One Can Never Stop Learning or Evolving
By Tiffany King
Like many students at the College of Coastal Georgia, Mariners men's basketball player Jonathan Canada's future is wide open to infinite possibilities. The Camden County native is on track to graduate next spring with a bachelor's degree in business administration and has dreams of having his own business. What that business might be is something Canada is still mulling over.
While he is excited about what will come after graduation, Canada is currently focused on his senior year. As point-guard for the Mariners, basketball will play a big role in his final year. He didn't expect to spend his entire College career as a Mariner. When he started at the College, he planned to transfer to a bigger institution, but the small college and family-like atmosphere compelled him to stay.
"When I first came here, I didn't think I would like it because I thought I would go to a bigger school—a Division II school and I was ready. But I was very happy when I came here and I ended up loving it," Canada said smiling. He credits this to College of Coastal Georgia Men's Basketball Coach Jesse Watkins. "As a [basketball] player freshman year and being 18, I had a huge head and thought I knew everything—and clearly I did not. Coach Watkins put me in my place and since then I always saw him as the father-figure I never had. I was never going to leave him after that."
Canada described his time playing basketball as "a blessing in itself" and is grateful for the opportunity to play on the collegiate level. The team continues to improve with each passing year and in February the Mariners went all the way to the Sun Conference tournament championship game against Ave Maria. Although the Mariners were beaten by Ave Maria, the journey of getting to the championship with his teammates will always be a special moment for Canada.
"We made it to the championship game! How many people walk away from college as an athlete with a ring? I love college basketball here," he said. "Not only are the coaches doing their best for the team and players, but they also make sure you're doing well in life. Coach Watkins is heavy on life teachings in practice. It's really helpful in building a brotherhood with the 12 or 13 guys on the team."
The bond he's built with his fellow teammates helped him get through a tough time in his life. At the end of this freshman year and beginning of his sophomore year, Canada started to suffer from depression. Not wanting anyone to worry—especially his mother and family—he kept it to himself.
"I felt like quitting and dropping out and going into the military. It was that intense," he said. "School was fine. I didn't understand why I started to feel that way. I wasn't lonely, but I was away from my family for so long for the first time, so I didn't know what to do or how to react. My mom was working and helping my sisters and brother, so I didn't want her worrying about me. I already made her a promise that she didn't have to pay for school and I didn't want her to worry about anything."
His roommates at the time were Haylen Washington and Jaylen Smallwood, who were also his teammates and really helped him overcome what Canada described as a "deep and dark place" through their friendship. Canada eventually started to open up to his teammates and other friends who noticed what he was going through. By the end of sophomore year, his depression had subsided.
"That really helped me through depression—opening up to my teammates. They were really helpful, fun, and that got me out of that dark place. They don't know but I love them all for that. Those are my brothers for real. My kids will have 12 uncles," he said. "Just being in that place changed me as a man. When I see other people going through that same struggle I feel for them heavily, and I will try to do anything I can for them, because people did that for me."
Despite some injuries playing basketball—swollen fingers, a bruised foot, pulled groin, and others—Canada said it's all been worth it to play for the College with 12 amazing guys.
One of his many favorite memories from his time on the team is when assistant basketball coaches Chris Jackson and Jared Moore play basketball with the team or do practice runs.
"Whenever they play basketball with us it's hilarious and watching them try to keep up—I love it. Those are always fun moments," he said.
A Future in Business
Canada is considering having a business in either the real estate, hotel, restaurant, or entertainment industry. He currently works at a local club in Brunswick—The Bamboo Bar & Lounge—as security and is soaking up all he can.
"I really love it there. I'm building a lot of relationships and the owner has a lot of connections within the community. He takes me with him when he conducts business and I'm learning a lot," Canada said.
Canada hopes to have his own business by the age of 30—he's now 22 years old. He has plans to invest in stocks, save money, and use those finances to buy property. One of his main motivations for this is his mother. He wants to make sure she'll never want for anything.
"I want to make plenty of money to take care of my mom and get her whatever she needs," he said. "She always took care of me even when we were struggling and fighting our way out of poverty. It's much better now, but I'm so thankful for her. I'm really blessed."
Canada is the youngest of four siblings—two older sisters, one brother, and one half-sister. His mother moved from Camden to Savannah, and he still tries to make sure she has everything she needs.
Kids in College
Canada has a way with kids, which makes him a great fit as a camp counselor for Kids in College. Kids in College is the College's annual summer enrichment program for children in the area and takes place at both the Brunswick campus and Camden center. The program hosts camps in sports, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and fine arts. Canada has been a camp counselor for the past two years.
"The first year I did it, I didn't know what to expect but the kids were so much fun. Some of them are extremely smart and they're playful," he said with a big smile.
He talked of sometimes seeing kids from the camp out in the community and taking to heart that he plays an important role in making their summer enjoyable. Canada called the camp counselors and instructors—Stefon Roberson, Dru Gordon, Zach Gay, Erin Kuykendall, Moore, Jackson, and Jennifer Rothe, interim Recreation and Wellness director—a tight-knit group.
"We have a really good operation going. I like everything we do at kids camp and where we're taking it. We recently had to meet with Jen to come up with a schedule for STEM and we were brainstorming, bouncing ideas, and coming up with games for the kids. That's the kind of environment I want to work in—a small group of people who will meet up and ultimately get things done."
Although Canada always had a knack for kids, when he first started working with the camp it was for the pay. Now his love for children and being a positive role model are the reasons he still does it, such as getting to see the smile on their faces when he shows up to their sporting events.
"There's plenty of kids, not only here but in Camden as well, who look up to me. I try to guide them the best way I can and share what I've learned. I feel like I play a factor in how these kids grow up," he said. "I don't want to be the guy that says no you can't do that. I want to be the one that opens their minds to all the huge possibilities. I always try to make sure the kids are in a good place before anything—before me."
Kids aren't the only ones growing and learning through Kids in College. Canada described how his interactions with children of different ethnicities, cultures, and upbringings have helped him realize the importance having a broad perspective.
"That's what I've gotten most out of this—the different cultures, backgrounds, how people view the world, and how kids see the world. It's interesting and they're hilarious. It's amazing how kids don't see black and white. They don't care, they just want to have fun and that quality is so lovable," Canada said.
Because he enjoys working with kids, Canada believes he'll continue to work with children somehow in the future; whether through coaching, refereeing games, or operating a nonprofit or business.
Everything in Moderation and Never Stop Learning
His advice to students, especially freshman and new transfers to the College is this: practice everything in moderation.
"Since it may be the first time you've been away from home, don't stress yourself out and party every night. Be moderate because you can get into a lot of trouble and your grades will start slipping. Make sure you take care of your classes early and take advantage of tutoring. Tutoring here is free versus at other colleges where you have to pay a lot of money. Stay on top of your schoolwork," he said. "To the sophomores, seniors, and juniors keep doing what you're doing."
He's learned a lot about himself during his time at the College—mainly that he still has a lot to learn. Canada said he's changed since his first days as a "know-it-all." He understands the importance of building relationships and how life is a non-stop learning process. He credits this to not only people on campus, but his boss and the lounge, and Pastor Mark Baker of Greater Works Ministries in Brunswick.
Canada is excited about what the future has to offer and is looking forward to continually transforming into his best self.