Van Jones is the first Pine Belt 360 executive director, after serving as the first president of the Pine Belt 360 board of directors. He assumed this new role in June 2013, after much deliberation and prayer. Van firmly believes the work of unifying Christ’s body is difficult and necessary, but absolutely worth it. Van and his wife Nicole are proud business owners of the After School Academics and Arts Program, where the mission is simply for boys and girls to experience Jesus’ love daily. The students complete their homework, listen to a daily devotion, and weekly engage in dance, art, and music. He also serves as the president of Maximize Your 8, Inc., an educational coaching and consulting company that seeks to help educational leaders transform best practices into next practices. Van is also a public speaker.
After coaching basketball at Hattiesburg High School, Laurel High School, Lumberton High School, and Oak Grove High School, Van moved into educational administration, first as the assistant principal at Woodley Elementary School and then as the principal of the Earl Travillion Attendance Center.
Van’s overall desire is to be a part of greater missions, be Jesus’ hands and feet, and to live full and die empty. Van’s philosophy is simple: clarify purpose, identify gifts, and set realistic goals, combined with a strong work ethic, pervasive discipline, a solid belief system, and an unrelenting resolve to excellence.
Van is a native of the Mississippi Delta, where he hails from the small Sunflower County town of Moorhead. He arrived at USM on a basketball scholarship in 1996, played for four seasons, married his college sweetheart, Nicole, and is the proud father of two beautiful girls, Vanessa and Sydni. The family attends church and is engaged in ministry at Grace Temple. Van’s hobbies consist of reading, working out, and crossword puzzles.