MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minneapolis coach invests in more than basketball games, he invests in people.
Jamil Jackson is the head basketball coach for the Patrick Henry High School boys. When he’s not coaching the team in the field, he’s teaching lessons about life, trust and choices through Change Equals Opportunity (CEO).
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Jackson launched the CEO program in 2008. It focuses on education, employment, and shows children and families opportunities beyond the basketball court.
“CEO stands for Change Equals Opportunity, but what we focus on is being your CEO,” Jackson said. “You are your own brand. How you present yourself and your character dictates the response you get and the opportunities that present themselves.
Since the program’s inception, 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,” Copeland said. “I was just going from high school to high school. I was just lost. Since then it’s been more of a walking type relationship with me. When you come from a place where you don’t have that, it makes a huge difference.
Copeland described her progress and Jackson’s impact on her life.
“He’s the kind of person that’s not going to go away. He’ll know until you open up. A lot of kids, they push back, when someone tries to come into their life because they don’t. have ever had,” Copeland said. “Where I am is a milestone for a lot of kids who look like me.”
In addition to being executive director of the CEO program, Jackson is a teacher in the office of Black Student Achievement for Minneapolis Public Schools. He is also a consultant to the City of Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention, which focuses specifically on youth violence prevention.
“If a crime happens in our community and the police are called, and they call and say there’s a young black man with 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’s supposed to do – and there’s a young guy across the street who actually has guns and drugs, what made the police choose this young man over my son? Jackson said. “So if I don’t help this young man succeed as well, by eliminating the threat to one of them, then I’m basically putting them both in the same situation.”
In 2010, Jackson started the Run and Shoot Basketball league. The league keeps kids who aren’t on their high school basketball teams active, engaged, and off the streets. It is also an opportunity to build relationships and trust.
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“You can’t just go into a corner and tell a kid to back out of this, without knowing the context of their situation,” Jackson said. “We actually have to build authentic relationships so that we can help them get from where they are to where they want to go. They must be able to trust us. You don’t build that trust without spending time together building that relationship.
Through the program, participants are taken on exposure trips, including college visits, concerts, and vacations. Internships, job opportunities and mentors are also available for participants.
“A lot of kids these days need that mentorship, whether it’s male or female,” said former professional basketball player CJ Parker. “I never thought I’d be overseas playing basketball, let alone traveling to Europe and those places I saw on our little big globe growing up. Just turn it around and pick a spot that I wanted to visit. Just going there and playing basketball showed me that anything can happen. Especially for a young child raised by his mother, a single mother, who could do anything he wants.
Parker grew up in Chicago and moved to Minnesota to attend school and college. He then performed overseas in Spain, Africa, Eastern Europe and Mexico. He now works with Jackson to create opportunities for Run and Shoot basketball players overseas.
“I got involved in the men’s league a few years ago. I just liked the way Jamil and the whole organization moved around,” Parker said. “They’ve also mentored a lot of youngsters and it’s something I want to do in my future since I’m done playing basketball.”
Over the past five years, Jackson has successfully placed 25 kids in college programs who never played high school basketball. Over the past 7 years, he has donated hundreds of pairs of shoes to CEO participants who have achieved good grades in school.
Currently, the CEO mentors 15 incarcerated youth, working to build authentic relationships before release. Outreach team members work in Minneapolis schools, building authentic relationships with students and staff.
A recently purchased warehouse will provide jobs for 20 young people and help distribute food to other children in the community. Recently, Jackson signed the lease for a 14,500 square foot space 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 every child’s success, Jackson explained why.
“They represent us as a whole. Everything they do is a reaction that happens within our community,” Jackson said. “Anything negative that happens in our community, we’re all going to pay for it one way or another. Whether it’s taxpayers’ money to fix broken glass. Whether it’s insurance rates that are rising due to stolen cars or crime in our communities, so it is imperative that we all take a stand as men and women in our community to grab a child 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 am raising kings and queens I need them can find someone to live a happy life with.
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For more information on the Run and Shoot High School program or to contact Jamil Jackson about the Change Equals Opportunity program, click here.