By: Teddy Grant
Navigating the foster care system, homelessness and Type 1 diabetes, Philadelphia teen Destiny Jackson hasn’t always had an easy life. However, her commitment to tackling challenges head-on and her education helped Jackson accomplish an amazing feat: getting accepted into 50 colleges and universities.
In the fall, Jackson, 18, will attend Spelman College, which is the historically Black liberal arts all-women’s college in Atlanta. She plans to double major in political science and communications in media.
“I always knew that I wanted to go to an HBCU. I knew that’s where I belonged,” Jackson told BNC. “Spelman College is basically like the Harvard and the Yale for Black women. I want to go there and be a part of that illustrious history.”
Jackson is one of 1.6 million people in the country who have Type 1 diabetes. Around 200,000 Americans younger than 20 years old have the disease, according to research organization JDRF.
Jackson said that her biological parents abused her, which led her to run away from home. She then landed in the foster care system, which is especially challenging for someone with Type 1 diabetes.
“It’s definitely taught me to navigate for myself,” Jackson said. “You have to make sure that your health is always in good condition because my life depends on that.”
Jackson, who suffers from depression, said that her biological mother would tell her that she would never amount to anything in life. She used those harsh words as motivation to apply to college, ultimately deciding to attend an HBCU.
“Every time I think about me failing, or me not being able to be successful or me not chasing my dreams, I always think ‘you will never be anything,’ and I make sure that makes me work ten times harder than anybody else,” Jackson said, “I am not going to be what my biggest haters expect me to be.”
About half of the youth raised in foster care around the country end up completing high school, with less than 3% graduating from a 4-year college, according to the National Foster Youth Institute. The Child Welfare Information Gateway states about 23% of Black children were in the foster care system as of 2018.
Jackson uses her experience in the foster care system, which provided her a haven from an abusive home, to give back to the foster care community. She is forming a nonprofit organization, FYBY, which stands for “Find Yourself, Be Yourself,” that will provide around-the-clock assistance to children in the foster care system.
She hopes that the program will help foster kids with school, mental health services and leave dangerous situations within the system.
“That’s my first step on giving back to the community, especially a community I’m a part of,” Jackson said. “There’s so much more to go.”