July 10, 2017

Chicago 9-year-old starts nonprofit to help the homeless

Jahkil Naeem Jackson wants to inspire other kids to become changemakers in their communities

Nine-year-old Jahkil Naeem Jackson makes hygiene kits for the homeless in his Chicago community. Photo courtesy of the family.

My name is Jahkil Naeem Jackson. I am 9 years old and just completed the 4th grade. When my mom told me about writing an essay I was scared, but I am glad to share my story so the world can see what young people can do!

Over the years I have seen people on the street in my hometown of Chicago who seemed to have nowhere to go. I helped my aunt feed some homeless people when I was 5 and I have wanted to help in some way ever since. I would always beg my parents to give money when we saw homeless people on the street, but they began to say that if we continue to give our money away, we will become broke, so we had to come up with a different solution. After doing research, I decided to create “blessing bags.” After distributing a few hundred bags, I wanted to do more and more. My parents helped me start my own organization called Project I Am so that I can collect donations from people who want to help. This became a big deal for me and I was so excited to see it grow.

My goal with the organization is to help those in need. I help by making blessing bags full of toiletry items. I chose this because often times people living on the street don’t have the basic necessities to get them throughout the day like toothpaste, a toothbrush, and hand sanitizer to help keep their hands clean. My bags are meant to help them take care of themselves. This year I plan to distribute 5,000 blessing bags. I will be working hard toward this goal this summer with the help of donations.

When I’m not working on my blessing bags, I do enjoy being a kid! I tap dance with M.A.D.D. Rhythms (a tap dance collective in Chicago), breakdance with Stick & Move Youth Crew, and play basketball in lots of tournaments. My favorite is basketball and one day I hope to play professionally, but not just that, I plan to OWN a team as an adult.

Ultimately, I would love to see other kids across the country doing similar work. To see a kid giving back in their own way would just put a smile on my face! I hope to speak with youth all over the country to tell my story as I have in Chicago. When I present to kids, I always end with: “You don’t have to wait until you are an adult to become an entrepreneur and changemaker, you can do it now!”

Jahkil Naeem Jackson

Project I Am