- Carrie Silver
Bridges to a Brighter Future Alumni Stories: Where Are They Now?
Meet Jonathan Montoya
Wanting to raise their family in a place free of violence and fear, Jonathan Montoya’s parents left Colombia, South America and came to the U.S. when he was just 11 years old. From the time they arrived in Greenville, S.C., Jonathan knew he wanted to attend college, and he also knew the only way that was possible, since his parents couldn’t afford to send him to college, was to do extremely well in school and earn a scholarship.
Living on a low income, Jonathan’s family often struggled to make ends meet. Knowing his circumstances and seeing his motivation to excel in school, the guidance counselor at Wade Hampton High School nominated Jonathan for the Bridges to a Brighter Future program at Furman University.
“I attribute where I am today to the love and encouragement I received and the connections I made at Bridges,” Jonathan said. “At Bridges, they simply want to make you better. They see your potential, and they provide the support and encouragement you need to keep going when things get tough,” he said.
Jonathan said that the different activities, especially the residential summer program, helped the Bridges participants – high school sophomores, juniors and seniors – form a strong bond, and this unity gave them hope, inspiration, and the confidence they needed to push through and stay focused on their college aspirations.
“My connections with the other kids in the Bridges program were, and still are, strong friendships,” he said. “It is a true brotherhood and sisterhood because we were so different from other kids, and we understood what we were going through. All of our stories were different, but similar. We were like a big family all there to support each other and get each other through the hard times.”
During his time in the Bridges program, he says that the opportunity to meet some of the speakers and partners – all leaders and influencers from the local community – was a game changer for him. He met Stewart Spinks, founder of The Spinx Co., a S.C.-based convenience store company, and the two had an immediate connection.
After graduating as the valedictorian of his Bridges class, Jonathan attended Furman University, where he again connected with Mr. Spinks. Jonathan was a recipient of the Spinks Scholar at Furman, and, through this program, Jonathan met with Mr. Spinks and his wife, Martha, and Mr. Spinks saw his drive and potential.
“Jonathan’s enthusiasm, passion to learn, and curiosity made quite an impression, and he was like a kindred spirit because he was doing what he had to do to and working odd jobs to get through college and reach his goals, just like I did. We had the same work ethic,” said Stewart Spinks. “When he came to Spinx, he found his passion and love for customer service. He cares about the company, his teammates, his customers, and the community. I’m extremely proud of him and know he’ll continue to grow and succeed.”
“After college, I was working as a valet when Stewart saw me at the valet stand at Soby’s and asked me how I was doing,” Jonathan said. “I had just graduated and was looking for a job in a business management capacity, and Stewart told me to call Fran in the Spinx HR department. I called her the next day, and here I am in Spinx management nine year later.” After running into Mr. Spinks at Soby’s, Jonathan met with Fran, went through several interviews, and accepted a job offer as a shift supervisor at a Spinx store.
Through lots of hard work, Jonathan was recently promoted to a territory manager for Spinx, overseeing the operations of nine Spinx locations in the Charleston market. “Jonathan volunteered to transfer to Charleston when we started opening stores in that market, and he served as a general manager, where was very successful and quickly ascended into a regional manager position. I know he’ll continue to grow, and hopefully grow with Spinx,” Spinks said.
Jonathan has remained involved with Bridges to a Brighter Future, assisting with the student selection process and serving as a counselor. “The selection process is hard because there are so many kids that deserve to be in this program,” Jonathan said. “During the interview process you see something in them, and you want to give that kid every opportunity to succeed and reach their dreams, and that’s what the Bridges program does.”
When asked what advice he would give high school students facing hard personal circumstances and planning for the future, Jonathan said, “Find your own definition of success. It doesn’t have to be to go to college and become a doctor because your success is uniquely yours. The opportunities are endless, so push through your circumstances to find opportunities that are right for you and go for it.”