Jonte D. Craighead

Hometown – Rocky Mount, VA
Undergrad – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, BS, Civil Engineering
Current – Product Manager, Upstart

Jonté’s childhood in rural Franklin County, Virginia was marked with a great degree of exposure and he quickly developed an interest in reading and computers, somewhat simultaneously, both of which would serve him in good stead throughout elementary school and much of his later life. He received high marks throughout elementary school, but also found other activities, such as recreational baseball and soccer and his school’s chess club, to be equally engaging. With a burgeoning academic record, Jonté took part in his middle school’s pilot math program, placing him on the fast track for many other opportunities. Throughout his middle school year, thanks to almost sacrificial support from his parents, Jonté found himself in the midst of several extracurricular activities including the school’s Odyssey of the Mind, debate, aviation, and competitive chess teams in addition to election as student council Vice President and President and selection, in 8th grade, for the Virginia Department of Education Student Advisory Committee. With these experiences, Jonté was able to broaden his view of the world and develop critical problem solving, leadership, and public speaking skills; these highly social activities encouraged him to consider a career in politics alongside a long-held vision of electronic design.

Jonté’s enrollment in the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School was a life altering event. Here, in an environment of bright, motivated students from neighboring localities, he was able to immerse himself wholeheartedly in a research intensive curriculum; early on, the perspectives he gained convinced him to consider a career in engineering. The most substantial aspects of his RVGS career were the development of an interest in chemistry, and later calculus, and the ability to engage in original research experiments. In research, he was able to explore engineering in depth, and most notably, was able to work for two years with a professor from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute to enhance computation software for widespread adoption in schools. The result, while disengaging him from an interest in computer design as a career, was a much greater calling, one to chart the course of novel solutions to problems in various areas.

In the extracurricular activities of his high school career, this calling and his indomitable will to succeed for himself and the betterment of others had been substantiated. A member of the Franklin County High School Marching Band since 8th grade, Jonté had relentlessly practiced every nuance of marching techniques and from humble beginnings became Drum Major in his junior year. In some of his most rewarding works as a teen volunteer at his local library and local 4-H camp, he was tasked with promoting both educational and character development in creative ways while managing and encouraging his colleagues.

Jonté, today, is very much a product of his varied experiences, committed to using his skills to solve the problems of his community—on a local, national, and global scale. While graduating with a BS in civil engineering in 2013, he recognized and embraced the necessity of developing expertise in other fields to achieve his goals.