Nurturing Future LeadersMay 01, 2021 ● By Allie Spletter
Young people are our future, and now more than ever it is vital that they believe in themselves, have the skills they need to succeed and are able to remain steadfast in working to become the best versions of themselves. Mentorship, servitude, education and hard work can play key roles in helping young people gain the skills required to become leaders in our communities and across the globe.
Jack and Jill of America, Inc. provides such opportunities for future African-American leaders ages 2-19. The organization was founded in 1938 by the late Marion Stubbs Thomas as a means to bring black families together for socially and culturally enriching activities. Twenty women gathered to create a membership organization of mothers and children aimed at developing leaders through social, cultural and educational opportunities, as well as philanthropic endeavors, volunteerism and civic duty. Today, Jack and Jill of America has more than 245 chapters nationwide representing upward of 40,000 family members.
Jack and Jill of America chapters continue to foster young leaders by planning and implementing service projects, working with community members and organizations and cultivating relationships. Each year, the chapters plan activities developed around the organization’s programmatic thrust, which includes cultural awareness, educational development, health (education and advocacy), civic (legislative advocacy and service) and social/recreational areas. They have successfully promoted the awareness and interests of children through lobbying, educational programming and the organization of charitable events in communities.
The Greater Frisco Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. was established in 2008 and has had a sizable impact in the community and on the lives of its members. Chapter President Renee Sample says, “We are committed to providing value to our children’s lives while we seek for all children the same advantages we desire for our own.” The chapter’s “vision” throughout this year is TEAM - Together Everyone Achieves More. “We want to Teach our children through creative programming and our parents through authentic discussions, Empower our mothers to flow in their gifts and talents and to share their knowledge to take our chapter to the next level, Advocate for policies that empower our children to become game changers, and Motivate our chapter to set goals and dream big for all children,” she says.
The Greater Frisco Chapter has implemented programs that are primarily centered around leadership development, awareness of cultural heritage and community service. Ms. Sample says it has established “multifaceted initiatives” including STE(A)M (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), the Healthy Living Initiative, which centers on lifestyle improvements and healthy development, and other projects with local and national and partners. “The philosophy we embrace is one of holistic enrichment of our youth and, by extension, our communities,” she explains.
Greater Frisco Chapter Senior Reece Huggard says his participation in the organization “has enabled me to create connections with other African Americans in my area who are all striving for success in the world. We collaborate and share ideas, which has allowed me to grow as an individual being able to agree and disagree. It has also taught me values and the importance of impacting the community and the ones around us.”
Fellow Senior Raya Riley has been a member of the local chapter for six years. She joined because she wanted to learn more about African-American culture, meet new people and become more enriched in her culture. “I’ve learned so much, have gotten to travel different places for seminars and conferences, which are all things I wouldn’t have gotten to do if I hadn’t been a part of Jack and Jill of America,” says the teen, who plans to attend Xavier University in the fall and study criminal law. Her parents are also involved with the chapter. “It’s a big family of families coming together. Everyone in the chapter is from different high schools across the city and the learning styles are so different, so it’s cool to come together to see that.”
Senior Lauryn Evans plans to attend Alabama State University. She’s been a chapter member for 10 years and joined after her mother signed her up with the organization. She chose to stay involved because she fell in love with the environment. “I enjoyed being around people who helped me grow and supported my dreams.” After relocating from North Carolina to Texas, she says the organization “provided me with a network of people who helped me navigate my new home. Having a strong support system allowed me to thrive academically and socially. One of the key learnings from being a member is learning how to successfully work with a team that has different skills to positively impact the community.”
In its efforts to continually impact the lives of students, its members and the communities it serves, the Greater Frisco Chapter has successfully hosted programs and fundraisers that have had a lasting impact. In 2013, it hosted its first-ever Art of Leadership program with the North Suburban Dallas chapter, which “was designed to address the need for young people to nurture their creativity as well as increase exposure to entrepreneurship, leadership and financial literacy as part of their character development to provide a foundation for success,” Ms. Sample says. Later that year, it held its first Pink and Blue Ball. The fundraising gala benefited the Jack and Jill of America Foundation as well as Frisco-area charities and scholarship programs.
The Greater Frisco Chapter values the growth and leadership of its young people, allowing teen members to select their own officers, provide input on programming and participate in planning and implementing activities. Teens have collected socks to donate to My Friend’s House, an emergency children’s shelter; hosted Christmas parties for the residents of the Samaritan Inn shelter in McKinney; and partnered with the South Central Region of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. to support the organization’s national partner, the March of Dimes. Frisco members have also served breakfast, provided childcare and pitched in for cleanups at Samaritan Inn, as well as served at the nonprofit Buckner International.
“I’ve learned many things from my years of being in Jack and Jill, from the importance of knowing your history, family, community service (to) leadership skills,” Senior Chloe Murphy says. “However, the most important skill I have learned is to give back to the community. I have worked on the community service committee ever since I was a (high school) freshman, and it has been the best experience.”
One of the most memorable events for Senior Lauren Raybon was the Teen Conference. “I had the opportunity to bond with other chapter members … (from) throughout the nation. I also had the opportunity to meet with colleges and universities,” says the teen, who plans to attend the University of Oklahoma and major in business.
In 2014, the Greater Frisco Chapter adopted the Senior Rites of Passage ceremony, which celebrates members’ transition from one phase of life to another, including the seniors’ passage from youth to adulthood. “In the touching presentation, the teens participate in the three phases of the rites of passage in order to move from one familiar role and be formally admitted into the new role and begin a new life,” Ms. Sample explains.
After the teens move on, mothers who have tenured out of the organization are able to continue to support the local chapter as an “associate,” strengthening the organization by addressing specific chapter needs. Local chapter associates “have graciously assisted with providing care packages for our recent high school graduates at college and with the Teen Conference,” Ms. Sample says. Jack and Jill of America, Inc. also has a National Father’s Auxiliary whose objective is to encourage the involvement of fathers at local, regional and national levels.
The Greater Frisco Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. has grown incredible leaders in our community and has given many young people the tools they need to make their dreams come true. Additional information about the chapter is available at jackandjillgreaterfrisco.org.
Allie Spletter is a freelance writer who can be found roaming the aisles of Target, getting lost in a good book, or watching Hamilton … again.