From Harlem, meet Georgia Rep Jackson, Be Strong’s March 2020 Student of the Month!
“I want to be more social with my fellow students and let them know that if they’re going through something that there are people looking out for them.” – Jackson
As humans, our stories are every bit as unique as ourselves. It has been said that people are the sum of their experiences. While we learn and grow through what we go through, we are much more than our past. Jackson is no exception.
Jackson, a high school senior in Harlem, Georgia, draws from experiences in his formative years to make his community a more inviting, more integrated culture. “I was homeschooled up until the 4th grade and when I started public school, I didn’t know anyone.” While he had a solid support system in his family, Jackson admitted, “In places like lunch, I sat alone.”
His mentor, Tracy Presley, speaks to the young leader’s character, saying, “Jackson cares for the students around him and treats them with respect. He wants to see everyone included – this is a burden of his.”
Following a conversation about what moves Jackson, Tracy nominated him for Be Strong’s Student State Representative program, a vast national family of student leaders who are focused on being the solution to social difficulties and failing hope among their peers. “He said he wanted to get something started in his school. I think he’d do a great job making sure others are included and not left out,” said Tracy.
Jackson joined the program, becoming a Student Rep early in the 2019-2020 school year. For his senior project, he brought We Dine Together, a Be Strong initiative focused on inclusion and peer relationships, to his school. He offered the insight, “I want to be more social with my fellow students and let them know that if they’re going through something, that there are people looking out for them.” Looking back to when he first transitioned from homeschool to attending a public campus, Jackson added, “I eventually made friends but I know that not everyone is as lucky as I was. I just want people to know that they’re able to have friends who will be there for them.”
Made up of half a dozen other students, Jackson’s We Dine Together family makes it a point to introduce themselves to at least one new student a couple times each week. Together, they have a presence at all three of the school’s lunch blocks, offering an authentic and friendly alternative for students eating alone.
Although there are occasionally mixed reactions, Jackson likes to make it known that he is there for other students. He loves to see their smiles light up when they realize that he truly cares for them and wants them to feel accepted.
In January, Jackson sent a letter to his school’s leadership board, advocating for his fellow students by sharing about the work he does to improve the social climate within his school community. He was surprised to learn from his principal how strongly they wanted to know more. A meeting was called, offering Jackson the opportunity to present the idea, his strategies and successes, and Be Strong’s resources to the other local administrators in the district.
Jackson excitedly looks to the future, continuing his work with Be Strong, and making a difference in the lives around him.