Imagine a person with superhuman skills in an astounding array of fields, a person with an enormous heart, an ever-attuned and immensely strategic brain, and a deep well of generosity. What if this extraordinary human was a parent of two intelligent and hard-working 826michigan students? And what if she chose to not only contribute to 826michigan as donor but to also put some of her expertise to work for the good of 826michigan, 826 National, and all of our students? My friends, you are imagining the incomparable Jeannette Jackson.
Jeannette and 826michigan have been friends almost since our very beginning. When Madeleine and John were elementary-schoolers, they attended programs regularly, and as high school students, they were founding members of our Story Problems writing group and workshop for teen writers. Jeannette supported their participation throughout their time as 826michigan students (and then when Madeleine returned as a summer intern!), gaining an incredible insight and a deep belief in our programs as a parent first, and as a volunteer. (Jeannette tells a great story about her family’s experience with 826michigan in her Ten for Ten profile, another fine example of how she helps to celebrate 826michigan at every opportunity!)
Beginning in our early years, when our staff was VERY small, Jeannette provided invaluable support, helping navigate issues that arose as 826michigan worked to become a more established small nonprofit. She served as an Executive Coach to Amanda Uhle, offering a listening ear and thoughtful guidance during a crucial time of growth, and she still helps Amanda with periodic and immensely helpful conversations on organizational strategy.
Then when our staff made the jump from four members to seven in a relatively short span, Jeannette swooped in again, cape waving in the wind. She facilitated several sessions with our staff in navigating the normal growing pains and helped as we worked to build our organizational culture, structures, and interpersonal communications. Among other wonderful things these sessions involved watching clips from Sister Act and reading the Harvard Negotiation Project’s book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (btw, you should all read this book—it will change your life).
Most recently, Jeannette has supported our efforts to restructure our internship program by helping craft and facilitate an intern focus group and meeting with the program staff as we undertake the internship structure overhaul this summer. In addition, Jeannette earned an even wider 826 fan-base when she presented at our 826 National Staff Development Conference in Detroit this June. She helped staffers consider how to make our grand visions into a practical, achievable reality by using a tool called the Gap Analysis—there has been great excitement around large post-it calendars and big picture planning in the weeks since. We even heard a staff member from another chapter called Jeannette her new “shero.” We concur!
Lately it seems like we have been seeing Jeannette everywhere and it has just reminded us how lucky we are to have her in our network of super volunteers. Whether we run into her at yoga at 6:30am, have a great conversation with her at one of our benefit dinners, chat about Hamilton together in a coffee shop, or witness her brilliance presenting in front of a large group, Jeannette never ceases to amaze us with the breadth of her talents and her generosity in sharing them with us.