At only eight years old, Jahkil Jackson joined the fight against homelessness by creating Project I Am, a 501c3 organization. Jahkil, now 14, was inspired to make a difference in the homeless community after helping his aunt distribute food to the Chicago homeless. Soon, Jahkil began his work to increase awareness of homelessness by offering them what he calls “Blessing Bags,” a giveaway filled with wipes, socks, deodorant, hand sanitizer, granola bars, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bottled water, and more. CEOKID spoke to Jahkil about his work with with Project I Am and his mission to help kids fight bullying.
Tell us about Project I Am. What do you do and who do you serve?
Project I AM is a non-profit organization that was started to build awareness to the homeless issue we have in the world. Project I Am is now two-fold, in addition to building awareness we also work with youth to find their service passion. Project I Am services people impacted by homelessness as well as youth. To date, Project I Am has impacted nearly 70,000 people in need and have worked with hundreds of aspiring youth change-makers.
What was the defining moment that inspired you to start Project I Am?
The spark came when I was five while I was passing out chili to the homeless in Chicago with my aunt and cousins. Over the years, I never let that experience go so I bugged my parents all the time about it, so much that my family helped me put together an event where my friends and family could put together toiletry bags. We made 88 bags the first time and haven’t looked back since then. During the pandemic, I had to change the way we did the blessing bag packing parties. We went from doing one packing party with lots of volunteers every month to me, my mom and my dad making blessing bags in our living room, while my grandmother would make the deliveries to local shelters. Four months of this got boring so I came up with the idea of getting on a Zoom call with my friends, and we all make blessing bags together. That turned into quarterly virtual packing parties where I ship kits to kids across the country and we all jump on Zoom and make thousands of blessing bags, all at the same time. The most has been 234 kids from 55 cities creating 5,000 blessing bags this past Giving Tuesday.
Congratulations on your many awards and honors including the Children’s Museum Power of Children Award, BET’s 15 under 15 and many more. What does receiving awards for your work mean to you?
It feels good to see my work is being acknowledged but the awards don’t really motivate me because that is not why I do what I do. I do my service work to help people.
Congratulations on writing your first bestselling book, I Am. I Am empowers kids and adults to stand up to bullying. Tell us about your own experiences with bullying. What inspired you to turn your experiences into a book?
When I was in sixth and seventh grade, I experienced verbal and physical bullying. It was a really tough time for me. While I did not wish for a pandemic to happen, I was happy to have to be at home instead of at school where the bullying took place. Quarantine allowed plenty of time for me to reflect and think about what was happening at school and with the support of my family, I was able to feel relief, happiness and whole. I already had a goal for 2020 to write a book, so I felt that was the perfect time to start creating. The process of writing my book was exciting because it was fun, light-hearted but still had a message, it was intended to help young people get through the tough times of bullying. After releasing the book and getting the chance to speak with my readers, I felt accomplished in the impact that I had created.
Your organization is based in Chicago. How can kids across the world get involved with Project I Am and the fight against homelessness?
I have actually been fortunate enough to work with kids nationwide and even abroad by way of the virtual packing parties. I have also done guest speaking virtually for many other cities and countries. I would love to get more kids globally in this fight against homelessness with me. Kids who are interested in being involved can visit my website officialprojectiam.com, check out the mission, goals and accomplishments and click the Contact tab. That form comes directly to my email and we can get started from there!
To date, Project I Am has impacted nearly 70,000 people in need and have worked with hundreds of aspiring youth change-makers.
What advice do you have for kids who want to make a difference in their communities today?
My advice would be to go into something that you actually want to do. Don’t do anything that you are not really passionate about. If you have not identified a passion yet, try volunteering for some different projects to see what sparks you. Once you find that passion point, brainstorm on how to make that a life path.
Where do you see Project I Am in five years?
In five years, I will be 19 years old. I see Project I Am in the forefront of demolishing homelessness. I also see more Tiny Home communities nationally.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing philanthropic work?
When I am not working on Project I Am, outside of school and basketball, I like to catch up on shows that I may have missed, watch NBA Games, make Tik Tok videos, hang out with friends, play video games, and get some needed sleep!
Learn more about Jahkil Jackson and Project I Am at https://officialprojectiam.com.