Mike and Brenda Jackson

For more than 30 years, Mike and Brenda Jackson have been a team — one with a passion for service to their community. They’re the first married couple in SkillsUSA to both earn the President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) for 4,000 hours of service over a lifetime.

Instructors at River Valley High School in Mohave Valley, Ariz., the two have been serving young people since they met at Idaho State University. Mike, who teaches graphic arts, has coached football, wrestling and track, while Brenda, a culinary arts instructor, has coached cheerleaders. Both have worked with youth through their church ministry. Including their students’ efforts, the couple’s impact has been felt on more than 15 organizations in Arizona.

“When students get engaged in learning and see the relevance, they gain confidence and self-esteem,” Mike says. “When you walk them through their first bake sale or their first community service event, it changes their whole perspective, and they feel they are capable of doing more than they thought. Soon they start seeing hope and look at going to college for something that brings them joy.

“When we as teachers prepare, show motivation, genuinely care about our students and expect excellence, our students thrive,” he adds.

With Brenda and her students’ culinary training, the River Valley High team typically provides food to raise funds and feed volunteers. “Wherever they have food or a booth, we have served,” Mike explains.

Spending time working on community service with students allows the Jacksons to lead by example. Developing a caring collaboration has a lifetime effect on the students, which is also improving their school’s graduation rate.

“We feel if we just mentored only during the school day, we would not be able to make much progress,” Mike says, adding how he wants students to see the couple is involved beyond the classroom. Showing faith in a student at a pivotal point in life can prevent him or her from spiraling down a bad path, he points out.

SkillsUSA’s focus on personal, workplace and technical skills helped Brenda’s chapter earn silver Chapter of Excellence status in only her first year as an advisor. Its community service aspect helped her choose SkillsUSA.

While service to the community has its rewards, both Jacksons agree that student success is also satisfying — especially when one returns to school to say thanks and “I got the job!” 

Learn about the President’s Volunteer Service Award at: http://bit.ly/2pqe88D.