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Local history makers speak to Akron students

10/4/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Dorothy Jackson visited the National Inventors Hall of Fame School ... Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Learning as part of the third annual Back to School With the HistoryMakers program.
Photo: Maria Lindsay
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Students at the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) School … Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Learning took a morning break from their regular classes to focus on history Sept. 28.

That morning, Dorothy Jackson, a local political figure and social activist, visited the middle school students as part of the third annual Back to School With the HistoryMakers program.

The program invites African-American leaders to speak to students, and this year, 500 people of prominence visited schools in 70 cities across 35 states and Puerto Rico in an effort to encourage students to strive for excellence, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The HistoryMakers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to recording and preserving the personal histories of well-known and unsung African Americans, according to organization officials. To date, the organization has interviewed more than 2,000 individuals with the goal of creating a one-of-a-kind digital archive. For details, visit www.thehistorymakers.com.

“By bringing these living leaders into today’s educational system, we are raising awareness about the achievements of the accomplished African Americans in local communities and bringing these leaders into schools to see things firsthand, while providing important role models for today’s youth, ” said Julieanna Richardson, The HistoryMakers founder and executive director, in a press release.

Jackson, 76 and a resident of Akron, shared her life experiences with students and then led them in a pledge to commit to education.

According to the city of Akron website, www.ci.akron.oh.us/blackhist/officials/ d-jackson.htm, in 1984, Jackson joined the staff of then-Akron Mayor Tom Sawyer as the first black female deputy mayor of intergovernmental relations. She retired from the city in 2003.

Upon graduating from East High School in 1951, she worked at Goodwill Industries training individuals with disabilities and then directed services for more than 20,000 residents of the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA). For her work on behalf of its residents, AMHA named a 28-unit handicapped-accessible housing development the Dorothy O. Jackson Terrace, according to the city’s website.

The website also states that Jackson has served on numerous local, state and national boards and committees, and has received numerous awards and honors.

Jackson said this was her third HistoryMakers program and hoped to “leave children inspired to know that they can be anything they want to be.”

“You are the leaders of tomorrow. What happens to you happens to all of us,” she told students during the one-hour assembly. “Dream big and don’t let anyone stand in the way. Study hard, because there is a wealth hidden inside each of you that will take you anywhere.”

Billy Soule, assistant to Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic for community relations, also spoke to the students.

According to the city’s website, Soule served in the U.S. Air Force in radio and television services, worked for a short time on the “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” TV program and for several other TV and radio programs. He also earned more than 50 gold and platinum records for his contributions to the recording industry, and in 1994, was inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He also started his own public relations firm before coming to work with the city of Akron in 2004.

“You, too, can be a history maker,” he told students.

Students said they were inspired by The HistoryMakers presentations.

“It influenced me not to let anyone tell me that I cannot do something,” said student Jennifer James, 13.

Student Noah Carillon, 13, said the presentation encouraged him to “take further steps to get good grades and set goals for the future.”

“It taught me to follow my dream of being a doctor,” said student Mar Lin, 13.

In a press release, Richardson encouraged educators to use The HistoryMakers’ digital archive to enrich their students’ exposure to the contributions of African Americans across the globe. This year, schools participating in the event will receive a free one-year membership to the digital archive, which includes access to interviews with 310 individuals in the program.

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