MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Minneapolis coach is investing in more than basketball games, he is investing in people.
Jamil Jackson is the boys' head basketball coach for Patrick Henry High School. When he is not coaching the team on the court, he's teaching lessons about life, trust and choices through Change Equals Opportunity (CEO).
Jackson launched the CEO program in 2008. It's focused on education, employment and showing children and families opportunities beyond the basketball court.
"CEO stands for Change Equals Opportunity, but what we focus on is being CEO of you," Jackson said. "You are your own brand. How you show up and the character of you dictates what response you get and what opportunities present themselves."
Since creating the program, Jackson has impacted hundreds of children, including Vonte Copeland. He met Jackson and joined the CEO program 10 years ago.
"When I met him, I was just a normal lost kid, no male guidance," said Copeland. "I was just going from high school to high school. I was just lost. Ever since then it has been more of a walk-with-me type of relationship. When you come from a place where you don't have that, it makes a huge difference."
Copeland described his progress and Jackson's impact on his life.
"He's the type of person that's not going to fade away. He's going to know until you open up. A lot of kids, they push back, when somebody is trying to come into their life because they never had it," Copeland said. "Where I am is a milestone for a lot of kids that look like me."
In addition to serving as executive director for the CEO program, Jackson is a teacher with the office of Black Student Achievement for Minneapolis Public Schools. He is also a consultant to the city of Minneapolis office of Violence Prevention, specifically focused on youth violence prevention.
"If a crime happens in our community and the police are called, and they call and say that there is a young black man carrying a gun and/or drugs walking down West Broadway, and my son is on one side of the street – with a 3.5 GPA, college graduate, doing everything he is supposed to be doing – and there is a young man on the other side of the street who actually has guns and drugs, what makes the police choose that young man over my son?" Jackson said. "So if I'm not helping that young man become successful as well, eliminating the threat for either one of them, then I'm basically putting both of them in the same situation."
In 2010, Jackson started the Run and Shoot Basketball league. The league keeps children who don't make their high school basketball teams active, engaged and off the streets. It's also an opportunity to build relationships and trust.
"You can't just go to a corner and tell a kid to remove himself from that, not knowing the background of his situation," Jackson said. "We actually have to build the authentic relationships so that we can help them transition from where they're at to where they want to go. They have to be able to trust us. You don't build that trust without having some type of time together to build that relationship."
Through the program, participants are taken on exposure trips including college tours, concerts and vacations. Internships, job opportunities and mentors are also available to participants.
"A lot of kids nowadays, they need that mentorship, whether it is male or female," Former Professional Basketball Player C.J. Parker said. "I never thought I would be overseas playing basketball, let alone traveling to Europe and those places I used to see on our little big globe growing up. Just spinning it around and picking a place I wanted to go visit. Just going over there and playing basketball just showed me anything can happen. Especially for a young kid raised by his mom, a single mom, could do anything he want to."
Parker grew up in Chicago and moved to Minnesota to attend school and college. He later played overseas in Spain, Africa, Eastern Europe and Mexico. He is now working with Jackson to create opportunities for Run and Shoot basketball players overseas.
"I got involved in the men's league a couple of years ago. I just liked the way that Jamil and the whole organization just moved," Parker said. "They mentored a lot of young people as well and that is something I want to do moving on in my future since I'm done playing basketball."
In the past five years, Jackson has successfully placed 25 kids in college programs that never played high school basketball. In the last 7 years, he has given away hundreds of pairs of shoes to CEO participants receiving good grades in School.
Currently, CEO is mentoring 15 incarcerated youth, working to build authentic relationships ahead of their release. Outreach team members work within Minneapolis schools, building authentic relationships with students and staff.
A recently purchased warehouse will provide jobs for 20 youth, helping to distribute food to other kids in the community. Recently, Jackson signed the lease for a 14,500 square foot space located at 905 4th Ave. N. in downtown Minneapolis. It will serve as the new CEO Center for Change, expanding programs and services for children in the community.
When asked why the community should care about each child's success, Jackson explained why.
"They represent us as a whole. Anything they do is a reaction that happens within our community," Jackson said. "Anything negative that happens within our community, we are all going to pay for it one way or another. Whether that's tax dollars to fix the broken glass. Whether that's insurance rates going up because of stolen cars or crime in our communities. So it is imperative that we all take a stand as men and women of our community to grab a hold of a kid and help them feel loved, appreciated and valued. I need boys to become men to marry my daughter. I need women to become queens to marry my sons. If I'm raising kings and queens, I need them to be able to find somebody to live a happy life with."
For more information about the Run and Shoot High School Program or to connect with Jamil Jackson about the Change Equals Opportunity program, click here.
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