HISD senior awarded full scholarship to “Little Ivy” university

No person is born at their fullest potential. Troy Jackson, a senior at HISD’s Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy, would tell anyone that much. Jacksonnever expected greatness, but with hard work and perseverance, as well as guidance from a handful of trusted adults, he is preparing to attend Swarthmore College in the fall on a full academic scholarship.

“It feels almost unreal,” Jackson said. “I never thought much of myself, and when I got the acceptance letter, I was dumbfounded. People have always told me I’m going to do a lot, so now I’m living up to that.”

In truth, Jackson is an exceptional and community-minded student and person. And Swarthmore, part of an unofficial group of small, liberal arts colleges colloquially known as the “Little Ivies,” is a highly regarded university thanks to its rigorous curriculum and selective application process that puts it on-par with Ivy League universities like Harvard and Princeton. The match makes all the sense in the world.

Jackson is well-liked, respectful, and driven–qualities that Clifford Lee recognized early on as Jackon’s fifth-grade teacher at Blackshear Elementary. Lee noted Jackson lived in Houston’s Third Ward Cuney Homes–the city’s oldest public housing complex. Drugs and violence are prevalent there, Lee said, and it’s not an easy place to grow up. According to Jackson, Lee took an interest in Jackson when he began to get into trouble at school, recognizing his potential and knowing he could benefit from positive guidance. Through Lee’s mentorship, Jackson discovered a love for learning which led him to develop an early interest in math and technology. Lee likes to say that he will never let Jackson forget that he got a perfect score on his math STAAR test in fifth grade.

“I wanted him to know that he was somebody special,” Lee said. “I wanted him to know that he could do some great things, because he was growing up in Cuney Homes, just him and his mom. I wanted to make sure that he knew that there was somebody there that he could talk to.”

In addition to Lee’s continued mentorship, Jackson was introduced to the Positive Black Male Association (PBMA) of Houston, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for minority youth through academics, wellness, and community engagement.

“I feel like my education has prepared me, in a way,” Jackson said. “Not just the academics, but for the people I’m going to meet, societal norms, the way I’m going to have to behave.” 

He laughed and added, “I’m going to have to learn to be more punctual.”

Through his involvement with PBMA, Jackson toured different colleges and developed a portfolio of community service hours. In the past year alone, he has accumulated nearly 100 hours of volunteer work and counting. He credits his success to the positive male role models in his life, as well as to the help of HISD’s EMERGE program, which provides intensive college counseling and enrollment support.

“I’m very proud of him,” said Jackson’s mother, Takeisha Richmond, beaming with pride at Jackson’s graduation. “He chose his own college and took care of his own business.”

Troy Jackson crossed the stage four separate times during his graduation ceremony. The first time, he addressed his peers as salutatorian. The second time, he accepted the School Board Award for Student Excellence from his principal. The third time, he was presented a Certificate of Congressional Recognition from the office of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Jackson crossed the stage a fourth and final time to collect his diploma and bid farewell to his high school career.

Jackson will major in Engineering and Computer Science at Swarthmore. He isn’t yet sure what he plans to do when he graduates college, but is confident he will use his education and skills to help other people–just like those who guided him along the way.