“College trains you for the real world”

One of the Baltimore Sun’s 10 people under 30 to watch gives credit to Jesuit ideals

By Rita Buettner  |  Photo by Howard Korn

Jerrod Ridgway was 8 when his family left Jamaica for the United States.

“It was definitely hard. The greatest transition was the weather. At the time I was thinking, ‘Why Baltimore? What about Miami, Tampa, or Texas?” he said. “It was a new culture—new everything, really. I had to dress differently, talk differently. The sports that people play in Jamaica people didn’t care about here.”

As Ridgway adjusted to life in a new city and a new country, he started fourth grade in public school. When his mother heard about St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, she enrolled her son there. He went from there to Loyola Blakefield for high school and then to Loyola University Maryland—one of two Jesuit universities he had on his short list.

“I would tell a high school student to consider a Jesuit university just because of what you have to gain outside of class,” said Ridgway, who lives in Towson, Md., and was recently named one of “10 People to Watch Under 30” by The Baltimore Sun.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned since graduating, it’s that no one really cares where you went to school, what your degree is, what you did before you were there. It just matters what you can do now and what you can do in the face of change—and how you can adapt. Going to a school that can prepare you as a well-rounded individual just prepares you better.”

Ridgway graduated from Loyola in May 2015 with a degree in finance and a minor in information systems. He works now as a financial analyst for Wells Fargo in Baltimore. And he credits his Loyola education with helping him think beyond his own personal goals and caring for others.

“The Jesuit mission and values are all about being one, a man for others; and two, a well-rounded individual,” he said. “You can think about the academics, and you can speak about math and science and history, but I think it also encompasses more social aspects, as well. Loyola really emphasized things about other people and other cultures that you wouldn’t see at other schools.”

As Ridgway entered the professional word after graduating, he found many of his Wells Fargo colleagues were involved in service opportunities—and his mother urged him to fill his free time with one of his own.

“I wanted something more home-grown, so I was looking around and I came across the website for To Love Children, an international education foundation,” said Ridgway, who was intrigued to learn more about the Baltimore-based nonprofit foundation focused on empowering young women and ending worldwide poverty through education.

“Their emphasis is on girls being one of the most marginalized populations in society. If you look at a lot of countries around the world, if there’s going to be an opportunity for a family’s daughter or the son, it’s the son that gets the opportunity.”

As Ridgway learned more and spoke with the organization’s founder—who was considering doing work in Haiti, not far from Ridgway’s native Jamaica—Ridgway felt drawn to the organization, which educates and advocates for educational opportunities and public health programs in the communities it serves. He applied to serve as the organization’s chief financial officer, knowing that he was well-qualified for the position despite his age. He landed the role and started as CFO for To Love Children in June.

He believes his Jesuit education helped prepare him for this part of his life—and whatever will come next.

“Any job is going to train you for that job,” he said. “College trains you for the real world.”

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