Jack and Jill of America Inc. Lighting Pathways to Success in the Lives of Children
“To us as mothers, [Jack and Jill] has become a means of furthering an inherent and natural desire …to bestow upon our children all the opportunities possible for a normal and graceful approach to a beautiful adulthood.” – Marion Stubbs Thomas
HOUSTON- It’s about putting our “Children First” and looking for innovative, creative and engaging programming and life activities to help Black and minority children reach their true full potentials.
In this age of uncertainty for Blacks in education, economic and limited political fortunes, the Jack and Jill of America Inc. is focused on preparing young people for leadership now and brighter futures ahead.
“We are the premier African American family national organization educating our children and imparting integrity, character and confidence through educational and cultural programming, leadership development and civic involvement,” said. “South Central Regional Director Consuella Guillory- Adams. “We are an organization of mothers who develop leadership programs that introduce our children hands on cultural civic and legislative and social and recreational type programs and experiences”.
Jack and Jill of America, Inc., is a membership organization of mothers with children ages 2 – 19, dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty.
The late Marion Stubbs Thomas founded Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated, on January 24, 1938, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
It was founded during segregation and Jim Crow at a time when Black people had limited travel, education and social options and alternatives in the South.
Twenty mothers came together to discuss creating an organization to provide social, cultural and educational opportunities for youth between the ages of 2 and 19. In 1946, 10 chapters were involved in the national restructuring process. The constitution and bylaws were drawn up, and the organization was incorporated under the laws of the state of Delaware.
Today, Jack and Jill boasts more than 230 chapters nationwide, representing more than 50,000 family members.
Each chapter plans annual programming activities guided under a national theme. Through service projects, Jack and Jill of America creates a medium of contact for children to stimulate their growth and development.
“Children demonstrate leadership at an early age and we want to seize that and start working with them early to hone those leadership skills and we want them to learn to advocate and speak out on the social and political issues affecting our community,” she said. “We are taking our children and preparing them for success and to come back and serve your community to make sure your community is secure.”
In the South Central Region, mothers in this region are on the move, celebrating accomplishments, embracing the future and working to achieve and maintain the mission of this great organization by transforming the lives of children through partnership, participation, power and purpose.
South Central Regional History
In 1957, Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated officially adopted the regional structure. Initially, the idea of the regional structure was introduced in 1948 at the Third Annual Meeting of Jack and Jill, Inc., held in Washington. D. C.
At that time, the thinking was that breaking the organization into regions would reduce travel time to annual meetings, promote discussion of important issues among members before decisions had to be made at national meetings, and make possible greater participation by the children.
Today, there are seven regions that continue to promote the goals and aims of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated, with a focus on children and community involvement.
While various national committees were debating the suitability of restructuring the organization, the South Central Region had already begun to form. In 1952, two chapters west of the Mississippi were established.
Sponsored by the Buffalo, New York Chapter, New Orleans was granted a charter, and on March 27, 1952, the New Orleans chapter was installed, becoming the first chapter in Louisiana. Leading their effort had been Roberta Bobb.
At first informed that Jack and Jill of America, Inc. had no plans to establish chapters west of the Mississippi, the Houston mothers persisted, calling on Dr. Katherine Loett, who had friends in the national organization, to help them persuade the national organization to grant the charter.
On September 24, 1952, after two years of effort, the Houston Chapter became the first established in Texas. Thus these two were the first to be established in what was to become the South Central Region five years later. “First, we became part of a great legacy of mothers who put children first and who sacrifice daily to provide opportunities for all children”, Jacqueline Whiting Bostic, Former National Vice President from the South Central Region, said in 2009.
The national organization had not completed its consideration of restructuring into regions, but it did establish a Teenage Committee on Regional Boundaries in 1952. This committee created seven regions “to serve as a framework for Teenage Regional Conferences.”
The purpose of teen regional conferences was to conduct business and plan teenage activities for the individual regions.
Each teenage region elected a director pro-tem. These Teenage Regional Conferences were held annually with increasing success. In fact, under the leadership of Leona Dorsey, the newly established Houston Chapter hosted the First Annual Regional Teenage Conference in 1955.
Under the leadership of Hattie Mae White, in 1956 the Houston Chapter also hosted the Second Annual Regional Teenage Conference. At the local level, the regional organization worked well.
Perhaps it was the success of regional teen conferences, which helped to convince the Jack and Jill Executive Board that regional organizational would work.
J&J Actively Engaged Today
Today the region covers Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico and has 29 chapters and works with over 1,500 families.
One thing done of impact in 2017 by the group and its children includes work at the state capitol in Austin and in Congress in Washington DC, where they addressed the needs and issues of representation and voice of the community with legislators and tackled the tough challenges surround youth mental health issues.
The philosophy we embrace is one of holistic enrichment of our youth and, by extension, our communities.
“We target the needs of communities of children,” she said. “There are many not being addressed that affect the future outcomes of our community.”
Some of those current action items include being vocal and proactive in education by boosting grade performances using mentoring and tutoring and taking care of food insecurity in neighborhoods by providing action and support for the 1 in 6 children going hungry daily in Texas and Louisiana.
The region also is focusing on tackling obesity with recreation and nutrition counsel that helps children make better food choices and develop better eating habits.
According to Adams, the group also encourage families to speak up, speak out and make a difference. “We want our children to know that their voices do matter,” she said. “You are never too young to make a difference.”
Clear Vision Equals Mission Success
Joli Cooper-Nelson, the 25th National President of Jack and Jill of America Inc. said she is proud to be part of an organization of mothers making a difference and is committed to leading with vision in mind.
“My vision for Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated remains the same as our twenty founding mothers who met the night of January 24, 1938 to organize the “Jack and Jill Club” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” she said. “Nearly eighty years later, Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated continues to exist for the betterment of the lives of all children and as mothers, we must remain committed to serving an organization inspired by children and defined by visionary, courageous and passionate servant-leader-mothers. I strongly believe that every member has a unique role in shaping the future Jack and Jill of America, Inc. as our legacy will not be defined by what we say – but by what we do, for children.”
She said leadership teams too have embraced these guiding principles as the foundation that includes:
- Commit to Serving a Higher Purpose
- Commit to Keeping Children First
- Commit to Being Knowledgeable
- Commit to Being Strategic
- Commit to Being Accountable
- Commit to Being Kind
The national theme of Jack and Jill is The Power to Make a Difference.
Youth Leadership Programs
One of the hallmarks of Jack and Jill is its emphasis on youth development with our youth leadership programs. Whether it is through skill enhancement, financial literacy or volunteer opportunities, this organization has become a national model for creating effective programs. Jack and Jill has taken ownership in responsibility for developing future leaders who possess the skills to be world leaders.
- Teen Leadership Development: The Jacqueline Moore Bowles Leadership Module is comprised of 16 modules providing the necessary skills required to effectively lead in a constantly changing society.
- Volunteer Service: Annually, Jack and Jill members and their families log thousands of hours of volunteer service. Both members and children support and participate in efforts such as annual walks, marathons, beautification projects, youth mentoring and other initiatives focused on making a difference in the communities they serve.
- Financial Literacy: It is important that youth learn fiscal responsibility at an early age. Jack and Jill’s financial literacy modules offer youth ages 6-19 an opportunity to participate in mock stock market simulations, basic financial training and real-world approaches in learning the principles of responsible money management firsthand.
- Civic Involvement: We represent more than 40,000 family members, and more than 10,000 members who serve their communities in over 35 states. We work in a variety of capacities to include stay-at-home mothers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, ministers and leaders of industry with the belief that we can make a difference in the lives of children and families. We serve to make a change, actively engaging with our national and local partners.
- Legislative Advocacy: Since our inception, we have been committed to legislation aimed at bettering the lives of all children. Past and present legislative advocacy focus has been on violence in the media, health and wellness initiatives, voter registration, responsible gun laws, and equal access to quality education. Biennially, Jack and Jill Teens and Mothers participate in the On the Hill Summit in Washington, D.C., creating awareness among Congressional leaders about our mission and issues that affect American children and their families.
“Our founder had a simple idea of bringing together children in social and cultural relationships, and this idea has grown into a strong national organization whose aims and ideals have not only strengthened, but always will have our children and civic service as strong focal points.”” Adams said. “Igniting, inspiring, and impacting change for all children, we do have the power to make a difference.”
By: Darwin Campbell