When the Marshall County senior's cousin was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic when Jones was in the sixth grade, her entire family was tested for the antibodies that caused the disease. But since it was very unlikely that any member of their family would actually carry the antibodies, they were told not to worry.
A few weeks later, though, Jones received news that she tested positive for three of the four antibodies and was asked if she would be willing to participate in a clinical research study at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to help with the prevention of the onset of Type 1 diabetes.
"I was super-scared at that point," Jones said. "I didn't know what I was going to do, and I didn't know if I even wanted to be a part of the research. My parents left the decision up to me."
While the thought of being poked and prodded with needles, taking medicine every day and having MRIs sounded terrifying to her, Jones thought about her cousin. She realized that if she participated, it might make a difference for both him and all other Type 1 diabetics living with the disease.
Jones, the daughter of Jason and Kelly Jones, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Each Monday in the online edition and Tuesday in the print edition, The Sun features a teen selected from nominees submitted by guidance counselors throughout the region. Near the end of the school year, one of the students will be named Teen of the Year and receive a $5,000 scholarship. An additional student will be chosen for an Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
Jones now goes to Vanderbilt every six months for MRIs and has taken experimental drugs to track the condition of her pancreas. Since joining the study, she said her desire to help and inform those that don't know about Type 1 diabetes has skyrocketed.
"I am devoted to helping each person I can to learn about what Type 1 diabetes is and the signs and symptoms associated with its development," she said.
Misdiagnosis of the disease as a less serious illness often results in unnecessary deaths among children across the United States, Jones said.
"I am currently working to get legislation passed in Kentucky that requires doctors to explain signs and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes and test blood glucose levels at well visit check-ups, or if a patient comes in with flu-like symptoms," she said. "I want to do everything I can to make sure that no parent loses a child because of a lack of knowledge of this disease."
Aside from her passion for helping combat the disease, Jones has been able to excel academically. She also pursues her artistic passions by founding a self-run calligraphy painting business where she creates murals, invitations and place cards for weddings, parties and items for home decor.
She often donates her canvases to charitable causes, such as the Marshall County Humane Society, Kidsfirst Preschool, Benton Elementary and the Marshall County Backboard Club.
"Owning this business has instilled in me a sense of responsibility and has helped me become a more well-rounded person," Jones said.
She plans to attend either the University of Kentucky or the University of Alabama next year and major in English, journalism and law. She said the foundation she has built and the support Marshall County has given her have prepared her to be an engaged, aware and active citizen.