She began working at its headquarters in Atlanta nine years ago. Originally, she sought out a job there because it was close to her Edgewood home in DeKalb County. And for the first six years, she treated it as just a job, not a passion.
It was not until she attended a conference where she heard one of the applicants for youth of the year speak about his experience as a club kid that something changed.
The young man spoke about how he never would have been successful inside and outside of school without the unconditional support he received through the club.
That is when it clicked for Jackson, she said. Working as a project assistant in the training department, she never got to witness the impact of the club on the youth who attended.
“When I listened to him and heard how the Boys & Girls Club was there for him when he had nobody else, that absolutely gave me the purpose of why I was there,” she said.
But the young man’s story resonated even deeper with Jackson, who was a high school dropout in the ninth grade.
She admits that she did not have the best study habits in the past, and each poor grade she received in high school came as an absolute defeat. Coming from a broken home, Jackson said she did not have the moral support to keep trying.
“It’s not that I wasn’t smart,” she said. “It’s not because I didn’t apply myself. I didn’t have anyone behind me to push me.”
Jackson did have an aptitude for learning, and passed the GED at age 20 having no preparation beforehand — neither classes nor studying.
Hearing what life could have been like had she been backed by supportive and encouraging people, Jackson knew that it was her purpose in life to do anything she could to support Atlanta’s youth.
“The support they give the children, it means the world to me,” she said.
And now the club is giving back to her.
Jackson, through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, has received a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Phoenix, where she plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing.
She said she has known about the scholarship for a few years, but was not ready to dive into earning her degree.
Part of the reason is Jackson said she did not have enough self-love to push herself to bigger and better things.
“I didn’t know how to appreciate who I was and my abilities,” she said.
It was not until her mother died in 2010 that she learned to love herself.
“I had no one else to love me but myself,” she said. “I hate that she’s not here, but I love what she’s given me. She would always tell me, ‘I’m going to be with you more when I’m gone than when I was here.’”
Jackson’s life-changing experience of losing her mother was in one of the essays she wrote in her application. She said she felt so strongly that it was a powerful and moving essay that when she turned in her application, she knew she would get the scholarship.
She is one of 30 people nationwide to earn the scholarship out of 160 applicants.
As a full-time employee and full-time mom to her 7-year-old son, while also having two other grown children, Jackson has already begun classes and she said she loves the online platform.
“I couldn’t imagine going to campus every day,” she said.
Jackson said she was a little nervous about accountability taking all of her classes online, but she said the instructors are very supportive and involved.
“The instructors have given so much encouragement,” she said. “So far it’s been a great experience.”
She said she plans to continue working at the club. In fact, the same week in March when she found out about her scholarship, she was promoted to the headquarters’ marketing department.