A Rising Leader on How Charter Schools Provide Unique Opportunities for Student Success

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Jah'mere Jackson, Rising Leader Initiative Headshot

Charter schools provide an alternative learning environment that can make or break the value of a child’s education. I’ve learned this firsthand as a student at Riverhead Charter School (RCS). Without my charter school, I do not believe that I would be in the educational position I am in right now or the person I am today. 

When I enrolled into Riverhead Charter School in 4th grade, I was an awkward and shy kid. By the time I hit middle school, this was no longer an accurate depiction of who I was. RCS provided multiple outlets to get me out of my shell. RCS worked hard to create a secure culture that enforces a strong community and promotes self-expression, which helped me find my way. I never feel like my words are too small to communicate and I see my actions can hold a greater weight than I may understand. RCS taught me these lessons in and out of the classroom. 

I received many opportunities through my charter school that wouldn’t be the case if I was in my district public school. For example, I was able to plan numerous fundraisers which benefited many different organizations I believe in. I was able to apply for and become part of the National Alliance’s Rising Leaders Initiative, an opportunity available to charter school students seeking to become advocates for public education in their communities. What I might be most proud of is the opportunity to shape the history curriculum at my former elementary school—something unlikely to have been possible if I had gone to my zoned district high school. 

Through the project, I worked with different elementary school teachers at the school to see how they felt about the current history program. I then went through the 3rd-5th grade curriculum and shared suggestions with educators on how to not only diversify what they teach but also teach sensitive topics at an age-appropriate level. This ensured no topic was left out of their student’s education pathways. This document received a great amount of support and was well received by the directors of the curriculum in the school. So well received that I have been asked to do the same thing with the upcoming 6th-grade curriculum. 

The constant support I received in my time at RCS is unmatched. With everything I have accomplished in the past three years, I still know that I have the potential for so much more.

I am constantly pushed in my school—whether it is artistically, educationally or mentally—and I always feel challenged in the best way possible. I was actively encouraged to participate in theater productions, choir, band, and yearly talent shows. This pushed me out of my comfort zone, especially for the nine-year-old kid who did not want to be exposed in that way. Looking back on those experiences, I couldn’t be more grateful. I learned skills such as public speaking while I was on stage. Even to this day, I am given many opportunities to practice this skill. I have hosted events such as the inaugural RCS Juneteenth celebration, multiple Black History Month celebrations, an RCS Gala, and more to come. 

I look back on that shy awkward kid that I once was and what I see is little Jah’mere, smiling ear to ear, telling me how proud he is. How proud he is of who he has become. I wouldn’t be able to talk about myself if I didn’t talk about RCS. So on behalf of little Jah’mere and I, thank you RCS.

Jah'mere Jackson is a junior at Riverhead Charter School in New York and a member of the inaugural class of the Rising Leaders Initiative. 

The Rising Leaders Initiative is a one-year advocacy training program for charter high school students who want to become active participants in education policy decisions in their local community and state and develop skills to guide their educational and professional pathways. Meet the full Class of 2022-2023