Carlos Jones

Year of Graduation: 

“You do a lot of self-reflection here. ... That leads you to really find yourself.”

Carlos Jones’ Exeter experience has gone exactly as he planned and beyond his wildest dreams at the same time.

While the senior day student from Salisbury, Massachusetts, dove into the science and math classes that so intrigued him as an applicant in middle school, he also discovered a passion for photography he never knew he had. And as he pursued his childhood pastimes of baseball and hockey suiting up for Big Red, he found that talking about sports on his own weekly WPEA radio show was equally rewarding.

He has grown, opening himself to opportunities and loving where they took him.

“I feel like what I thought I knew to be true about myself going in here was a lot different than what I would think it to be now,” he said.

In between Monday morning classes during his last term at the Academy, Jones talked about his path to Exeter and the discoveries he has made here.

“If there's one thing I could say about Exeter, it's yes, the academics are great, yes, you work hard, you learn how to push yourself academically,” he said. “But for me, it's definitely finding yourself and finding what interests you.”

‘Wow, we can do this’

Jones’ knowledge of Exeter as a youngster began and ended with its ice rinks, where he played occasional hockey games. Then he began searching for private school options during eighth grade.

“The whole Harkness idea was something completely new to me. I was like, ‘Wow, that sounds pretty cool,’” he recalled. “The diversity, too. I grew up in a community where it was mostly white folks, and just coming here and being able to hear all different perspectives from people all around the world is something super fascinating to me.”

Still, Jones knows thousands of worthy applicants fail to gain admission to PEA each year. His expectations were modest on the eve of March 10, 2017.

“My mom came into my room, woke me up, and said ‘You got into Exeter,’” he remembers. “And I was like, ‘There's no way.’"

“Then it was later in the day, we [found] out we got the financial aid package. Then it's like, ‘Wow, we can do this.’”

“I’ve never had a conversation with him that wasn’t warm, inviting and left me feeling good.”

Jones said the academic task one faces in ninth grade is tall, and he recalls gladly taking advantage of the pass-fail grading accommodation during his prep fall. He focused most on making friends, through sports and his affiliation with Webster Hall, and “just learning my way around this place.” He was assigned Music Instructor Peter Schultz as an adviser — even though he doesn’t play an instrument. Jones said the two laughed about the pairing in the beginning but he says he prizes the relationship they forged. Schultz relinquished advising duties ahead of officially retiring at the end of fall term, and Jerome Walker, a teaching intern in the Music Department, is now Jones’ adviser.

“Carlos is a kind and thoughtful student, and an excellent example of how to be a member of our community: Always willing to lend a helping hand or just to relax and have a chat,” Walker said. “I’ve never had a conversation with him that wasn’t warm, inviting and left me feeling good.”

New discoveries

Jones has been interested in STEM since he can remember and has devoured Exeter’s math and science offerings. One of his strongest academic influences has been John Blackwell, instructor in science and the director of the Grainger Observatory. “He's one of those people, you walk into class, and you're walking out of class 50 minutes later and your mind is blown,” Jones said of Blackwell.

His course schedule even throughout senior spring includes Enriched Calculus, Robotics and Principles of Chemistry as electives. “They’re the classes that I'm interested in,” he explains with a shrug. He is bound for Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the fall to study engineering.

And while he is grateful for every morsel of math and science knowledge gained at the Academy, he also appreciates what he found down paths he hadn’t expected to take. One is “Triple Overtime,” the sports talk radio program he co-hosts with Aidan Young ’21 and Will Morris ’22 on Exeter's radio station, WPEA.

“It started out as a joke. My friend had a show, and a few of us we're warming up at [baseball] practice and joking ‘We should do our own show,’” Jones said. “And then we actually tried it out and we were like, ‘Wow, this is pretty fun.’

“I ended up becoming involved as a member of the board, dealing with training as well as doing proctoring. If you told me coming into this place that I'd be interested in radio and doing it, I probably wouldn't have believed you.”

The same can be said of his newfound interest in photography. Fulfilling an art requirement, he signed up for Cheryle St. Onge’s Photography I course. The seeds of image framing and composition took root during that term and blossomed during the pandemic.

“I started going down to the beach near my house and taking photos on my phone. Then I started getting into Photoshop a little bit and it just took off from there,” he said. “I got a camera for my birthday and loved it. It really just gives me a space to, if I'm stressed, go out and take photos. It's peaceful.”

Jones says he likes the control he wields as the photographer and “being able to give your own message to what you want other people to see. Yes, it's a landscape, but it's also about what you want to portray about that landscape.” He took St. Onge’s Advanced Photography course and launched an “alter ego” Instagram account to display some of his favorite compositions. “I'm obviously still learning. I've only been in it for about a year now, but it's awesome.”

Jones credits Exeter and the endless opportunities it affords for introducing him to Carlos the radio talk-show host and Carlos the photographer — the Carlos he didn’t know. Every day at PEA was another day to learn something new about himself.

“You do a lot of self-reflection here. There's a lot of questioning happening at the Harkness table. It's ‘What do you think about this? What do you think about that?" It's stuff you haven’t often thought about. ‘What do I think about that?’ I feel like that leads you to really find yourself.”