Commencement's canceled but this Apex high schooler has plenty to celebrate

APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- While Wake County school leaders look for ways to honor the Class of 2020 after the district decided to forgo traditional commencement exercises due to COVID-19, ABC11 met one Wake senior whose achievements in and out of school made for plenty to celebrate, graduation or not.

"It's just disappointment in what could have been," is how Ive Jones described her first reaction when she heard Friday's news about the commencement cancelation. But, wearing her commencement cap and Apex Friendship High School summa cum laude cord, you get the sense of a 17-year old wise beyond her years.


READ MORE: Wake County schools graduation services canceled for Class of 2020, virtual services being 'strongly considered'

"High school is not like the movies and TV shows at all. We didn't get to do things the traditional way. But this year has put a lot in perspective," Jones said.

Jones has been interested in making the world better for most of her life. Eight years before COVID-19, Jones, at age 11, was organizing a grassroots fundraising campaign to help African children orphaned by the Ebola outbreak. She set a goal of raising $4,000.

"And I kept pushing, reaching out to larger groups and organizations, churches and fundraising and eventually got to $30,000," she said.

She applied that same focus last year. At 16, she organized an entire conference in Raleigh with leaders and health experts to encourage more young women and people of color to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). And if that wasn't enough to juggle during her junior year in high school, Jones spent any downtime writing essays for her college applications. She applied to more than a few schools.




"I actually applied to about 50 (colleges)," she said smiling. "I love to do things in overkill."

Jones was accepted to 44 of the colleges. Make that 45. Last week, Princeton University moved Jones off the waitlist.
"Princeton was definitely my go-to school," Jones said.

Behind her face mask, Jones' mom can't stop smiling. Her daughter has now earned four million dollars in academic scholarships, even before Princeton offered a full ride. We asked if cancellation of commencement made any of it bittersweet.


"I'm immensely proud of her. She's just a hardworking person," Catherine Jones said. "(Graduation) was a moment we've looked forward to. But in everything you have to find gratitude. And you know, at the end of the day we'll still get to celebrate. I'm west African and we find ways to celebrate."

So after a senior year upended by a pandemic, Jones is headed to Princeton in the fall to be a part of solving the world's next health crisis. She's majoring in global health.

"As a student, these things are things we're going to be discussing in class and I'm going to need to know thoroughly in order to apply my knowledge later on," Jones said.

And while there won't be a traditional ceremony for Jones and her fellow classmates of 2020 at Apex Friendship, she's still hoping for a celebration soon with her friends -- some way, somehow.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.