By Denise Bray Hensley
When Chasity Jackson rolls over at dawn, her laptop is propped by her bedside with her day’s schedule. She creates her “to do” list, usually in 15-minute increments, the night before. Such discipline kept her on task to finish high school with honors while completing her associate’s degree from Houston Community College.
“I can tell you, I sleep hard, and I need all the sleep I can get. It was a lot,” she says. “I still don’t know how I did it. A group of people inspires me every day. I have many mentors.”
She did, in fact, achieve her goal and now will attend Prairie View A&M, where she will reside in the honors dorm and continue her studies to be a registered nurse. She graduated recently from Jones Futures Academy with a career path in nursing. She is already certified in Basic Life Support and CPR.
All this during a worldwide pandemic with dual high school and community college schedules always throwing some curves.
“Jones was already hard, but HCC! I just couldn’t control classes that happened on top of each other,” she says. So Chasity recorded lectures, listened when she could, and viewed online lessons on breaks and at night. All the while, she kept her faithful to-do list current on what was due and when. “It was so frustrating with the dual classes and the year of the pandemic. Surely, we won’t see anything like this year again.”
In addition to her studies, Chasity worked a full-time job at Fiesta, where she started at age 16 and worked for the last two years. Recently she was promoted to her current position as a front-end manager.
“I think they saw that I could talk to anybody,” she says. “Guess I’m a people person.”
She says that’s why she chose to be a nurse instead of a doctor. She wants to have face-to-face contact with patients, care for them, and make their lives easier.
“God wants me to do this. He wants me to be in the lives of the people I see.”
When she started at Fiesta, she would get up extra early to do her school work and get to work before 8 a.m. She was going to both Jones and HCC, grabbing snacks in between, never napping but sleeping hard when she could. “HCC took over my summer with summer classes. It was too much for me for a while. I was missing essays and dropping grades.”
She says she had a good friend, a strong family, and Yellowstone Schools to pull her to the finish line. In addition, she surrounded herself with people who were positive and supportive of her reaching her goals.
“I just knew I had to buckle down and do it,” she says. “I had friends and family telling me every day that they believed in me and that I could do it. It was like I had cheerleaders everywhere, talking to me.”
Chasity says she has a strong family unit with both her mom and dad involved in her life and a “bonus dad” who has been another father figure since she was a baby. From her blended family, she has six brothers, four sisters, and a very active grandmother.
“I’m very close to each of them,” she says.
She adds with emphasis that “if it weren’t for Yellowstone, I wouldn’t be here.”
Kim Hansen, director of program advancement and founding executive director of Yellowstone, is one of her biggest fans, and the admiration goes both ways.
“Ms. Hansen texts and keeps in touch, even over the holidays. She gives the best advice,” Chasity says, adding that Ms. Hansen often brings flowers to her job. “When I see yellow flowers, it just brightens my day. It makes me so happy.” The yellow flowers are to remind her of Yellowstone, of course.
Ms. Hansen points out that most Yellowstone students are the first in their families to attend college. One of the goals of Yellowstone is to help students prioritize education in day-to-day decisions.
When asked about how Yellowstone has created such a successful alumni program to support students, Ms. Hansen says the key is consistent contact. “We keep up with them. Talk or text with them often. It’s just important to know someone is out there who cares, and I will do all I can to provide support, encouragement, and accountability.”