Rajeska Jackson, above middle, during a fashion show and 40th birthday party she hosted in Chicago to benefit Proviso Township youth. Below, left to right, models Keisha Menningen-James, Jakeisha Wells, Rajeska Jackson, Jaliria Wells, Bridgett Wood, Tonya Bright. || Laud Okoh, Snap At You Photography
Monday, January 25, 2016 || By Nicholas Samuel || Updated: 1/26/16 || 2:07 PM
Proviso East High School alumna Rajeska Jackson gazed fiercely into a crowd of flashing cameras Saturday, Jan. 23, as she gracefully walked the runway at her First Annual “An Evening of Giving Back” fashion show and fundraiser held in Chicago.
A crowd of nearly one hundred people, most of whom were Proviso East alumni, enjoyed great food, music, and merchandise from local vendors. The event also featured a spoken word performance by Chicago poet Moe Mentum and a fashion show featuring ten models.
Three of those models were Jackson’s children — twins Jaliria and Jakeisha Wells, 21, and Proviso East graduates, and Irving Middle School graduate Jahkobe Pritchett, 14.
“At the beginning I was frightened because this was my first fashion show and I didn’t know how it would turn out.” Jackson said. “This has always been a dream of mine. I hope it gets bigger and better every year.”
Jackson’s 40th birthday celebration was also part of the event; however, instead of receiving birthday gifts, she decided to give back to the youth in Proviso Township by donating the more than $1,500 in proceeds raised from the fundraiser to local organizations like the Proviso East Young Men’s Club and New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church’s youth ministry.
“She’s a sweet person. It did my heart well knowing that she wanted to go back to her roots to help out Maywood,” said Perry Williams, co-servant leader of the youth ministry at New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. “We are very grateful that she would have us in mind. That lets me know she sees our work.”
Proceeds will also go toward graduates in need of financial graduation assistance at Irving Middle School and Proviso East High School.
“She realizes how special and valuable our children are and wants to give them the same advantages as kids in other communities,” said Randall Mcfarland, co-founder of the Proviso East Young Men’s Club. “Kids in other communities can afford to go to ACT tutoring programs in Oak Park. Our kids can’t afford that type of stuff.”
Theresa Kelly, president of the board of education of Proviso Township High Schools District 209, was also in attendance. She said she’s elated that Jackson is giving back to Proviso Township.
“She truly gives back to her community. You just don’t see people doing that,” Kelly said. “Words can’t express the way I feel right now. We need more Rajeskas to help Proviso Township High Schools.”
Jackson said she was honored that Kelly attended the event, adding that the school board presidents “always supports local events and always shows her presence.”
Jackson said she was inspired to hold the fundraiser when she found out last year that some students in her son’s class at Irving Middle School in Maywood couldn’t afford to pay for their 8th grade graduation and therefore couldn’t participate in graduation activities.
“A young boy went to jail because he robbed a lady on the platform to pay for his graduation fees. I don’t think any child should have to go through something like that,” Jackson said. “Our youth should not bear the stress of worrying about finances preventing them from excelling and experiencing special moments such as a graduation.”
When Jackson’s twin daughters played on the girls’ basketball team for Proviso East, Jackson said she would often have the team members over at her house.
“I was their ear to listen and not judge. Sometimes you become a mentor without noticing it,” said Jackson, who also played on the girls’ basketball team at Proviso East when she was a student. “Lots of kids in the community need someone to direct them. Some kids have issues at home with relationships and I’m trying to keep them off of the streets.” VFP
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