Gray Fellow 2023 to 2024
Gregory Jackson, Jr. was born on August 18, 1974, in the heart of Brownsville, N.Y. He was born to Gregory Jackson Sr., known as “Jocko”, the “Mayor of Brownsville” and Sharon Jackson; who were both advocates for the improvement of equity in youth services and quality housing. Mr. Jackson grew up seeing his family volunteer to support Brownsville in multiple ways, and living by the mantra, “Who will you help today?” Those actions shaped how he values community service and the importance of quality education.
Mr. Jackson acknowledges the unfavorable reputation and challenges of public schools in Brownsville and for that reason went to schools outside of his community, in District 18. He contributes his success to having strong male models, such as his father in his life, exposure beyond his neighborhood and even traveling overseas to play professional basketball.
Mr. Jackson started his career as a teacher at the Weeksville Elementary School, located in District 16. He soon realized his mentorship and relationships with families were a bond he had to continue. He dedicated 12 years of teaching and thereafter, became Assistant Principal of MS.183 in Far Rockaway, Queens for 3 years. There were many similarities between Far Rockaway and Brownsville. He observed a community that seemed “forgotten” and noted the heavy impact on all stakeholders within the school community. On January 3, 2017, Mr. Jackson was called back home to Brownsville and embraced his new role as Principal of Brownsville Collaborative Middle School (BCMS).
Every morning, Mr. Jackson greets his Scholars on the corner of Watkins and Glenmore Avenues reinforcing, “You are the BEST in BROWNSVILLE!” The Scholars begin the day with Townhall and execute plans for engaging in social justice projects. For the holidays, the community gets an invitation to catered dinners and healthy options from the school’s Hydroponic Farm; in an effort to solve the “food desert” crisis. The successful outcomes of Scholars growing fresh vegetables and managing the distribution of it to their families led to an update in the school’s name and shift in focus to include “agriculture and technology”. In addition, the School Leadership Team engages in outreach for health screening and quality resources in an underserved neighborhood. Mr. Jackson takes pride in preparing a safe haven for his middle schoolers and in being a support for families who depend on an extra source of food. He models and reiterates the notion of schools being grounded in the concept of HOPE; and that people are willing to endure for themselves and others if they have faith.
In March of 2020, the people of Brownsville once again showed resilience, but this time in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic. BCMS A&T would engage in remote learning. Mr.Jackson, along with his amazing staff, continued to encourage his families in a time of uncertainty. The country was at a standstill, death tolls were at its peak; however, Mr. Jackson stepped into action by volunteering to supervise the Regional Enrichment Center at PS 156, for the children of First Responders; and afterwards distributed food boxes and care kits to the community, with the BCMS A&T Parent Coordinator. His dedication to families also continued as he gathered his team to deliver technology and conduct wellness checks to BCMS A&T families.
Brownsville will always be home for Mr. Jackson. His family and the people of Brownsville were his “safe passage” through adolescence. They continue to be his inspiration, examples of what hard work looks like and an exemplar for adapting in the face of adversity. He is often asked to answer his “Why?” in education and in Brownsville. He reflects on his childhood and acknowledges, what separates him from young boys who seem to lack HOPE is his Dad, Gregory “Jocko” Jackson, Who served as a father figure to everyone in the community.
“My Dad believed that Brownsville has the best talent in the world, and that we could accomplish anything if we worked together.” Mr. Jackson is deeply honored to have the opportunity to serve the community that raised him and to keep his dad’s legacy alive.