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via theundefeated:

Cedric Jackson knows firsthand the impact that regular exposure to a positive black man can have on impressionable students — especially young black boys.

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, he was one of them, yearning to connect with male role models. After the death of Jackson’s mother when he was 8, his father sent him to live permanently with his aunt in a tough Huntsville, Alabama, neighborhood. Jackson said that while he was growing up, it was his black coaches and teachers, especially those at Lee High School, who took an interest in him, pushing the budding football star on and off the field.

“I had a tough life; I would go to school just to eat,” Jackson, now 40, recalled of his childhood. “Coming up, it meant the world to me knowing that I had these teachers and coaches in my corner. They had the biggest influence on me; they made me feel like I was somebody.”

He said that although he was not the most committed student academically, their investment paid off. With their encouragement, compassionate guidance and thought-provoking teaching, Jackson snagged the coveted quarterback spot on the Lee High Generals team. Just before graduation, the scholarship offers poured in.

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