GREENE COLUMN: School can be cool for young men
Eric Jackson keeps it real.
He wants young African-American males to make education cool again.
“You can still have a sway in your step and be educated.” That message, somehow, got lost on too many young black males, he said. “Education is important. And reading is fundamental.”
Through his year-old nonprofit, R3 Inc. (Real Talk, Real Action, Real Results), Jackson challenges more than 40 teen boys and girls to stay off the streets and get an education.
Every day after school at the Shaw Community Center at Mary and America streets, the 35-year-old Burke grad is spreading this message to young people on the East Side.
Word is spreading: the center is a place for real talk; to read and do homework; and shoot hoops or throw some punches — at a boxing bag that is.
More role models
Jackson started the nonprofit because he saw a need for more positive role models, especially black males. He focuses on the social aspect — building self-esteem, self-worth because teens need emotional development.
He tells them to look in the mirror and not rely on others to make them successful.
Jackson, a Navy vet and the father of a 7-year-old and a 13-year-old, tells teens the best way to enrich their lives is through education. “It's the No. 1 priority.”
He brings in various speakers. Real Talk roundtable discussions allow teens to talk about any problem.
Additionally, Jackson's wife, Kimberly, CEO of the group, holds Girl Talk.
Eric Jackson wants the black community to come together and do more to help young people.
Not everyone on the street corner is a drug dealer. Seven out of 10 people are just “hanging out.”
He tells teens there are too many negatives to being a drug dealer. “You either go to jail, or you get killed.”
But instead of shunning misguided teens, Jackson, his wife and David White, group chief operating officer, try to show them a better way.
They offer teens a chance to come in off the corner and do constructive things like reading for 20 minutes a day or boxing.
Now an equipment tech in the operating room at Roper Hospital, Jackson, who is studying Human Services at Southern Wesleyan University, was not always big on education.
He grew up with a single parent and “I experimented with the streets, but I had a praying mother.”
Also, back then, the community kept up with what teens were doing.
He thinks more people should get involved with teens by volunteering.
The center, the former Boys & Girls Club, has a library with 250 donated books; Jackson wants even more so teens can read at home.
It was a struggle at first, but now many look forward to reading about sports, music, different places and African-American history.
Jackson sees his R3 Inc. as a path builder, providing a way for teens and adults to get jobs by learning how to fill out applications, get GEDs. He is big on parent participation.
One day he hopes to expand into the schools.
Jackson is a big man with a big heart who has big dreams for young people. The only thing bigger is his enthusiasm for what he does.
Reach Assistant Features Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555.