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Jahkil Jackson: “Don’t Wait To Be Great”

To become a change maker the first thing that you have to do is be identify something that needs changing. This should be something that you are passionate about, sometimes people do things for the wrong reasons, like popularity and fame. If this is the mission, it will not be successful. The other tip I […]

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To become a change maker the first thing that you have to do is be identify something that needs changing. This should be something that you are passionate about, sometimes people do things for the wrong reasons, like popularity and fame. If this is the mission, it will not be successful. The other tip I would give is to start small. Taking on too much is guaranteed failure as well. I would also suggest to have some form of a support system. As young people, we can do many things, but there are some things that we will need to have support from adults to make things happen. Another is to be open to meet new people and learn new things. I think that I have been successful so far because of the network of youth change makers that I have met around the world! We have a very strong community where we feed off of each other’s projects and goals.


As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jahkil Jackson.

Jahkil Naeem Jackson is a best-selling author, social entrepreneur and founder of Project I Am, a nonprofit organization he created when he was eight years old. Now 13, Jahkil has a heartfelt desire to help those in need. Jahkil’s mission is to build awareness of homelessness and to help the homeless population by offering “Blessing Bags,” a giveaway filled with masks, wipes, socks, deodorant, hand sanitizer, and more. In just a few years, Jahkil’s efforts have touched 50,000 men, women, and children internationally.

Jahkil has been named a Youth Ambassador for Heartland Alliance, is a member of the WE International Youth Council, and has received several awards, honors and acknowledgements by multiple corporations, organizations and media outlets such as Nike, Marvel and Disney. Most notably Jahkil was named one of 2017’s most influential people by President Barack Obama and was named a 2019 CNN Hero Young Wonder.

Jahkil is a motivational speaker on a mission to influence kids around the country to get involved in their communities. He plans to continue to join forces with other like-minded youth to lead a life of service, encouraging them to find their passions and make the world a better place.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/88a912f6df0174834d534d1380b1b2a5


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

I’m only 13, so I will say that I am GROWING up on the south side of Chicago with my mom and dad who have been very supportive of everything I want to do so far.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

When I was in like 2nd grade, I read Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraordinaire — The Lemonade Escapade by Ty Allan Jackson & Johnathan Shears. This book had such an impact on me because at this point I had started saying that I wanted to own my own NBA team because my parents had always told me that entrepreneurship is the way to go. Ownership is the key to generational wealth. This book’s main character spoke about owning an NBA Team! I couldn’t believe that my though process was in this book, I was so excited.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

Project I Am builds awareness to homelessness and provides temporary support to those in need in the form of Blessing Bags. I am trying to help create a world where everyone has access to housing. We need to remember that homeless people are people too.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

I started this organization after going to feed the homeless with my aunt when I was 5 years old in Chicago on one winter day. I did not understand why they were out there. I could not understand why they didn’t have homes. After many questions to my aunt and parents, I was unsatisfied! I wanted to get them all homes but since we couldn’t do that, I just continued to bug my parents to give everyone that we saw outside money. Finally, when I was 8 years-old they helped me start the organization. I decided that I wanted to do toiletries because I wanted to do something that would last longer than food and I wanted to do something year-round because most times people only give during the holiday season but people are still homeless in February, in April, in July!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

An interesting story is when President Obama requested to meet me after he named me one of 2017’s most influential people. It was so exciting to know that he knew my name and my story. When I met him, we had a good conversation about my goals and how he was proud of me. Me, Jahkil Jackson, a black boy from the south side of Chicago having a conversation with the 1st Black President. This just gave me so much pride.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

My family has been very supportive, particularly my mom, dad and GG (grandma). They help push me and keep me on point because after all I am JUST 13 years old. My parents make sure that I also have “regular kid” experiences. This is why I participate in so many activities like Basketball, Tap Dance, Break Dance, Coding, and Improv.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Making a Difference is committing to a cause that you are passionate about. This can be helping the homeless, being a mentor to a kid because they don’t have role models at home, reading books to seniors in senior citizen facilities, cooking at a soup kitchen…so many different options.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

To become a change maker the first thing that you have to do is be identify something that needs changing. This should be something that you are passionate about, sometimes people do things for the wrong reasons, like popularity and fame. If this is the mission, it will not be successful. The other tip I would give is to start small. Taking on too much is guaranteed failure as well. I would also suggest to have some form of a support system. As young people, we can do many things, but there are some things that we will need to have support from adults to make things happen. Another is to be open to meet new people and learn new things. I think that I have been successful so far because of the network of youth change makers that I have met around the world! We have a very strong community where we feed off of each other’s projects and goals.

What are the values that drive your work?

My values are dedication, hard-working, honesty and determination.

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centered in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

I do daily affirmations which has helped me staying focused, confident, and relaxed. Because I am so busy, I can get quite overwhelmed considering that I am also a full-time student working to maintain my all A average. These affirmations are important for when I am feeling low, and down on myself for whatever reason. Additionally, part of my daily practice is to do 45 minutes of stretching, breathing and some form of exercise. If this is done in the morning, it jumps my day off very well! I also watch motivational youtube videos and sometimes have calls with my peers on best practices.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

I feel like the world as it is currently is dirty. There is so much negativity, hate, from racism, sexism, classism, ignoring the climate and homophobia to name a few. My vision is a world that is clean, positive, love and acceptance. I am asthmatic, and when I am breathing in clean air and drinking clean water I have clearer thoughts, my world is just brighter, like the sun shines a bit brighter for me. I think this is the case for everything, we have to speak positivity, actively work to change negative to positive, ultimately changing mindsets.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

If I had limitless resources, I would build tiny communities around the country in attempts to work towards my goal of eliminating homelessness. Everyone deserves the dignity of not sleeping on the street, the dignity of having a clean body every day and hope for a better future. I would also develop a top-notch resource center that will help the homeless with getting and keeping jobs.

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

I would love to see equality in education. In Chicago students have to test for a place in academically strong schools. There are thousands of students testing for only a few hundred slots. Everyone should have access to strong educational opportunities. I do not attend what they call an academic center and I see the difference in my knowledge base vs my peers who do attend these types of schools. My school does not teach at the pace and level as the other schools, which is unfortunate because the track for those type of schools have students on pace to receive higher test scores, better grades and college scholarships from the moment they are in kindergarten.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would tell them Don’t Wait To Be Great. Us young people do not have to wait to get going, we can do powerful things right now! I and so many of my friends are proof of that. I call us the #dogood crew.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-).

I would love to be able to further my conversation with President Obama and I would also love to have a sit down with LeBron James because he is a successful man, on and off the court and his heart is so big. I appreciate that so much because he does not have to be that way, he can be like other celebrities and not care about giving back. I would love to talk to both of them about being powerful black men in America.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can visit my website at officialprojectiam.com or visit me on FB & IG at @officialprojectiam

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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