Seaview Gardens’ Jackson five - Family in inner-city community produces two doctors, one teacher
In the heart of a bustling inner-city community of Seaview Gardens, St Andrew, where challenges often outnumber opportunities, a remarkable story of resilience and triumph is unfolding.
Meet the extraordinary Jackson clan: Sherri-Ann, Grace-Ann, Omar, Jason and Andre who have defied the odds to become shining examples of success.
Sherri-Ann, 29, and Omar, 31, are both medical doctors, while their eldest sibling, Andre, 36, is an educator. Grace-Ann has a first degree and works in the financial sector, and Jason is involved in logistics.
They told THE WEEKEND STAR that their lives were no bed of roses, but are quick to point out that their parents, Billy and Althea Jackson, ensured that they grew where they were planted.
"Our parents didn't make it look like anything was out of our reach. They didn't pressure us and they supported our dreams and that really pushed us," said Sherri-Ann who attended Ardenne High School before reading for her medical degree at The University of the West Indies (UWI).
The Jacksons said their address did not quench their desire to pursue various career paths. In fact, not even obstacles that appear insurmountable were allowed to deter them from pressing forward. Omar, for example, recalled that the electricity to their modest dwelling was disconnected for non-payment of bills, just about the time they were preparing for external examinations.
"When I was in sixth form at Kingston College, we actually lost the electricity that was at our home. I had all the sciences to do and I had to be preparing for CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Education) [exams]," Omar said.
He continued: "My sister was studying for CXC at the time and we had to utilise our time wisely because at nights we didn't have any light. Sometimes we had to use candlelight but it didn't bother us. We still got a lot of [grade] ones in exams. My sister, especially, got 10 ones, and she was actually one of the top students."
Andre once had his eyes on a career in medicine. He, admits, however, that he has always had a passion for teaching.
"It was while working with him one summer I met a now retired teacher and she pointed me in that direction. She was very passionate about her field and that was an inspiration to me," said Andre, who attended Penwood High School and later The Mico University and Shortwood Teachers' College.
Billy Jackson, a furniture maker, said he has always supported his children's dreams, even when it appeared that he could find it difficult to pay for their tertiary studies. He smiled as he recalled the day when Omar told him that he wanted to become a doctor.
"It wasn't that strenuous with Andre saying he wanted to become a teacher, but when Omar said he wanted to be a doctor, to be honest I asked him if there were any other options that he would consider, but he was determined that he wanted to be a doctor, so I supported him," Billy said.
Through a combination of scholarships and loans, Omar was able to earn his medical degree at The UWI. Sherri-Ann, too, earned her degree from The UWI. Her impressive grades ensured her a full scholarship throughout her years of studies.
"I am extremely proud of all my children as we came up through rough times. It is not all perfect now but I see them escalating to where they want to go. They all grew up in the church, so God has always been a part of their lives," their proud father said.
The Jackson siblings said the fact that they were raised in a neighbourhood plagued by socio-economic challenges, and have been able to overcome represents another endorsement for the power of education. As Sherri-Ann puts it, persons should embrace adversities rather than fold when confronted by challenges.
"Nothing good will come overnight so keep doing whatever you are doing and it will add up in the end. If it doesn't add, then it's okay, just find something else, and put your energy there as well," the young doctor said.
And Omar, like his siblings, wants their stories of triumph to serve as a motivation to youths across the country to believe in themselves and strive for the highest.
"We are symbols of hope for the youths and our growth lets them know that they are not a symbol of where they are from. I take pride in showing every ghetto youth, especially the males, that you can achieve anything you put your mind to," he said.