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Promises… In Shades of Black

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Briana Boykin
By Briana Boykin --

Our most rewarding promises can be most unexpected.

Consequently, when I heard rumors that a young black alumnus of Riverside’s Martin Luther King, Jr. High School had just been accepted to the University of Southern California’s Rossier Graduate School of Education, I became delightfully and unexpectedly hopeful about a new shade of promise that had manifested itself in the fabric of the Inland Empire.

Twenty -year- old Mr. Jammie Lee Jelks of Riverside, California undeniably brings a new hue of promise to the Inland Empire: a youthful yet bold commitment to higher-education and community. Mr. Jelks, a young brother who has mastered the art of balancing social life with academics while overcoming common challenges facing young Black men, is fresh inspiration to our entire village.  A star athlete in high school and in his first semester at Cal State University Chico (CSU Chico), where an athletic injury helped to bring his basketball career to an end, Mr. Jelks, admits that it has always been important for him to be a star on and off of the court.

“Education has always come first,” states the young man who took Honors and Advanced Placement Courses throughout his entire high school career and is the first in his family to attend college.  “I have always had dreams of putting my education to good use: I used to tell myself that if for some reason I did not get the chance to play on the court with Shaq then I was going to be educated enough to work on Shaq’s big toe,” he jests, sharing a joke that he used to say to remind himself of the importance of going all the way with his education.

But after spending time away from the court, dreams of being an athlete or working on Shaq’s big toe soon faded as Mr. Jelks realized he could accomplish a greater legacy with what would become his four-year degree. When it was time for him to decide if he would return to life as a student-athlete, Jelks opted for another path.

As a result, Jelks transferred the energy and time he spent on the court into energy and time as a student, scholar, and campus leader. He soon became involved in a number of activities including: CSU Chico Student Government, The California Office of Governmental Relations, CSU Chico Success Center, CSSA Board of Directors, NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program, National Society of Leadership and Success, the Political Science Honor Society, and several other extra-curricular initiatives. His commitment to education and drive for success even landed him an out of state internship in the White House with the Commission on Remembrance.  Together, these efforts helped Jelks discover a true passion for the “student;” particularly the underrepresented student. With the close care of his mentor, Dr. Pedro Douglass, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at CSU Chico, Jelks was able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in less than four years and is now on his way to USC where he will earn a Master’s of Education in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs by the projected age of twenty-two.Jelks is aware that this dream has been made possible by the village of believers who saw within him a unique hunger for success and believed in his passion to uplift his community. Not only is Mr. Jelks thankful to his mother, Ms. Angela D. McDonald, for instilling within him the importance of education and a true passion for politics, but he is also grateful for the entire community that has fostered his development as a young leader. He credits his high school math teacher, Mr. Carlos Pile of Martin Luther King High School, his former AVID teacher Ms. Sally Griffin of Ramona High School, Dr. Gary McMahon of CSU Chico, and Dr. Pedro Douglass of CSU Chico as being strategic in his social and academic success.  At only twenty-years-old, Mr. Jelks promises to make our village proud. He is a young brother for whom we should give gratitude, for he leaves us with a hope that, if we continue to do our part as a community, we can be confident in our young men, our youth, and our future leaders … and in expecting the unexpected.  See you next week!

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