April 4, 2012
When it comes to volunteerism, Rice student-athletes always say they get as much if not more out of their experiences as the groups or individuals whose lives they touch. So is the case for Rice Basketball's Tamir Jackson.
Jackson serves as a mentor for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Houston. He has also contributed to team-related community service, reaching out as a guest reader and speaker at area elementary schools.
The work in the community has led to Jackson receiving Conference USA's Spirit of Service Award. The league recognizes a student-athlete from each conference-member institution three times during the academic year.
On Wednesday, Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky announced the 12 student-athletes that will receive the C-USA Winter Spirit of Service Award. The C-USA Spirit of Service Award is designed to recognize the community service efforts of the league's student-athletes based upon significant community service, good academic standing and participation in their elected sport.
In addition to his community service, Jackson was part of a Rice team which received Conference USA's Sport Academic Award last summer which recognizes the highest grade point average for each conference-sponsored sport. He had a 3.437 grade point average last semester.
Jackson averaged 10.5 points and had 100 assists this season, which both ranked second on the team. During the year he scored his 1,000th career point. He played in 34 games during the season and helped lead the Owls to their first postseason appearance since 2005.
Jackson said he believes that he equally gets as much out of working with Big Brothers as the kids he mentors.
"I enjoy doing it," he said. "I really like to help make a better life for another kid or be a better role model for someone. I think they get a lot out of it because I am a college athlete and a student at one of the best schools in the country. They see if another black man can do it, they can do it as well."
Growing up in New Jersey, Jackson said he looked up to the AAU and city-league coaches who helped to teach young people and provide an opportunity for an activity off the street.
Jackson said he wants to give an opportunity to young people who are willing to take it.
"I always did things with less-fortunate kids back when I was growing up and I just wanted to give back to a less-fortunate person who doesn't really have a father in their life or many positive male role models," he said. "I just wanted to be someone who could encourage kids to do the right things and stay away from the streets."
Jackson currently volunteers two weekends a month with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. In addition to the Houston organization, the senior-to-be has had other opportunities to be a role model.
He has volunteered in the Rice Reader program as a student-athlete reading to elementary students. He also made an impression on a class of fifth graders at Rusk Elementary.
Back in December, Jackson and several teammates visited the school which is in a low-income area of Houston and serves one of the city's biggest homeless shelters.
"He spoke to the students about what it is like going to college and playing a sport," said Rusk Elementary teacher Rachel Wade. "He gave them advice about what they need to do as fifth graders so that they too can maybe one day receive a scholarship to play a sport in college. Tamir's a great role model for my students and has inspired many of them to be future Owls."
"We just had fun with the kids," Jackson said of his visit to Rusk. "We played basketball and raced them around the track. We just did anything they wanted to do.
"I just told them basically to keep working hard at school and you will get to wherever you want to go."