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Service & Impact
January 9, 2024

Don’t Wait To Be Great

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When I was five years old, I went with my cousins to help feed the homeless and I was shocked to see how the people out on the streets were forced to live. I really wanted to do something to help, so when I got home, I asked my parents if we could buy all those people homes.
They explained that wasn’t possible, but I couldn’t let go of the need to do something to help. I kept asking them about it and they realized I was serious. So, we talked about how we might help provide some things the homeless didn’t have that they needed on a daily basis, like food or toiletries.
I launched my foundation, Project I Am (officialprojectiam.com), when I was 8. Since then we have distributed more than 80,000 Blessings Bags to homeless people not only in the United States but overseas too. These bags contain simple things that the rest of us take for granted, but which are so important—tissues, socks (the single-most requested item), toothpaste, deodorant, first aid supplies, and snacks. The money to pay for all this has come from individuals and some corporations, including Nike.
Homelessness is a big problem. Almost 600,000 people experienced homelessness in America in 2020. In that same year, on one night alone around 35,000 unaccompanied youth were counted as homeless, 90% of them aged between 18 and 24.
With all that in mind, I have bigger dreams beyond the Blessings Bags: I want to look into ways we might be able to help provide tiny houses to those in need. I think the houses could be a way to do away with homelessness. Oh, and I also want to play in the NBA one day (and even own a team)—after I’ve gone to college and gotten a degree.
My advice to other young people would be, don’t wait to be great. In fact, that’s the title of my second book, published earlier this year, which tells some of my story so far. You don’t have to wait until you are an adult to make a difference. You can become a change agent or start your own business today. What’s the point of waiting? There really isn’t an age limit on making a difference.
I couldn’t have done all this without the support of my mom and dad. They have inspired me to be the person that I am. My Gigi has been a big supporter as well—she has helped with running the foundation when I am in school and with organizing the packing parties. I also have to mention President Obama: growing up during the first Black presidency has been a huge inspiration to every Black kid, and getting to meet him in person and have him acknowledge me as one of the most influential people was really cool.
Jahkil Jackson, 14, is a rising sophomore at De La Salle High School in Chicago. A two-time bestselling author and speaker, he was named one of BET’s “15 Under 15” young entrepreneurs.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of WayMaker Journal.