Waldo Jones is a Baltimore, Maryland native and chose to make Rexburg his new home in July of 2016. A year prior, when he was 22 years old, he was homeless.

Homelessness ratings have experienced a record high, with a 12% increase from last year, according to a study.

“There were days I went without eating and I only had a bottle of mustard and water to feed my hunger,” Jones said.

During his time of being homeless, he experienced many feelings of self-doubt.

“I know I was supposed to work during that time. But anytime I started a job or anything… I would just give up on myself so easily,” Jones said.

From March to December of that year he remained unemployed and homeless. He knew he wanted to make some changes in his life. The following year he made the move to Idaho to be with his sisters.

“I got tired of feeling sorry for myself and pointing the finger at this or that person for the choices and decisions that I was making in my personal life, especially since it wasn’t making a positive impact,” Jones said.

Jones explained that there were many differences between the isolated Rexburg college town and the populated Baltimore city. In Baltimore, he was constantly exposed to the “party life” and became involved with making music where he felt pressured to say things that contradicted the values he had learned as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He loves basketball

He loves basketball Photo credit: Waldo Jones

In addition to the party lifestyle, he also experienced the hurt that comes from losing loved ones and his parents separation. His family was split up. He jumped from foster home to group home to foster home in his youth. While being in Rexburg, he felt peace compared to Baltimore.

“It’s very peaceful in Rexburg. I just get a peace of mind… I’m able to stay focused… I’ve never been more determined…more driven or goal-oriented. Ever,” Jones said. “I’ve never felt this way before.”

Jones has used the gift of repentance to forgive his family and himself for the mistakes that happened.

“I didn’t hate my mom or dad for… what they put us through. I couldn’t find hate in my heart,” Jones said.

While living in Rexburg, Jones decided to enroll at BYU-I and continued to feel opposition while struggling with depression and feelings of self-doubt.

In 2017 he started and dropped the CNA program. But, he tried again.

In 2018 he returned and finished the CNA program. But then he dropped out and moved back to Baltimore, where he met with his foster parents.

“It was definitely a miracle… my foster parents got the impression from God that I needed to travel and move in with them back in Arizona,” Jones said.

He made the move and started college again in 2019 at the Chandler-Gilbert Community College where he later found out his biological dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer. With a lot going on, he thanked his foster parents for the hospitality and shared that he felt impressed to move back to Rexburg where he had once found peace.

“I didn’t want to feel like a failure so I ended up signing up for the BYU Pathways program,” Jones said.

Waldo Jones next to his favorite statue of Jesus Christ

Waldo Jones next to his favorite statue of Jesus Christ. Photo credit: Waldo Jones

Throughout 2020, there were times he wanted to drop out and there were times he was on the verge of failing semesters. The community helped him to stay on track.

“I knew I needed to finish what I started and I have to give a big thanks to the senior missionaries for encouraging and motivating me to stay on track when it came to attending classes each week,” Jones said.

After continuing his education, he received the upsetting news that his beloved mentor had passed away. A man who had become a father figure to Jones and his twin brother.

“I didn’t want to believe it because I had just talked to him,” Jones said. “ I told him ‘I want to celebrate when I graduate with you.’”

After his many experiences of losing loved ones, feeling directionless and like there was nowhere else to go, Jones relied on the grace of God and took a step forward with faith.

“I vowed to never let nothing get in the way of my education,” Jones said.

Four years later, Jones is preparing to receive his bachelor’s degree in professional studies with a minor in sociology at the close of the semester. He works as a DJ for the campus roller skating nights.

Jones continues to share his story on social media platforms and is currently writing a book about his experience in the foster care system. He has ambitions to create a non-profit organization to support working single mothers.

“I know what it’s like… to have nothing,” Jones said.

He continues to strengthen his faith. When times get hard, he is reminded of the simple truths in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus Christ once walked the same earth I am living on. He was faced with the same trials,” Jones said. “I would lay down my life to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.”