EAST ORANGE, NJ — The first time Shantelle Jones ‘19, saw herself on a billboard, she was driving along Route 46 near Montclair State University. Her smile lights up the highway, and in cap and gown, the ad celebrates pride in the achievements of Montclair State graduates. On this summer night, Jones pulled over for a long look, her bright eyes above staring back as she reflected on how she had gotten to this moment. For sure, it had come with more than a few bumps in the road.
“It felt so surreal as I stared at it for about 10 minutes straight, letting the euphoric feeling sink in,” Jones recalls. Then, as if on cue, her car radio segued into the hit song “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” by the rock band Panic! at the Disco. “It felt so good and meant to be,” Jones says. “So, I sang along, capturing that divine moment of the beginning of the journey ahead of me.”
Jones lives in East Orange and graduated from Montclair State University in May with a degree in Communication Studies. Her passions include dancing, modeling, acting, styling and creative directing. During her freshman year of college in 2013, she founded the “MSU Complexions Band Dance Team” to create a space for female empowerment and healthy self-esteem.
A truck accident and personal setbacks led Jones to take a break from college. Once healed, the Educational Opportunity Fund scholar returned to Montclair State mentally, emotionally and physically stronger, she said.
“You must fail your way to success,” Jones says. “Don’t let fear be the reason you miss out on opportunities in life that will transform you. Dream big. Reach for your goals, make mistakes and repeat. Living life truly begins only at the death of fear.”
Her reaction epitomizes the feelings of two other Montclair State students who are also featured in a new outdoor advertising campaign: Paul Kehinde Ajayi ’19, an aspiring doctor who dreams of serving underserved communities; and Jack Barteck ’22, a sophomore who voices play-by-play and color commentary for Montclair State Red Hawk Athletics.
Their portraits are catching the eyes of people driving by billboards on North Jersey highways and commuters traveling on NJ Transit to Manhattan on the Montclair-Boonton line, signaling the beginning of a story on the ways the University has grown and stands out among New Jersey’s public colleges and universities, and how it complements and meets the aspirations of the students who chose to come here.
“I am truly excited and humbled from all of the reactions from friends and family who’ve messaged me about seeing me on billboards from their cars and trains,” Ajayi says. He grew up in Newark, a triplet born to parents who immigrated to the United States from Nigeria. “My parents taught me that the true riches in life can be found in service. But most importantly, having a purpose rooted in service can set the groundwork for bringing charity and care for others – particularly those who are underserved.”
The new billboards are part of an expanded marketing push that adds the outdoor campaign to an integrated mix of promotions.
“We want New Jersey families to know that Montclair State is here for them. We offer an excellent education at an affordable price, on a beautiful campus with outstanding facilities,” says Joseph A. Brennan, vice president for Communications and Marketing.