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Former Southern Miss basketball player leads community initiative

Van T. Jones
Van T. Jones

You come home from a long day of work, it’s after five and you’re tired. You arrive home to the Mr. or the Mrs. and your two children. However, upon arrival and fatigue you find three extra children, What do you have now? A problem?

“I would come home from basketball there would be five kids at my house and only two of them were mine,” Van Jones said. 

However, for Jones, a husband, and father of two girls, this wasn’t a problem, but a blessing in the making.

Jones hails from the small town of Moorhead, in the small Sunflower County of the Mississippi Delta. He and his wife are University of Southern Mississippi Alumni. 

The 6’9, Delta native, also had a four-year career with the Golden Eagles Men’s basketball team from 1997-to 2001. 

Jones said he had a dream from God, who gave him the five letters, A.S.A.A.P. 

Jones was unsure what the letters stood for. He asked his college sweetheart, Nicole, to “put some meat on the bones” and Mrs. Jones delivered: The After School Academics and Arts Program.

The mission at A.S.A.A.P is for boys and girls to experience Jesus’ love daily. The students complete their homework, listen to daily devotionals, participate in enrichment activities and engage weekly in character, dance, art, and music education. 

It all began out of his home with his wife and children of coworkers, church members and friends.

Nicole asked Van, “What if we create a better after-school environment for children?” 

That principle has led to the program’s success. In March 2022, A.S.A.A.P celebrated its 12th anniversary with locations in Hattiesburg, Oak Grove and Petal. 

Jones said that A.S.A.A.P plans to continue growing by opening their fourth location in Purvis, Mississippi.

Jones coached basketball at various local high schools and then moved into educational administration. He credits his background in basketball and education for his problem-solving involvement in the program.

“As a principal, you are a learning leader, you are the academic leader and you are the chief problem solver,” Jones said. “You are also trying to teach people how to solve problems and that is what I am doing to this day in 2022.”

Nicole’s ministry and professional background along with a love for children- married with Van’s background in coaching, educational administration, relationships, “coupled together for a great recipe.”

One of Jones’ key points from his background is that he encourages people to be a problem-solver.

“If you are a problem-solver you will always have a job, you will always have resources, you will always have something to do,” Jones said. “Don’t run from problems, face them head-on and be a problem solver. Create a plan, stick to it.” 

In creating a plan, Jones challenges the idea of trying different things to find your place.

Jones proposes we consider what we are great at and pursue things in that area. Let’s find out what is on the inside of us that we can take anywhere. 

Jones writes, speaks, coaches and teaches primarily on the subjects of leadership, success, spiritual growth and unity. 

His overall desire is to be a part of greater missions, be Jesus’ hands and feet, and live full and die empty. 

His philosophy is simple: clarify purpose, identify gifts and set realistic goals, combined with a strong work ethic, pervasive discipline, a solid belief system and an unrelenting resolve to excellence.

Jones emphasizes like what A.S.A.A.P. has taught to many children, believe that you ‘can’ by staying encouraged, staying the course and keeping the faith.

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Former Southern Miss basketball player leads community initiative