My favorite thing about being a Pollination Project grantee wasn’t the fact that I received a $1,000 grant to continue my work with The Smile Project, but rather all the people I have met along the way who have encouraged my work, inspired me to be better, and shared the joy of their own giving as well.
I recently connected with Dr. Shenika Jackson, the Chief Operating Officer of MY Foundation: Street Smarts to Great Starts Corp. in Chicago, Illinois (Bronzeville Community). Shenika and her work speak for themselves and without further ado, I am happy to introduce Shenika.
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a ‘Happiness is.’
Shenika: Happiness is the ability to do what you love and encourage others to dream and look towards the future.
Liz: Tell me a little bit about your organization.
Shenika: MY Foundation: Street Smarts to Great Starts Corp, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that serves minority male and female high school teenagers ages 14 to 18 years old from communities in Chicago IL. The focus is to assist them with transitioning from high school to higher education, or to start a career in the construction industry.
On a Saturday during activities, you will find the teens working on/participating in:
-Small/creative in-class construction projects using basic tools w/supervision
-Journal writing on topics provided by Dr. Shenika Jackson
-English lessons/Essay writing-to develop and enhance writing skills and strengthening critical thinking abilities
-Math Skills-learning the basics skills of measurement (adding, multiplying, and subtracting)-provided by Jvonne
-The College Process-Workshop facilitated by Dr. Shenika Jackson
-Field Trips/Outdoor Activities-some trips have included transporting the teens to view documentary films such as: "Detroit" "All Eyez on Me" and other films that speak to their heritage and history.
Here’s a brief history of our work.
- February 2017-A $1,000 seed grant received from the Pollination Project
- My College Going Self Project begins in the Englewood Community
- Work sites: Kelly Branch (Englewood) and Bessie Coleman Libraries
- Forms partnership with Timothy Community Corporation: March 2018
- May 2017-MY Foundation: Street Smarts to Great Starts Corp developed
- May 2017-2nd program: Rehab 360 developed by Jvonne Foster
- May 2017-The Dream Support Grant: Awarded to Shenika Jackson from The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) to support organization.
- June 2018-Shenika Jackson completes PhD in Community Psychology from National Louis University in Chicago. *Holds two Master’s Degrees:Psychology & Written Communications-English from National Louis University.
- Jvonne Foster-OSHA (occupational safety and health administration) certified, Received training in carpentry from The Chicago Women In Trades (CWIT), and holds a real estate license for the city of Chicago.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Shenika: The driving force behind what I do is my partner Ms. Jvonne Foster and the similarities that we share. Jvonne and I both graduated from Tilden Community Career Academy High School in June 1996. We graduated in the top 10% of our class ranking #7 (Foster) and #8 (Jackson) out of 212 graduating high school seniors. We were National Honor Society students. Jvonne and I possess over 15 years in the field of education and the construction industry. Our passion is to teach others, just like we were taught as teenagers.
Liz: What does “service” mean to you?
Shenika: Service, to me, means the ability to consistently perform the “routine” actions of helping or doing work for people. Service to me also means having empathy for the population being served, and to continue to address and find solutions to the populations’ needs. As the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali said: “Services to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
Liz: How can people get involved?
Shenika: People can get involved with MY Foundation: Street Smarts to Great Starts Corporation by emailing all questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will respond to all emails within 48 hours of receipt. Our programs are quarterly, and begin every January, May, and September of each year.
Liz: Do you want to leave us with a favorite quote?
“You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? What do they have me thinking? And most important: What do they have me becoming? The ask yourself the big question: Is that okay? Because your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”
-Sean “P-Diddy” Combs
(Founder of Bad Boy Records, Rapper & Music Producer)