Student maintains focus on success during pandemic and relocation

Posted: March 12, 2021

Janae Jackson, a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Warwick High School, is a high-achieving student with an eye on the future.

In the IB program, Janae and her classmates follow a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking skills. She says, "IB is really more difficult than other programs, but it's worth it. It pushes you to your full academic potential and helps with time management."

Janae is also a member of the first cohort of Community Captains, a joint effort between Christopher Newport University and Newport News Public Schools that helps high school students experience the atmosphere of a college campus and to see themselves as college-ready.

"I learned about the Community Captains program in tenth grade and received an invitation to apply. I talked about it with my school counselor Louisa Slagle," Janae says.

Campus visits arranged through the Community Captains program had a profound effect, she reports. "I had never really seen any colleges before. On those visits, I saw the dorms, the dining hall, and the gym. It gave me a good look at college, and I felt really included. Community Captains provided tutors and access to the CNU library, which was really helpful before COVID. All that made me more motivated to go to college. I had the chance to sit in on a real college physics class."

Back in her high school classes, teachers report that her quiet, watchful demeanor is not the result of shyness, but actually evidence of her keen ability to observe the dynamics around her and thoughtfully respond.

Several teachers were impressed by her extended essay for IB, a thoughtful examination of the effects studying evolution can have on religious beliefs.

Janae's achievements are laudable, even more so when viewed through the lens of 2020's school closures, adjusting to virtual learning, and the fact that her family relocated this year as a result of the revitalization initiative impacting her former neighborhood in downtown Newport News.

That area, Ridley Place, is part of the Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI), a $30 million grant program from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The CNI's goal is to transform neighborhoods into places of choice by rebuilding distressed public housing, improving and expanding services, expanding learning opportunities, creating pathways to jobs, and strengthening families.

She is hopeful about the revitalization's results: "I saw the packet of information my mom received. It showed the plans and drawings and looks like it is going to make a big difference in the community. It really starts with the people having good jobs and a nice area to live. Career opportunities are very important."

She remains philosophical about the move, saying, "We moved in August of 2020, but I didn't let it affect me. It wasn't during school, so that was a plus."

In addition to her studies, Janae volunteered as a tutor and worked part time. She is very interested in art, especially painting, and has taken an art class every year in high school.

Janae has applied to ten colleges and plans to study criminal justice in preparation for law school.