Bea Jackson loves children and her passion for their well-being keeps her striving for excellence every day as the executive director of the Washington Street Community Center. Jackson said if it was wrong to be too passionate about children, then she would be guilty.
It was this passion that led her to become the recipient of the 2013 MLK “I Have a Dream Award” at the annual MLK Ecumenical Program held on Sunday.
Not a native of Covington, Jackson moved to Newton County in 2000, and a few years later began working at the Washington Street Community Center in 2002 with the guidance of Louise Adams, an educator who founded the center with her husband T.K., in 1996.
With more than 10 years of working with youths at the center, Jackson knows what it takes to reach the future generations and has exemplified Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings of making the world a better place for children. However, her work doesn’t just stop at the center.
Though she had to learn her way around Newton County, she quickly became involved in a number of organizations at her church and throughout the community.
Jackson is an active member of St. Paul AME Church, where she is involved in the Christian Education Ministry and teaches Vacation Bible School.
She has served on the board of the Newton County Chamber of Commerce; as a case manager for the Work Force Investment Program; is a graduate of Leadership Newton County; and has worked in many capacities at the Newton County Recreation Department, the Newton County Arts Association, Main Street Covington, Friends of the Park and Community Partners.
As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, she has worked with the Delta GEMS — a female youth empowerment organization—serving as a role-model to at-risk, adolescent girls aged 14-18.
Her involvement with all of these organizations has stood as an example of the love that she has grown for the community and all of the young people who cross her path.
However, Jackson said her most significant role is working with children and youth at the Washington Street Center. She oversees a number of programs at the center promoting education and literacy.
Some of those programs include the homework tutorial program, CRCT preparation, Girl Scouts, drama, music, physical fitness and grandparent and kinship programs.
“There’s a lot of community work that happens as being a byproduct and a director getting out there and letting people know about who we are,” Jackson said. “You have to give to get and it’s been my pleasure to serve the people of Newton County.”
Though she has a main focus of helping young people from an educational standpoint, Jackson said it rewards her to see youth learn outside of the center and experience what the world has to offer.
She said she once took a group of teenagers from the center to New York City, and they were impacted by the visit, being that they had never been to another state before.
One of her most memorable moments she recalls was taking a small group of girls, who were ages 5 to 6, out to dinner and then on a trip to the mall for the first time.
“They said ‘oh man the mall — we ain’t never been to no mall before’ and I said ‘you haven’t?’ and they got all giddy and excited,” Jackson said.“One of them said ‘Mrs. Jackson you know what—we heard they had moving stairs in there,’ So I said ‘I tell you what, we are going to the mall,’’’ she said.
“I let them ride the escalator until they had no longer desire to ride. But it was just watching them have that experience for the first time and that I could be a part of it; and for me, almost every day, it’s like that here, because there’s some kid that you just see the light bulb.”
“It could be academically or it could be in other ways. It could be as simple as helping me tie my shoes or learning how to do those little tasks means so much to young people,” Jackson said. “I have those moments every day.”
Jackson is married to her husband, Wick. They have two adult daughters and one grandchild on the way in May.