KF valedictorian didn’t lose his focus through COVID-19

Published 9:17 pm Friday, June 11, 2021

Note: This is the first in a series of stories on the valedictorians at high schools in Suffolk. 

Gabe Jackson didn’t try to become valedictorian, but through his hard work in the classroom and the weighted grade-point-average that comes with taking International Baccalaureate classes, he graduates from King’s Fork High School with top honors.

“I got straight A’s, and then, because of the straight A’s, it just followed suit,” said Jackson, who finished with a 4.6 GPA. “It wasn’t really the focus. It was just a side-effect.”

He said things got easier for him during the coronavirus pandemic since he no longer had to get up so early to get to school on time. Instead of getting up at 7 a.m. to leave by 7:30 to get to school by 8, he could get a little extra rest before logging into classes virtually.

“I don’t feel like COVID has really affected me at all,” Jackson said. “I feel like IB got a little more difficult in my second year because I have all these papers due and all that. I feel like I’ve got pretty good time management. I’m not going to sleep in, but I’m going to sleep for as long as I can.”

He said it helped to have a great home environment that allowed him to focus on his academics without pressure — a “wicked smart” dad and a “super supportive” mom.

“My parents never were on my back,” Jackson said. “As long as I’m not failing, they were like, ‘you’re doing good.’”

But Jackson also had an outlet in sports such as swimming, soccer and weight training.

“It pushes me to hang out with people,” said Jackson, a self-professed nerd. “It gets me out of the house.”

Jackson, who plans to study computer science at the University of Virginia, said his dad has been a computer programmer since age 12, which is when it “picked up steam” for him — “he knows everything. He’s got it down.”

“It’s more like a hobby,” Jackson said. “I would say it’s kind of like puzzles. I feel like math comes easy, because I’ve been doing it for a while. I do a lot of 2D, 3D … It feels like an accomplishment.”

Jackson finds the subject challenging yet useful.

“If it’s about theory, then you can apply that theory. I don’t want to do too basic things, but I feel like the stuff that’s more difficult, one, you’re going to get paid more for it. But two, it’s more rewarding. You can build on yourself.”

What he’s learned, he said, has been based on self-interest and was informal in nature. For instance, he can write code, but he professes not to understand everything about it. He takes what he does know and uses that to grow.

“Once you understand the most basic form of a language,” Jackson said, “then you can extrapolate that to any other language.”

Valedictorian: Gabe Jackson

Age: 18

Family: James Jackson, father; Kathleen Jackson, mother; Maggie Jackson, 20, sister; Colin Jackson, 16, brother; Lily Jackson, 11, sister

College: University of Virginia

Major: Computer science