Earlier this month, Jude Jackson graduated from Crossroads High School with honors and as the valedictorian. As the first person in his family to graduate from high school, Jackson describes the achievement as “surreal.”
In his graduation speech — delivered as a Dr. Seuss-style poem — Jackson told fellow graduates he was proud of them. The class not only completed high school but did so in the midst of a global pandemic. Friends high-fived Jackson as he returned to his seat.
“It was kind of silly, but it talked about how we overcame the obstacles put in our way,” Jackson said of the speech. “Managing to graduate high school is a huge achievement.”
While a sophomore, and on the verge of dropping out of high school in the Lake Stevens School District, Jackson’s mother suggested he enroll at Crossroads instead.
“It was the best choice I could have ever made,” Jackson said. “They really focus on helping you with your mental health and other issues before academics, so you can actually focus.”
Crossroads High School offers Alternative Learning Experience opportunities in the Granite Falls and Lake Stevens school districts. The school serves students in grades 10-12 who need a less-traditional educational environment.
Ashleigh Cornett, a mental health counselor at Crossroads, described Jude as “smart, kind, compassionate, artistic, well-spoken and an advocate with a very strong work ethic.”
“He has faced many adversities in his 18 years and has not only become a stronger and more compassionate person, but has set and exceeded his own goals,” Cornett wrote in an email.
At Crossroads, Jackson led the Voices of Youth Club, which holds programs that benefit the community and educate parents. During Jackson’s senior year, the club hosted a panel discussion over Zoom with people in the community, a couple doctors and Jackson to discuss coping with the pandemic.
“We all had examples of how we were helping ourselves and each other through COVID,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he turned to art and creative projects to cope. In the fall, he plans to major in art at Pacific Lutheran University in Seattle.
Jackson described himself as a multifaceted artist. Some of the first projects that came to mind involved wood-burning, painting with watercolors and acrylics, sculpting and making wind chimes. At 3 years old, the burgeoning creative force got his start by adding his own artistic flair to portraits his father had painted.
“It’s my passion,” Jackson said. “I want to be an art teacher.”
Katie Hayes: email@example.com; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.
Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.