Chicago native reaches new heights with college volleyball: 'I was going to give up, but I didn't'

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Samantha Jones, 18 years old, has been reaching new heights at Olive-Harvey College.

She's a first-year star scholar leaving her mark on the Panthers volleyball program.

"I wanted to step up in a leadership role. And I challenged myself and we were able to come together and make our season really, really great," Jones said.

The team's assistant coach said Jones is a natural leader.

"As a coach, the hardest thing to teach is leadership," said Julisa Viramontes, the team's assistant coach. "Sam has that coming out of her pores. That, every team needs."

The Englewood native started playing volleyball as a family hobby, but it quickly became her passion. She started working hard on and off the court to turn it into opportunity.

"I just worked hard, I was going to give up but I didn't. I was able to pay for my own AAU team my senior year. When the pandemic hit, a lot of people quit athletics, but I was in the gym the whole time because I knew I couldn't pay for college," Jones said.

Now, Jones said, she wants to give the game to others. Over winter break, she and her sister held a volleyball tournament in family's native country, Belize. They provided a match and a meal to anyone who showed up.

"It was an indescribable feeling because I was able to experience a lot of smiles, the sport brings out a lot of energy. It was really healthy to see kids get up in the middle of the day and come out and play a sport as a community," Jones said.

"This is who Samantha is. She wants to give back, she wants more," said Rakecia Jenkins, the team's head coach. "There was no nets. There was no balls in her community, so for her to go back to the home land for her family, it doesn't surprise me, just shocked as a young lady she was able to pull that off."

Jones said she wants to inspire other kids to put their dreams into actions.

"I hope that I was able to inspire kids to do what they love no matter what people say because I was told that I can't go to college or play volleyball in college but that didn't stop me or my love for volleyball, so I hope those kids continue their love for volleyball if not anything else, because its tough out here to do," Jones said.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.