The Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan has long been recognized as a preeminent organization for preparing young people to shape the world around them through personal development and social commitment to live positively and walk with purpose into the future. The distinguished organization has added another distinction to its already storied history with the first appointment of a Boys and Girls Club alumnus to head the 91-year-old organization which serves more than 15,000 young people annually. Real Times Media CEO, Hiram H. Jackson, a grad of the Boys and Girls Club of Highland Park (Fauver – Martin), has been appointed to helm the organization as it works to improve and expand its social, recreational and academic programming to have a more comprehensive impact on the region, young people and the communities they live in
“I’ve been on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Michigan for a few years, but I was searching for a way to get more active on the board and have a louder more impactful voice on the board,” explained Jackson. “I didn’t know that at some point they would ask me to chair the organization … because I am an alumnus, I have a unique perspective as a board member. I know how impactful the Club can be on a young person’s life. But for my involvement in the Boys and Girls Club, I don’t know where I would be,” said a pensive and introspective Jackson.
The Boys and Girl Club of Southeastern Michigan is an affiliate of the national Boys and Girls Clubs of America and 1 of 11 Boys and Girls Clubs associations in the state of Michigan. The organization’s prestigious board of directors is comprised of a virtual Who’s Who of corporate and civic leaders.
One of Jackson’s strategies to enhance the effectiveness of the organization is to foster outreach to Boys and Girls Club alumni and encourage them to reconnect with the Club and its membership. “I believe that Boys and Girls Club alumni are our greatest asset because these are men and women who [benefited from] the Club. They ‘ve been able to graduate from colleges and universities, have great careers, and who are more likely to be able to give back to the Club, not only financially but help with programming, direction and overall management.”
Jackson has taken the reigns of his new responsibility with fierce intensity and can be found daily calling on Club alumni to recommit themselves to the programs and overall mission of the organization. “Demographically we serve a wide range of families, many of whom are at-risk kids who live in environments that are not safe. The club provides them with a safe place to go. Our staff is very professional and highly vetted. The leaders in the club have long tenure and they know the community very well,” explains Jackson.
Jackson expressed a strong interest in increasing the number of children served, heightening awareness of Club programs and activities, and upgrading Club facilities to include contemporary outfitting and state-of-the-art equipment.
“I started with the Boys and Girls Club in Highland Park, when I was six years and I continued throughout my high school years. I remember the day my parents dropped me off at the Boys and Girls Club … I fell in love with it immediately. There were lots of kids, lots of games, lots of supervision, and it was a safe place to be,” recalls Jackson. “The club director, Ike was a no-nonsense kind of guy. You had to take your hat off, pull your belt up, say ‘no sir and yes sir,’ wait in line, no swearing, no cursing and no running in the building. He was a big man and he had a big heart.” Jackson’s involvement with the Boys and Girls Club would lead him to another mentor George Brown an English teacher from the famed Detroit Country Day School College Preparatory, who recruited Jackson to follow Club grads like award–winning actor Courtney B. Vance, to attend and graduate from DCDS, and ultimately earn a degree from Cornell University.
“When you’re impacting kids, you’re impacting families, especially in the African American homes where some are in crisis. A lot of families need assistance with educating their children, keeping their children safe, needing a safe place for them to go.”
Jackson says he in intends to approach and involve Southeast Michigan’s evolving corporate community to effect change and improve the Boys and Girls Club bricks and mortar. “There are a lot of new companies in the region. We have great facilities in great neighborhoods, but we really have to look at the demographics to see where families are moving and we need to accommodate them with contemporary facilities,” said Jackson.
While many recognize Boys and Girls Clubs star-studded roster of elite alums like Denzel, Usher, and Shaq, s special cases who managed to beat the odds and achieve phenomenal success, Jackson keeps it all in perspective. “I think a lot of people are aware of the Clubs because of the print ad and television commercials. But, I don’t think a lot of people are aware of just how far reaching and central to a child’s future the clubs programs and activities are,” said Jackson.
“My leadership is going to reflect the fact that I grew up in the club, I see the kids and I see myself. I can say ‘I was where you are. I was a low-income disadvantaged kid out of Highland Park.’ I’ll be able to articulate that and the kids will be able to see it.”