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First endowment recipient, first in her family to graduate
Jackson, the first Promise Endowment recipient, graduated in May 2012 with a degree in psychology and sociology and bagan graduate school at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
She plans to get a master's degree, and eventually a doctorate, to become a clinical psychologist. "So I'll be Dr. Jackson, probably in the next seven years," she said. Her friends already ask her for advice because she's a good listener.
"I'd like to open my own practice in an underrepresented community and offer low-cost to free mental health services to individuals of color," Jackson said. Then again, academia needs people of color as professors so "it all depends," she said. "I'm a person who likes to move around."
Jackson, 22, grew up in Milwaukee but rode a bus to school in Wauwatosa under a desegregation plan. "I think that was the best decision my mom could have made for me," she said. "I thank God for her doing that."
She encountered racism and misunderstandings at predominantly white Wauwatosa West High School, but learned to deal with it, she said. "After awhile some of the commentary stopped when it came to me because they knew I was not going to have that," Jackson said. " I was not going to be disrespected in that manner."
A petite woman who favors purple clothes and big earrings, Jackson said she's "always had self-determination." At UW-Whitewater, she served as a resident assistant, was elected president of the Black Student Union and conducted psychology research that took her to summer programs in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Iowa City, Iowa.
She found mentors like Richard McGregory, director of the McNair Scholars Program, "who's always there to listen and always has an answer" and her adviser, Carolyn Morgan, a psychology professor.
"I can go to her office and cry and she listens," Jackson said. "Sometimes she gives advice and sometimes she can tell all I need is to cry."
In addition to loans, scholarships and jobs, the Promise Endowment helped Jackson at an especially difficult time when her financial aid was in jeopardy due to changes in her family.
"I was very thankful and grateful," she said. "To me it was a blessing."
She's the first in her family to graduate from college, and the event was "a very big deal for the Jackson family," who celebrated after the ceremony with a weekend dinner for 120 in Milwaukee. Jackson checks up on her teenage cousins, talking about college and just keeping in touch.
Among the graduation guests were her beloved grandparents, Peggy and James Bradley of Lexa, Ark., who have always been "really big encouragers" in her life. She spent childhood summers with them and still calls them when things aren't going well.
"I call grandma and grandpa and we talk. She'll pray for me and somehow when I'm done with that conversation I always feel better," she said. "I would like to say that I'm probably a little bit wiser because of them."