2020 brought more to Tj Jones than just the idea of graduating; he also found love.
Jones graduated from the Business Management program in 2020. It was during his second year of school that he met his soon-to-be wife, Jess Rice, at CNA’s Prince Philip Drive (PPD) campus in St. John’s, NL.
“When I was asked if I wanted to participate in the Skills Canada Pitch Competition that year, I asked her to be my competition partner. It kinda ended up being our first date – we just didn’t really know it at the time.”
Jones says he was impressed with how seriously Jess took her studies.
“She’s a bit of a keener, like me,” Jones said. “I remember really appreciating the ways she engaged in class, the questions she asked and how present she was; she’s also wicked smart, and I was very much drawn to her laugh.”
They had so much in common that it wasn’t long before he popped the question.
“We started dating that summer, and about six months later – the day after our last final of the first semester of third year – in a very me fashion, I asked if she wanted to get married. We’re set to have a dusk ceremony at the Geo Centre August 2023 (pandemic permitting).”
Trials and tribulations
Despite his current success, he says things weren’t always easy.
“Depending on how you define it, I had lots of experience with at least the darker side of the ‘real world’ before attending my program at CNA,” recalled Jones. “A high school dropout at 17, trauma, homelessness, the challenges associated with multiple ‘coming outs’, and what all of it means for maintaining gainful employment. Truthfully I felt my options out there were pretty bleak for a long time.”
Attending CNA not only helped him find the love of his life, adds Jones, but it also helped him feel like he belonged.
“With the support of my instructors, college staff (shout out to the awesome Charlene Oake at PPD) and fellow students over the three years, my time at CNA helped me reframe where I could fit into the big bad world and helped me imagine so many more possibilities,” he said. “It also reminded me of my tenacity, intelligence, and potential … and showed me how well I could function on next-to-no sleep. (lol)”
He says COVID-19 also had an impact on his schooling, but he continued to persevere.
“Finishing my program while navigating it all has since really helped me see the truth in that old cheesy adage about it being the journey, not the destination. I showed myself that I could maintain my commitment to me and my future, be adaptable, and still kick ass amidst all the uncertainty.”
After graduation, Jones founded Full Picture Management in January 2021. It’s a business dedicated to improving inclusivity through consultation, training, and education.
“The services I offer include helping businesses and organizations look at their current 2SLGBTQIA+ practices and where they can improve and supporting them in establishing an effective 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusive culture through training and resource development,” he said.
He says his professional and personal experiences make him a perfect fit for this role.
“The work I do with clients is informed by the combo of my education, community work, and lived experience as a queer and trans human, and driven by a desire to help improve the experiences of folks in my communities and wanting to be a part of this very real and super cool social revolution we’re currently in,” he said.
Jones has also been an active volunteer since 2014. To date, he has volunteered with the St. John’s Pride Board, the City of St. John’s Inclusion Advisory Committee, Pride at Work Canada and co-founded Trans Support NL, to name a few.
“I’ve always had a passion for consent and gender-based violence awareness (even more so since transitioning and inheriting masculine privilege!),” he said adding that in October of 2021, he joined the Board of the NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre and now serves as its Chair. “Also was just welcomed to the Board of Violence Prevention – Avalon East this month.”
When he is not working or volunteering, he enjoys spending time with Jess and their cat, Enid.
“I enjoy adventures and wanders with Jess (we dies for a good Winners/Marshalls wander, keeping COVID-19 in mind), reading, puzzles, painting, and watching/learning anything and everything space related (bit cliché, but pondering the vastness of the universe is one of my favourite ways to put my stuff in perspective).”
He says he would encourage others to pursue their goals.
“It’s never too late. Never too late to let yourself dream, or to find and define your goals. Or to try looking at yourself, and your options, differently,” he said. “Entrepreneurship is challenging, but oh so rewarding.”
He says he would also encourage people to get involved with how things are done in their own communities and workplaces.
“There are many very important, powerful conversations happening right now about what work should and will look like moving forward. COVID-19 has us considering how we work, and the current focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace has us considering how to challenge ‘how things have always been done’ Be a part of the conversation; take the opportunity to learn about and weigh in on what’s happening – because it does and will affect you.”