New Team Leader at Excel South Shore Took the Long Road
When Anthony Jackson was 20 years old he experienced a life-changing event. He got shot.
“After I was shot, just the look on my mother’s face changed my perspective,” Jackson said. That’s when I decided to turn my life around.”
Jackson had returned to his native Chicago to take care of his mother after attending college in Tennessee. He has been working with youth for about nine years, the past three as a behavior specialist at Camelot.
“Sometimes you have to take the long route and that’s why I’m so passionate about what I do,” he said. “When I see kids going down the same path I did why would I not try to deter them from going that route? My approach is to give them something that’s going to help them change – and want to change.”
Jackson soon begins his fourth year at Excel Academy of South Shore now promoted to team leader. His job entails ensuring that students learn in a safe environment and that they are constantly engaged and encouraged. Camelot Vice President Pedro Segarra said Jackson is “thriving and has a bright future in the world of education.”
Jackson says no matter what role he takes on with Camelot he wants to have direct interaction with students because that’s where he can be most effective.
“I was born and raised in Chicago, and I enjoy giving back to the community. It makes me more empathetic to the situations that our students are growing up in,” he said. “Just like many urban areas in the US right now, we are dealing with a lot of people who are desensitized to the violence going on in the community. Everybody who works at Camelot understands that our biggest job is to let students know that they can become anything they want to become.”
Like all of Camelot’s accelerated programs, Excel of South Shore serves students who have dropped out or fall well behind their peers in credits. As you might expect, many have gotten down on themselves and their prospects.
“We stress academics, but before we can get there we do a lot of things just to make sure that the students feel like they’re part of the family,” Jackson said. “A lot of their ability to overcome the odds comes from what we pour into them. I took the long route to get to where I am today. Sometimes when you’re telling students these things they look at you like you don’t look like you’ve been through anything because of the way you dress, wearing a tie. And then when you start opening up and tell them where you came from, that gives them that sense of hope as if to say, ‘if Mr. Jackson went through this wrong route in life, and he was able to make it, he’s the same as me, so I can make it as well.”
Jackson said he and his team are constantly working to keep an open relationship with students and parents. The formula seems to work. Camelot’s Chicago schools graduate more than 90 percent of their eligible students. Many grads later come back to say it was the hope instilled in them at Excel Academy that helped them see the bigger picture.