After a fresh start, Chris Jackson makes his own way to a college degree
Growing up wasn’t easy for Chris Jackson. He lived in a rough neighborhood with his mother, who was raising him as a single parent. Priorities were different there, and going to college wasn’t in the picture.
“Gangs, drugs, and violence were the main things,” Jackson remembers. “I didn’t have very good role models. At one point, all of my uncles were in jail. Anyone who was going to school wasn’t respected.”
Nevertheless, he accepted a full scholarship to play football at a local junior college. He was the first member of his family to pursue a college degree and, unfortunately, his family was not supportive. This coupled with what Jackson calls a “lack of maturity” resulted in a bumpy year and a half of school that ultimately led to his dismissal.
“Once I got kicked out, I went back to my old neighborhood and married my high school sweetheart,” Jackson says. “We started a family together, and I was working as a cook at a restaurant. But after that didn’t work out, I decided I needed to get out.”
Jackson moved to Indianapolis for a fresh start. He continued working for the same restaurant company until 2001, when he traded in his chef’s hat for a construction helmet. Things were going well until the home building market soured and he was laid off.
“That was when I decided I deserved better – that I needed a real change in my life,” Jackson says. “College seemed like the next logical step.”
He talked about his options with close friends, and they agreed that Ivy Tech Community College was the right choice. Jackson’s goal was to earn credits for transfer, but once he got established in the engineering program, he realized the value in an Ivy Tech degree.
“The engineering program allowed me to utilize my talents and excel at the college level,” Jackson explains. “And the environment is incredibly supportive – so different from where I came from. The relationships I’ve built at Ivy Tech have inspired me to achieve more for myself.”
Now he’s a self-made man with an associate degree in electrical engineering. His plans for the future include continuing his education with a four-year degree in electrical engineering from either Purdue or IUPUI. He has also inspired his wife Donita to pursue a college degree. She is just one example of how Jackson serves as an advocate for the life changing power of continuing education.
“Graduation is the crowning achievement for me after all I’ve been through,” he says. “I will pass on the lessons I learned – that it’s important to continue your education – to family members who were brought up the same way I was. I want everyone in my family to know they can benefit from school.”