Dr. Jones speaking at the pathfinder assembly

Alliance High School kicked off Black History Month by recognizing one of its own alumni as a trailblazer for success during the annual Pathfinder Assembly held on Feb. 2. Dr. Stephen Jones, class of 2003, received the 2024 Pathfinder Award for his service and dedication to helping others and inspiring AHS students to reach their full potential.

Nearly 20 years after graduating from AHS, Dr. Jones returned to his roots to share with the students his pathway to success. Dr. Jones, currently a general surgeon in Florida, got his start at AHS where he was a part of National Honor Society and graduated in the top 10% of his class. He attended Youngstown State University and graduated magna cum laude after just two years. In the fall of 2006, he enrolled at Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine (NEOUCOM). While attending medical school, he served as the president of the college's chapter of the Student National Medical Association. He also served on the diversity council. He graduated with his degree in medicine in 2010.

He wants high school students to know that it’s not always easy to achieve your dreams on the first try.

“As you know, everybody has obstacles, everyone has hurdles, everyone has difficulties that they have to overcome,” Dr. Jones told the students in attendance. “We can either let that obstacle overcome us, or we can overcome that obstacle.”

Dr. Jones explained to the students that when it came to getting into medical school, he didn’t pass the entrance exam on his first or second try. It took three times before he was able to move forward with his dream of being a doctor. Even though he had studied and worked hard, he wasn’t able to pass it at first. He felt heart broken and like a failure, but he didn’t let that obstacle define him. He knew he was meant to be a doctor and he was going to overcome it, which he did.

“Overcoming obstacles is a true, true practice,” Dr. Jones said. “It’s what I like to call the art of turning adversity into opportunity. Obstacles come in failure, come in doubt, adversity, uncertainty. I’m sure all of you have experienced at least one, if not all of these, at one point in your life. Each one is a true test of our spirit and in every challenge lies the opportunity to learn and redefine what is actually possible. We are presented with a choice and we can either rise or we can fall. It is in these moments that we can discover the extraordinary strength that resides in us and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

Dr. Jones and his familyDr. Jones encouraged the students to have a positive mindset that will enable them to believe in themselves and to know that they can overcome any obstacle in their path to achieve their goals.

Following Dr. Jones’ speech, he took part in a question and answer session moderated by members of the 99th Squadron. The 99th Squadron is a student success, character, leadership and life skills development program aimed at improving African-American students' academic and social achievement at Alliance High School. The program also places a particular focus on college and career readiness.

Each year, Alliance City Schools hosts a series of Pathfinder Awards assemblies during Black History Month to recognize individuals who have been trailblazers for success. The recipients are recognized in five areas: arts and science, education, humanitarianism, citizenship/government and business. All individuals recognized as Pathfinders are either alumni who have been an inspiration to minorities in one of the above areas either locally or out of the area or a non-ACS alumni who has been an inspiration to the local area.