By Sean Barron
Kim Jackson lovingly remembers the day her late husband, Kevin Jackson, had his class of at-risk youngsters wear ties he had brought.
The gesture, however, was a lot more than a mere formality. It was symbolic of the link he saw between dressing for success, respecting others and making positive choices.
“There are certain times they have to know how to conduct themselves, and he conducted the classes like a business,” Kim said, adding that shortly afterward, the school principal walked in the room and all of the elementary-age children stood up as a sign of respect.
“He wanted to see the young men become productive citizens.”
Trying to reach young people before they got into trouble was part of the legacy of Kevin Jackson, director of sports programs for the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center, who died Dec. 15, 2012. He was 47.
He also was honored during Saturday’s first Kevin Jackson Memorial Basketball Tournament at East High School, 474 Bennington Ave., on the East Side.
An estimated 150 boys and girls in grades four to six from several city elementary and middle schools participated in the gathering, which was a collaboration between the juvenile justice center, the Youngstown city school district and the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence organization.
Fourteen teams enjoyed playing seven 16-minute games, but the event’s main aim was to provide an additional fun activity for the youngsters while showcasing ways to help them make positive choices and stay out of trouble, organizers noted.
The competitions were family-friendly for Kim because one of the players was her youngest son, Keire Jackson, a fifth-grader at Kirkmere Elementary School. Her oldest son, Kevin Jackson II, an Ursuline High School senior, served as one of the coaches.
“It seemed like a good thing, and I wanted to be part of it,” said Kevin Jackson, who plans to play basketball at Mount Union University in Alliance and perhaps major in business administration.
Gatherings such as Saturday’s basketball tournament are positive steps toward reducing crime and violence, but ongoing community and early-intervention activities and efforts are critical, noted William “Guy” Burney, CIRV’s coordinator.
Another essential piece is reinforcing the importance of learning the value of gratitude, teamwork and other character-development traits that can be applied to all aspects of young people’s lives, noted Tonie Jackson, the juvenile justice center’s boys and sports programs director.
Sports programs, along with community and parental support, are vital to building a better Youngs-town, said Jackson, adding that the youngsters had eight practice sessions before Saturday’s competition.
Jackson also praised the coaches, volunteers and parents who assisted with the basketball games.
Also at the event, Kim Jackson received a certificate of recognition from Mayor Charles Sammarone.
For more information about CIRV, call 330-742-8779 or email Burney at firstname.lastname@example.org.