The Class of 2015: First-generation student Jade Edwards balances class, work, family, and surfing
The end of this academic year won’t be the last of Jade Edward’s time at Virginia Tech. The senior accounting major in the Pamplin College of Business is diving into one more year to complete his master’s degree. Even with one more year to go, he already has a job lined up in his hometown, Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Rewind to five years ago, however, and Edwards wasn’t planning to apply for college, even after being able to graduate from high school in just three years. No one in his family had ever gone.
“I didn’t know how I would pay for it. It seemed foreign to me. I didn’t know the application process and my parents didn’t push education on me,” Edwards said.
But a desire to impress his high school girlfriend’s dad encouraged him to send in one application – to Virginia Tech.
“My girlfriend’s parents were Virginia Tech alums,” Jade said. “Her dad asked me to apply and, honestly just to impress him, I put in an application. Two months later I was accepted.”
Edwards called his dad, a Navy veteran, to tell him the news. “He didn’t even know I had applied. I asked my dad if I should go and he said yes, definitely. I worried about how we would pay for it, but he said we would figure it out, and we did. I applied for as many scholarships as I could.”
One scholarship Edwards received was to become an Undergraduate Scholar in the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program (MAOP) at Virginia Tech. “The program gives us some money each year, but they also coach and mentor us on ways to study or people to contact on campus if you have a need. The money is great, but I think the biggest advantage was the opportunities through the program. Dr. Thompson-Marshall is always looking out for her students.”
“Jade is a hardworking, diligent student. He is kind, gregarious, and outgoing,” said Jody Thompson-Marshall, director of Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program. “Despite various obstacles, he has demonstrated a strong self-efficacy to be successful academically while at Tech. He is the epitome of students we serve and is an example to all students at Virginia Tech.”
In addition to class, Edwards got involved on campus, serving as information technology chair for Business Horizons, a career fair hosted on campus every fall and spring featuring more than 100 recruiting agencies.
Stuart Mease, director of undergraduate career services in the Pamplin College of Business, got to know Edwards through Business Horizons. “Jade is the type of student every professor wants to teach, graduate employers want to hire, and every parent wants their kid to grow up to be like,” Mease said.
His involvement as president of the VT Surf freestyle team also sends him close to home every other weekend for competitions. While there, he often gets to see his two-year-old sister, Laci, who he has legally custody of because his mom is unable to care for her.
“My grandmother is taking care of her right now, but I have legal responsibility for her,” Edwards said. “After college next year, then I can start raising her.”
That’s also when he will start working for an accounting firm in Virginia Beach, where he’ll do tax work. “When you go to your clients office and you help them with their tax planning, they are really excited about the money they saved.”
Plus, he will be back home with Laci and his other love. “I love to surf so I can’t be away from the beach.”