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Inspiring Conversations with Whitney Jones of Up Next Initiative

Today we’d like to introduce you to Whitney Jones.

Hi Whitney, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I am a first-generation college student from the small town of Greensboro, GA. I attended Augusta State University and then went on to obtain a Master’s Degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Physician Assistant Studies. I later moved to Atlanta to complete my clinical rotations. I have since remained in the Atlanta area and have been practicing Emergency and Hospital Medicine for eight years. This year, after some self-reflection on my journey to becoming a Physician Assistant, I decided to start Up Next Initiative, Inc. – a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create, develop, and nurture the next generation of minority professionals through mentorship.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Absolutely not! I have faced many obstacles during the process of starting a non-profit organization. I also have faced obstacles along my journey to becoming a Physician Assistant, which is what inspired the Up Next Initiative. As a college student, I struggled initially in my biology courses after not being fully prepared for biology labs. After speaking with my advisor, I was told to change my major as I would never make it to medical school. I changed my major to business but was encouraged by my mother to stay the course, so I did and learned how to excel in those courses on my own. Once I determined I wanted to apply for a physician assistant program, I realized I needed shadowing hours.

I was encouraged to ask those in my family, but not having a network of medical professionals readily available to me as a first-generation college student, I had to email every physician on the Medical College of Georgia’s website – none of whom I knew – to get those required hours. Only one physician responded. These are only two of the many instances I’ve felt discouraged or had to overcome obstacles as a college student. Based on my experience, I wanted to provide resources – including a network of minority professionals – that minority students could rely on as they pursue an education at the next level. Since starting the non-profit organization, I have learned a lot and have overcome the growing pains of starting a business with the help of my own network of friends, family, mentors and colleagues – including the minority professionals who have committed to serving alongside me as board members for Up Next Initiative. It is this network, reliance and support that I want to continue to carry throughout Up Next Initiative for the benefit of the next group of minority professionals who are coming behind us.

We’ve been impressed with Up Next Initiative, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I founded the Up Next Initiative in June 2020. Our mission is to create, develop, and nurture the next generation of minority professionals. Our organization has four areas of focus: one-to-one mentorship, in which we match students with a minority professional in the career field of their interest; college tours; professional webinars, in which we provide professional development tailored to the minority experience in the professional arena; and networking.

Up Next Initiative is comprised of a network of minority professionals who serve as a resource to minority high school students in 11th and 12th grades and college students in 2-year and 4-year colleges or universities. We offer our services at no cost to the students. Since officially launching in October, we have matched 24 mentors and mentees through our organization, in which our students have been able to seek career advice, job shadowing opportunities and overall support while in school. If any students or minority professionals are interested in joining our organization, they can register and learn more at upnextinitiative.org.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
I can’t say I have a favorite book, podcast or resource. I do read Our Daily Bread to center myself and remain focused on my purpose. I have obtained two mentors to help guide me with building and sustaining a nonprofit organization, and I read books on how to run a nonprofit.

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