Karissa Jackson first walked into the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club when she was just 9 years old.
On that first day, she remembers Mr. Rory Johnson, her Club’s executive director, telling her “I’m going to remember you because you’re going to do great things.”
Mr. Rory’s uplifting words stuck with Karissa as she was small for her age and had always felt self-conscious. Slowly, at her Club, she found a real sense of belonging among her peers. She had a strong family, but they were faced with some tough challenges, and the staff and her peers served as a great source of support and counsel for her during these times. Karissa shares, “The Club is family. Mr. Nathaniel…he’s my grandad all the way! There has never been a time when he wasn’t there for me.”
Ms. Leah Willig also holds a special place in Karissa’s heart. She credits Ms. Leah for helping her get through tough times and being there to cheer her along at her first cheerleading game.
When Karissa turned 11, she got the surprise of a lifetime. She remembers sitting in a Club assembly surrounded by hundreds of other kids when her name was announced for the annual Shining Star award. “I had no idea I would get it. I felt noticed for being me. I felt like I could really do something.”
This started Karissa down a path of service and giving back.
During her time at the Club, Karissa has participated in initiatives surrounding road clean-ups and community beautification, and served meals to firefighters and first responders.
Now in her senior year of high school, Karissa has continued to blossom as a leader. Unable to afford cheerleading at school, she began teaching the younger girls at her Club how to cheer and started a cheer team. Karissa also serves as the president of Keystone, a service and leadership group aimed at teaching teens the power of their voice and the value of giving back. She also prides herself on being a role model as she mentors the younger kids who look up to her.
Not only has Karissa positioned herself as a leader within her Club, but she is also making amazing strides beyond her Club in ways she could have never imagined.
Mega-stars Beyonce and Jay-Z recently awarded Karissa with a $100K scholarship for college and higher education at the recommendation of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The BeyGOOD Initiative and Shawn Carter Foundation teamed up to establish the scholarship program for exceptional high school seniors who demonstrate a record of academic excellence.