“Having men of different backgrounds and professions come to campuses and read to our students throughout the school year is extremely inspiring to our students. (Students) can see the value in learning and especially reading,” she explained.
After a pause during pandemic, the Real Men Read program will resume as soon as it’s safe for visitors on campuses.
Other changes caused by the pandemic are less publicized or considered. Ms. Jones explained, “Like with other communities, we have families that have been evicted, they are living with relatives, they need to find affordable housing after eviction or maybe the main breadwinner has been laid off. It is just hard times. The need is not just during the holidays; now it is just ongoing. But the good news is our business partners, community sponsors and our area elected officials have stepped up in assisting.”
Some school districts have a multi-person staff to handle what she does as a one-person office. Jones is also a fixture serving on several boards and committees in and around Alief. This wife, mother and grandmother is constantly on the move. Although the pandemic has her doing business a little differently, she continues that same energy and commitment she has always had.
She would never consider herself a role model and will shy away from attention. Before ending our visit, she lets us know that she just treats people how she would want to be treated, if she found herself in need of help. When I asked her about retiring, since she does have more than enough years for full retirement, Jones said, “I love what I do, I love that I am healthy, and I will keep at it.”
— by Jessika Leal