t SK senior appreciative
despite life’s challenges
Look at the rest of the world.
Starving children in tattered rags. Murky, polluted brown water causing myriad diseases and illnesses. Malaria. AIDS.
It’s the latter discussion about Africa in Deandre Jackson’s Current World Problems class at South Kitsap High School that has drawn him in.
“More than half of the people over there have HIV and die from it,” he said. “It’s nothing like over here because we have medical resources and they have nothing, or close to nothing.”
That’s enough for Jackson to put his own life into perspective. He and his 15-year-old sister, Symone, have been raised alone by their mother, Janet Jackson.
They never have met their father.
“We think we have it bad and we have no idea what other people go through,” he said. “I really don’t think about me and my mom being by ourselves. I try and live life to its fullest and know that other people have it worse.”
He said he’s fortunate to have two coaches — Chad Nass (wrestling) and D.J. Sigurdson (football) at South — who he views as father figures.
“He’s an amazing kid,” said Nass, who has two daughters. “If I had a son, I would want him to be just like him.”
Jackson, a senior at South, is a rare three-sport athlete. He runs the 100- and 200-meter sprints in addition to the 400 relay for the track team.
“He came out as a sophomore and probably was one of the slowest kids we had,” South track and field coach Joanne Warren said. “It was like watching choo-choo trains go by.”
Jackson only used that as another challenge to overcome. Despite being listed at 5-foot-7 1/2, he started on the football team at fullback and safety and also was a varsity wrestler at 160 pounds.
“You’ll never meet a kid that works harder,” Warren said. “It’s 100 percent all the time. Other kids will be looking around and dragging, he looks around and asks, ‘What’s next?’ ”
“He makes the job worthwhile,” he said. “He’s a good reason to come to work. When you have kids like this to work with, you know everything is going to be OK.”
WORKING FOR IT
Getting to that point wasn’t easy. Jackson was born in Bremerton, but moved to Atlanta when he was 6 because
his mother wanted to be closer to family in the area.
She recalls leaving her lighter upstairs, which piqued his curiosity.
“I was a kid lighting a chair on fire and blowing it out and lighting it back and blowing it out,” Deandre said. “Then it wouldn’t go out and I ran out of the room. People came upstairs, saw smoke and cleared out.”
Janet describes the ordeal as a “blessing in disguise.” That’s because the place they lived was a rooming house and they were able to move into their own home after the fire.
But the Jacksons only stayed in Atlanta for a year before returning to the Northwest.
“The gang violence down there was different than up here,” Janet said. “I knew I couldn’t stay there when I saw kids with shotguns.”
The family rode a Greyhound bus back to Washington and Janet said the family had to move into a homeless shelter in Bremerton for a month or two to be eligible for the Section 8 program, which provides housing assistance to low-income households.
“We haven’t always had power and stuff, but I try and not think about it because it will get you down,” Deandre said.
Janet’s own childhood provided its challenges.
The Spokane native said she spent several years in the foster care system before she was adopted by Robert and Leta-Rae Buckholtz of Port Orchard.
Those obstacles continued into adulthood, but she reminds her children about the importance of perseverance. Janet was laid off late last year and said Deandre didn’t think his family would have Christmas.
She aggressively searched for a new job — finding one in the TeleTech call center — and “we actually had a good Christmas.”
Deandre said he finds inspiration from his mother’s strength.
“No matter what we go through, my mom always comes out on top for me and my sister,” he said. “That’s what I try and do — come out on top for others and earn their respect.”
Janet said she tries to reinforce a simple message with her children.
“Just work hard for what you want,” she said. “People aren’t going to give you stuff — you have to earn it. Be self-reliant. You have to earn it.”
NO DOWN TIME
It’s a message that keeps him on the move. With the exception of ninth grade, when he made “kind of a dumb decision” to skip track season to prepare for football, Jackson has been a three-sport athlete for the past five years.
And when there’s a break, he might be in the weight room or working in Warren’s yard for some extra money.
“I don’t want to go home and sit around,” he said, acknowledging that he allows himself to occasionally play the “Madden NFL” video game.
“I get bored after a week,” he said, “and I want to get back in shape.”
Friends and family describe him as serious, but Janet said there’s another component to her son that many don’t see. Symone is the family’s drama and music aficionado, but her brother allows himself to his own performance at home of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You’re Dying.”
All out. Every day. That’s the only way he knows how.
Jackson has been accepted to four colleges — Eastern Washington, Montana State, University of La Verne (Calif.) and University of Mary (N.D.). He hopes to compete in either football or track and is looking at a science-related or communication major.
“I really have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a young man,” Nass said. “He never takes the easy way out or tries to cut corners. He never blames anyone. Obviously, his mother has instilled great values in him.”