Realizing Potential: Memorialized

Photo of Wade Jones. It was the short life of Wade Jones and the pursuit of his dream to become a nurse that inspired Edward Franco to create a memorial scholarship in Jones’ name—and leave an NSU legacy gift to help future nursing students.

Jones—a promising NSU nursing student in Fort Myers who “found a way” to go to college despite the obstacles against him—was murdered outside his family’s home in Miami-Dade County in March 2013.

Franco, M.B.A., assistant director at NSU’s Fort Myers campus, met Jones in 2012 when he enrolled in the nursing program in Fort Myers (there were no openings at the Fort Lauderdale/Davie campus). Jones, who lived in Miami-Dade County, had come to Franco for help with financial aid.

“Wade moved across the state to go to school here,” Franco said. “He knew no one apparently. He was sleeping on couches in the beginning because he had no housing. But he found a way to do it. Wade made an impression on me. He inspired me. I told him, ‘I’ll do everything in my power to help you.’ ”

With the help of student loans and a Florida Resident Access Grant, Jones was able to start classes at NSU in fall 2012. (He had an associate degree in nursing from Miami-Dade College.) He was hired as a certified nursing assistant at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers and was scheduled to start work in March 2013.

“He had everything going for him. He had made it,” said Franco, who met with Jones three days before his death. “I was the last staff member to speak to him, and it affected me so much.”

On March 3, 2013, Jones, 23, was stabbed to death outside the family’s home in Miami-Dade County. His mother Jeneth Jones, who helped by securing a college loan, was also killed and two family members were injured.

“This campus was devastated,” said Franco, who helped create the Wade Jones Memorial Scholarship to benefit nursing students at the Fort Myers campus. “We decided that we needed to do something in memory of Wade Jones. I donated money and we got students to provide money. But it was a little frustrating to me that it was not getting funded. I said, ‘I want to do something.’ ”

Franco decided to leave an NSU legacy gift designated to the Wade Jones Memorial Scholarship through a life insurance policy.

“To me, Realizing Potential means having students be successful at our institution and be able to fulfill their dreams of having careers that they’re passionate about,” he said. “It means being able to fulfill their dreams because NSU gave them the tools and they went on to do better things.”

Franco, who volunteers at campus and community programs and coaches youth baseball, joined NSU in 2009 working in student financial services in Fort Myers. He became assistant director at the campus in May 2015. Prior to joining NSU, he spent eight years as a medic in the U.S. Army/Florida National Guard and worked at a hospital for nine years.

Franco is the first employee at an NSU regional campus to leave a legacy gift.

“I love coming to work here,” he said. “When I see students, when I see the struggles they have to go through, I see Wade. I want to make that dream come true for students. I want to give them an opportunity to excel at life with the degree they’re going to get at NSU—That’s my legacy gift because of Wade.”


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