English major’s dream to write blossoms at UBalt
When Demetrius Jones first arrived at The University of Baltimore in fall 2019, he felt like he was doing what was expected of him: graduate from high school, go to college.
But that was four years and one pandemic ago.
Now a graduate of UBalt’s B.A. in English program with a Baltimore teaching job waiting for him, Jones is proud of how much he’s grown throughout college as a person, friend and the writer he’s always longed to be.
“This school has given me the ability to network and meet people—great writers and other influencers outside of just the school. So really, this was more than worth it,” Jones said.
He also imagined he would only ever have the friends he met in high school and is thrilled he proved himself wrong.
“The best part has really been meeting Jeff,” Jones said. “I really looked up to him as a big brother. It feels like we've known each other our whole lives.”
Passing the torch
Jones met Jeff Dominguez, B.A. ’21, while working at The Sting , UBalt’s online student publication. Shortly after graduating with a degree in digital communication, Dominguez accepted a teaching position in Baltimore City Public Schools.
Now, Jones is following his friend’s lead. He started his teaching job with the city this summer.
Jones will continue writing, including working on a book, but as a teacher, he hopes to give students the confidence they need to pursue their dreams, writing or otherwise.
“I will definitely take my professors advice and instill in these children, in terms of having the confidence, that regardless of what other people say about you, you can achieve those goals, whether that’s reading, whether that’s writing. I'm definitely going to instill in them that just because somebody else gave up on you doesn't mean I will.”
Jones was always confident about his decision to major in English by the time he reached UBalt, but it took time for him to be comfortable with his path.
The Baltimore County native fell in love with writing early on and was adamant about mastering the craft. His adoration was cemented in middle school when he entered a writing contest—at the recommendation of his mother—and won. His short story, a retelling of his experiences with a bully, was his first memoir.
When it came time to apply for colleges, Jones again had help from his mother who suggested he pursue his dreams at her alma mater, The University of Baltimore.
Learning to adapt
Jones took her advice and dove right in, checking off general education requirements and even enrolling in an upper-level class in his first year because it focused on reading and writing short stories.
But his first year of college was abruptly interrupted when the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the University to a remote learning environment, forcing him to take all of his classes fully online. Until this point, Jones had never taken an online class. But he made the most of it.
“It actually got easier doing it from home, honestly, because I typically don’t do most of my writing from home,” he told us as the spring 2020 semester concluded. “…This has taught me that I can adjust to any circumstance that I’m thrown into.”
That lesson in flexibility and resilience served Jones well through the following three years at UBalt. Whether he was challenged with writer’s block—an issue he faced when he was stuck at home during the pandemic-forced quarantine—or assignments calling on him to diversify his writing, particularly with new-to-him genres like poetry and journalism, he persevered and came out a stronger writer.
The proof of that came weeks ahead of his May 2023 graduation, when Dr. Rachael Zeleny , one of his favorite professors at UBalt, presented Jones with the Undergraduate Outstanding Student Award for the English program.
“Everyone was always eager to work with Demetrius. He’s kind, gentle, funny and he will even give you a ride home so that you aren't walking through the city alone,” Zeleny explained after the ceremony.
The professor said she realized that Jones lacked confidence, which was limiting him from being the student and writer he could be. After having him for multiple classes, she approached him about it.
“The transformation I saw in Demetrius after that moment as someone who was showing up and trying was the reason I advocated for him to be the recipient of the award,” Zeleny said. “I knew he had it in him and I hope he doesn't lose that feeling.”
Jones said receiving the award was “one of the best moments of my life.”
Years before that moment, before Jones came to UBalt, he felt dejected about his future as a writer. On multiple occasions, he was told writing wasn’t a career in which he could be successful, and he started to believe it.
One teacher at Western School of Technology reignited his hope. He had earned only As from Katherine Lewis and built a trust he could lean in to.
“Do you think I can make it?” he recalled asking her after sharing all the doubts he had heard over time. “And she said, ‘Absolutely.’ And that was really all I needed. She said one word and that’s all I needed. And from there, I’ve never looked back.”
At UBalt, the English award was an ideal way for Jones to complete his undergraduate experience—one enveloped in support for the dream he always had.
“Winning this award showed me that making the decision to come to University of Baltimore and study English was the right decision for me. … I finally have something where not only the professors believe in me, but they want to put it in writing and show me and show the world that he's outstanding at writing. That's what that really meant to me, and that's why I'm so deeply blessed to have it.”