Through his nonprofit Project I Am, Jahkil Jackson wants to prove kids can be change agents and make a difference in their communities.

By Carla Bruce-Eddings
October 07, 2020
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In March, just before much of the country entered lockdown, Jahkil Jackson and his family rang in the fourth birthday of his nonprofit, Project I Am. Created when Jahkil was 8 in response to rampant homelessness in his hometown of Chicago, the project distributes needed supplies—via “Blessing Bags,” filled with manufacturer-donated items like tissues, toothpaste, and water—to the city’s street population. “The community has embraced Jahkil,” says his mother, Na-Tae’ Jackson. “They think he’s admirable and adorable, and we love showing the good side of Chicago. The media would have you believe everything in this city is negative. That’s not true.”

As COVID-19 spread, Jahkil, his family, and their team of volunteers, which can range from ten to 200 on any given day, shifted their focus. In addition to helping those experiencing homelessness, Jahkil knew the elderly could benefit from his bags too. Says Na-Tae’, “Senior citizens were not receiving basic necessities because local stores were sold out.” Masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper were all frighteningly scarce—and all found their way into Jahkil’s packages.

Now he has higher hopes for Project I Am, including a plan to build tiny homes in Chicago. “The big picture is to demolish homelessness,” Jahkil says. “It’s a big goal, but I hope to accomplish it.” Ambition comes easily to Jahkil, who’d also like to mentor kids across the country to help them start their own projects. “My message is: Don’t wait to be great,” he says. “I believe kids can be change agents just as well as adults can. Find something you’re passionate about, and translate that into making a difference in your community.”

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's November 2020 issue as “The Kindness Hall of Fame.” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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