David L. Jackson knows “We have something inside of us you can’t teach”
For our 25th anniversary, we are celebrating the alumni of our program who have continued to make meaningful and positive impacts on their communities long after workshops. Anyone familiar with PeerForward or College Summit is keenly aware of the crucial role our alumni play in our organization. They uplift, energize, and guide Peer Leaders along their path to postsecondary success; they are the role models who prove that college is an option for everyone and there is no limit to their dreams.
David L. Jackson is the Director of External Affairs for Project T.H.U.Gand the African American Literature Teacher/Transitional Success Coordinator at Beacon College Prep. As a native of the Miami-Dade metropolitan area, he is using his talents and influence to craft transformative methods of teaching in his own community.
As the co-Founder of Project T.H.U.G (Transforming Hope and Unifying Generations), David guides Fellows through an 8-month intensive program which culminates with a service project to mark their graduation. With his team, he seeks to shift the paradigm that “segments a people forcing us to believe only certain career goals, or personal aspirations are worth celebrating and others shouldn’t be discussed at all.” In the interview below, David reveals his motivations for igniting change for young Black men in Miami, Florida.
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
Miami is deeply at the core of my existence. I grew up watching my community normalize things that were never normal in the first place, especially in the classroom, where teachers looked like me but didn’t think like me. My decision to go into the education field was a desire to attack the problems at the root.
What drives you to create a positive impact?
Thoughts of what the future could look like motivate me to pour everything I have into my work. I’m motivated by knowing I can be a part of a culture-shifting dynamic. Creating more solutions instead of pushing problems into our community.
What would you say to a low-income student who is hesitant to take the next steps in their postsecondary education?
We have something inside of us you can’t teach – and that is grit. Education is going to unlock doors you wouldn’t even know to exist. Often, we take ourselves out of that conversation because we think we aren’t built for these types of environments; as if we can’t compete with the world around us. In reality, there is no one like us, no one who can compare to what we have to offer. You are so valuable, these places and space will thrive because of you – and in turn you because of them!
How has your journey through College Summit/PeerForward informed your work?
Originally, I had no intention of going to a College Summit workshop. For me, it came at a time where I was just released from the Juvenile Assessment Center. I was closed off, and not interested in being a part of all the running, screaming, dancing, and welcoming that College Summit had put on. However, Ashlee Neal and Loubert Senatus changed my life; to see Black folks live their truth openly without shame and vulnerability and be able to express it did something to me. I was reluctant but something kept pushing me to express myself. After I shared, a whirlwind of emotion came out of me. Ashlee followed me outside and for the first time, someone asked me what’s wrong. That one question accompanied with a hug changed the way I defined my masculinity forever. After the workshop the walls I built because I thought they meant survival came crashing down.
College Summit redefined what I knew the word truth to mean. Ownership is believing I own all of me and at times this ownership is contagious those around me do the same. I learned things that for a lifetime will be a part of my thought process when assessing why I am making a choice or decision, slowing down and asking important questions before I make a large leap. PeerForward to this Day reminds me that even when my battery is low – I can still give 100% of whatever I have left.