Out of her shell, and shining

Published 10:55 pm Friday, March 21, 2014

Alicia Jackson, a junior at King’s Fork High School, has been named Youth of the Year for the Suffolk unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Virginia.

Alicia Jackson, a junior at King’s Fork High School, has been named Youth of the Year for the Suffolk unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Virginia.

When local units of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Virginia named their respective youths of the year recently, Alicia Jackson was excited to claim the honor for Suffolk.

The King’s Fork High School junior said she became a member of the Suffolk unit as a seventh-grader, was a volunteer for two years, and had been a paid junior staffer there for about a year.

“When I was a member, I looked up to the staff and I admired them,” Jackson said on Friday afternoon at John F. Kennedy Middle School, where the club meets after school hours to provide such things as tutoring, mentoring and general support to children.

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“My experience is, basically, to try to mimic them.”

In her current role, Jackson supervises, directs and organizes activities for club members, all the while encouraging positive behavior and being a mentor — like those she looked up to when she was younger.

“When you come here, you are not judged,” she said. “You are accepted for who you are.”

Jackson said she had learned more about herself through the club and tried to pass that effect along to the younger members.

“That’s what we try to do with the kids,” she said. “Get them in the right direction, and from there, let them make their own decisions. That’s how they learn right from wrong.”

Jackson said she used to be at JFK Middle five days a week, as a sophomore, and every day in the summer. Now, she said, she is there Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday.

She hopes to attend the Culinary Institute of America to major in baking and pastry. “Cooking has been a passion of mine since I was 6 years old,” she said. “I hope to open my own restaurant when I graduate from college.”

Jackson said she had been waiting to become Youth of the Year ever since joining the club. “I was excited and I was really happy to find out I finally got my chance to shine and be this role model,” she said.

After starting out with the club as a shy individual, she now has “gained confidence and learned to become a social person,” Jackson said.

“It’s because of the club that I can talk to parents and talk to business people — and even talk to children.”

If it wasn’t for the club, she added, “I would still be this inward-type person.”

Reggie Carter, director of the club’s Suffolk unit, said Jackson “always stood out — from the time she came to the club.

“She’s just a good example of what we try to get out of all our kids.”