Cle Jackson took away much more from scouting than learning how to pitch a tent or start a campfire.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan senior community liaison said his time as a scout taught him the value of servant leadership and life skills such as discipline and perseverance.
Jackson was recently awarded the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award, the highest national service award given by the Boy Scouts of America. The award recognizes individuals working to develop and implement scouting opportunities for youth from rural or low-income urban backgrounds. Jackson earned the award for his commitment to scouting in Grand Rapids’ urban core.
Growing up, Jackson started his scouting journey under the leadership of his mom, who served as his Cub Scout den leader. He went on to join Boy Scout Troop 279, which met at the Baxter Community Center. The troop was one of only two African American groups in Kent County at the time and Jackson remembers troop leader Raymond Smith going above and beyond with the impressionable young men in his charge, filling a mentor role for many.
“I think it was different because the leadership in our troop were leaders of color who looked like me,” Jackson said.
Providing those same mentoring opportunities to boys growing up today is important to Jackson. He’s a supporter and advocate of the local Scoutreach program, which provides scouting opportunities to youth in 25 counties in western and northern Michigan. Scoutreach brings character and leadership development programs to inner-city youth in Grand Rapids and served more than 1,700 youth and provided programming in 33 churches, schools and organizations.
Jackson said he was honored and humbled to receive the award. Along with his experience in scouts, his mother and father instilled a deep sense of civic responsibility. Jackson’s role at Blue Cross, his volunteer role as president of the Greater Grand Rapids National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and as board president at Baxter Community Center are just a few of the ways he’s carried that forward.
“I do this work because it’s my heart and it’s just the right thing to do,” he said.
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Main image photo credit: Nina Hale