Boys & Girls Club program director celebrates 45 years of service
For the past five decades, an Atlanta native has made community children her daily priority.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” said Patricia Jackson, program director at East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club and 45-year veteran of the organization.
“My job is to provide opportunities to children that make them feel that they are able to succeed in life; I like to think I narrow the margin for children and empower them to help others.”
Jackson, known as “Ms. Pat” to children and parents, was recently honored by Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta for her 45 years of service as a program director, executive director and center director throughout the region.
According to Jackson, since 1971, her life’s mission has been to serve children and make a difference in her community. She credits the trials, tribulations and inspirational adults around her as the primary influences in her work.
“I came up during a time when there was still segregation and my parents were divorced,” Jackson said. “I had teachers in my life that provided a good example and taught me valuable life experience. I want to provide that same example to children.”
Since 1971, Jackson has worked at Atlanta girls clubs that have since become open to young men, been certified by the University of Georgia for leadership, supervision and management for women and advanced management for children.
Jackson said she has seen an overall cultural shift in how communities shape their children during her service.
“When I joined Grady Girls Club after college in 1971, its motto was ‘Molding Mothers for Tomorrow,’” she said. “I witnessed it change its focus to molding young women for careers, to preparing not only for work in the home but choosing a career and taking care of themselves.”
Jackson’s work has earned her the Boys & Girls Club’s Care Award, Leadership Award, Merit Award and national recognition from the Georgia Area Council.
Today, at the East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club, Jackson’s work focuses on implementing programs and classes focused on health education, academic success, character building and leadership—what she considers to be “narrowing the margins” for children.
She said the biggest reward in her work has been seeing students she once cared for at various Boys & Girls Clubs return to their communities and become organizational officials.
“The children I served in my youth are serving children now,” Jackson said. “It has become a generational thing. I served children who are coming back to clubs, working in academic programs and helping kids prepare for college.”
According to Brandon Riley, executive director at East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club, Jackson’s work has influenced the way the club works throughout Atlanta and beyond.
“A lot of this organization has Ms. Pat’s fingerprint all over it,” Riley said. “There are a lot professionals, regional directors, teachers and volunteers who have served under Ms. Pat. She’s groomed me to be the best director I can be and taught me a lot about not cutting corners.”
Riley credited Jackson’s dependability, consistency and perseverance as her strongest assets.
“Ms. Pat has been the rock of our club,” Riley said. “We have kids who have adults coming in and out of their lives; she’s someone who stays there, supports them and encourages them throughout their lives. She serves as a mother for our kids.”
Jackson said she comes from a long line of teachers and credits the lineage to her passion for local youth. She said her impact, however, was always destined to be more personal than academic.
“I’ve always wanted to work with youth but not teach,” Jackson said. “I help give children hope; I help communicate that even with challenges, ups and downs and setbacks, you don’t have to be a victim. Through God’s grace, you can continue and achieve goals in life; you can be someone and be someone who helps others.”
Jackson said the biggest challenge at East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club in particular is crime. To her, however, the club is ready, willing and able to address such a problem through program implementation.
“Crime is a big challenge in this particular part of Lithonia and eastern DeKalb County,” Jackson said. “We have police come in, do sessions, teach our parents and teens about neighborhood watches to help keep their communities safe. We’re also recruiting more teenagers, hosting more teen events, and providing a place for teens to just come in and hang out.”
Jackson said the Boys & Girls Club is the greatest organization in the world because of its low costs, transportation to and from schools and quality of service. She also credits the organization’s commitment to God, country and service, which hasn’t changed since her arrival in 1971.
“It’s been an honor to work and serve in this organization,” Jackson said.
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