It's unusual for anyone to make political history by the age of 21. Jewell Jones has managed to do it twice.
The first time was when he became the youngest person to sit on the city council of his hometown, Inkster, Michigan. Then, in last November's election, he made history again as the youngest person ever elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives, beating his Republican opponent with 64 percent of the vote.
Serving Michigan's 11th State House District—a constituency that comprises roughly 63,000 people, according to the most recent census—Jewell says he never set out to be a politician, but having grown up in a community where "money wasn't plentiful, but the people were passionate and engaged," he says he felt compelled to take an opportunity when he saw it. After the late Representative Julie Plawecki died in 2016, leaving an empty seat, Jones was selected to fill Plawecki's vacancy on the ballot.
Jones says that he's motivated by "hearing my brothers and sisters in the community talk about life."
"I'm focused on getting resources to the citizens that I represent to improve the quality of life for my neighbors, and my colleagues' neighbors across the State of Michigan," he says.
Jones is very at home on social media, and, with more than 12,000 followers on both Instagram and Facebook, he uses the platforms as a way to engage with his constituency. Whether he's posting professional snaps of him with his colleagues in crisp suits, or quotes from one of his idols, you can tell he is the one doing the posting—not a public relations team.
"You and I made history, once again," Jones posted on Instagram after winning his election last November. "Please continue to pray for me, the team, and my colleagues as we move forward, together."
Time management appears to be one of Jones' strong suits. Even as he continues his burgeoning political career, he is also a senior at the University of Michigan–Dearborn, where he is on track to graduate this spring with a degree in political science and business studies; he also has served in the ROTC.
"I think making history, showing young people that it is possible—that is my proudest achievement," Jones says. "Showing young people that it is critical to get off the sidelines and get involved. Showing young people that we are the generation of change."
Focusing on his term ahead, Jones hopes to foster and implement more youth-driven ideas in the community. But if you ask him to chat about his long-term career trajectory, Jones is young enough to laugh it off.
"In 50 years—ha! I tend to enjoy the motion of life," he says. "We're going to see where God leads us."
Explore the complete list of this year's 30 top thinkers under 30 here. (Lead 3-D Illustration: Comrade)