Sometimes overcoming challenges can be part of life’s journey. For Jason Gregory, Wittenberg class of 2020 and a first-generation college graduate, the challenges were there, but through love, help, and guidance, he knocked them down one by one.
Gregory is currently working as a resident opportunity self-sufficiency (ROSS) service coordinator with the Springfield Metropolitan Housing Authority – the same system in which he grew up. A native of Springfield, Gregory earned his degree in communication with a minor in sport management at Wittenberg. In his current role, he assists residents with self-sufficiency and additional support services available in the Springfield community, positioning him to help others find the same success he has found.
Some challenges he had to overcome included “being considered a ‘troubled kid’ in my younger days, losing a lot of friends in my path to where I am now, and growing up on Section 8 my whole life. But these things gave me a different outlook on a lot of things and helped me become who I am today,” said Gregory, who was a senior mentor and member of M2S2 at Wittenberg and was the inaugural winner of the Communication Department’s Tharros Award for grit and perseverance.
“Growing up in the mix of things in your city and neighborhood, you have two choices. You either become a product of your environment or you make something of your environment and show others they can too,” he continued. “I would say that many did not expect for me to make it this far, but for the ones who saw that little boy trying to be something and that had potential, thank you for pushing me and not giving up on me.”
Gregory has been working at the Springfield Metropolitan Housing Authority since February and loves being able to help others.
“My job as the coordinator is to assist residents with supporting self-sufficiency efforts through linking residents to employment, educational opportunities, and other available services,” he said. “I also assist residents in meeting and maintaining lease responsibilities, and in tracking resident’s individual progress in meeting program goals. What I like about my job is being able to help people and show them that you can be anything you want to be in life if you put your mind to it. No matter what you go through, do not let it determine your destiny.”
Members of the communication department helped show Gregory that he could do just that.
“Winning the Tharros Award for grit and perseverance meant a lot to me, and just showed me that my hard work and dedication pays off,” he said. “It showed me that my character was valued as a student and that a lot of individuals saw something in me that I sometimes did not see in myself. I was just being myself, but sometimes being yourself can be a good thing. It goes to show you that you never know who is watching, and how you treat people and carry yourself goes very far.
“Wittenberg and members of the communication department helped me become who I am now by challenging me in many ways that I could ever imagine,” he added. “They also helped bring out skills in me that I thought I never had in me, but they were in me all along. They also saw potential in me when I did not see it in myself. Wittenberg truly showed me that if you work hard, you will be rewarded.”
Choosing to come to Wittenberg was an easy decision for Gregory. His grandmother, Lavonda Jordan, works at Wittenberg and Gregory visited often before attending.
“I realized and heard how Wittenberg was a good school, so when it came down to me choosing schools, I chose Wittenberg,” he said. “I knew it would challenge me in ways I needed and take me very far in life. A lot of the material that I learned at Wittenberg, I am now incorporating into my everyday life and job. I used to hate some of the assignments that we were given, but now I am thankful.
“So many people at Wittenberg have helped me. If we ever interacted or you helped me in any kind of way, just know I did not forget you,” he continued. “My family, especially my mom, helped me believe in myself and didn’t let me give up when I wanted to. She always preached to me saying ‘you are going to be somebody in this world and just remember you are somebody.’ She taught me that nothing in life is given and that you must work for what you want. A special shout-out to my second family, the Boulwares, for helping me out while in school. Remember it’s the small things that matter in life, and y’all always made sure I was good on them. I just want to thank everybody that believed in me when I did not believe in myself. I never saw myself graduating from a place like Wittenberg. But it goes to show that if you work hard and keep faith in God, you never know what he has in store for you.”