Never too late: CA man overcomes homelessness and poverty, becomes college graduate
By Victor Trammell
A Black man who grew up as a foster child on the mean streets of Oakland, California recently achieved an academic milestone few people accomplish who share similar circumstances of his adverse background.
Joe Jackson, 34, (pictured) graduated last week from the University of California-Davis earning a bachelor’s degree in women and gender studies. Jackson’s tremendous story was chronicled in an article published yesterday by DavisEnterprise.com, a blog for The David Enterprise newspaper based in Yolo County, California.
In the heartfelt article, writer Amabelle Ocampo gives a lucid account of Jackson’s time-consuming and turbulent path toward achieving his academic goals. Jackson’s path began about a decade and a half ago when he was 18-years-old. At that time, Jackson was admitted into Laney Community College in Oakland, California.
In his interview with The Davis Enterprise, Jackson talked about his struggle in the beginning to find an identity in the collegiate atmosphere. He quotes:
“It took me a long time to get to a place where … I felt like I was really a student. All I was doing was taking an interest in classes. I never really saw myself as a student or actually finishing a goal of getting through college.” (The Davis Enterprise)
Also in the article, Ocampo uses statistical facts to bring light to the issues facing foster children that hinder their ability to grow into college educated adults. She wrote:
“A study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that only 15 percent of youths in foster care were enrolled in college preparatory classes, versus 32 of students not in foster care. Fewer than 15 percent of foster children begin college while fewer than 2 percent go on to get a four-year degree.” (The Davis Enterprise)
Jackson also talked about dropping out of high school and the homelessness he experienced after leaving the custody of foster parents at the age of 18. He says:
“I didn’t finish high school. It bothered me, so I wanted to compensate …When I was a kid, I really needed to feel a connection, like I was more than a number or a file on somebody’s desk.” (The Davis Enterprise)
Jackson’s story of adversity and triumph reminded me of my own path toward graduating and earning a bachelor’s degree this past May. Like Jackson, I have overcome the obstacles many people never make it out of in a rough inner-city community. To read the DavisEnterprise.com article about Joe Jackson, click the following link:http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/ucd/from-homelessness-to-uc-davis-graduation/.