Updated: August 4, 2013 6:05AM
“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by lapels. Life’s a b----. You’ve got to go out and kick a--.”
— Maya Angelou
OK, I used Angelou’s quote a few weeks ago to lead off Emma Gutierrez Hays’ interview. But it was a good fit for Daykyeon Jamison, too. Besides, it’s my column and I can do whatever I want.
Jamison, 17, will be a senior at Hammond Academy of Science and Technology in the fall. She’s a high school cheerleader who lives with her grandmother in the West Calumet neighborhood of East Chicago. Her friends call her D.J.
Childhood memories of growing up in East Chicago? Did you play tag and kick the can? Collecting pop bottles for the deposit money, maybe?
“We have more advanced toys than that.”
You’re making me feel old already.
“The Bessie Owens Center in East Chicago was great. I went there every day. You could play basketball, jump rope, play on the swings... . That was my childhood; it was so much fun.”
What made you decide not to go to East Chicago Central?
“E.C. Central, at that time, was going through some troubles. There were probation issues. We kept getting all these papers from HAST about how it was a new charter school and how it was going to be great and how it would prepare you for college. My grandmother got really excited about it.”
Did you attend HAST as a freshman?
“I did. We started in trailers. It was really interesting.”
Favorite high school subjects?
“History and English. I like anything to do with reading or writing. Science and math aren’t my strong suits. I get my writing from my grandmother, Florine Smith; she’s an amazing writer.”
Favorite authors or books?
“Ellen Hopkins. Her books are often about teenage struggles.”
“Grandma and I adore Maya Angelou’s poetry or anything else she writes.”
Do you make good grades in school?
“Yes. I’ll tell anyone, please work hard your junior year because that’s the most difficult year.”
“I don’t watch much television; I’m usually too busy doing homework.”
Do you have a college picked out?
D.J., don’t be nervous, I jump all over, but I go home and make nice stories out of these things. And don’t pay any attention to this antiquated tape recorder.
“The tape recorder is fine. Hey, let’s go back a couple of decades. I like this, actually. I’m going to school for journalism.”
“I’m learning from you right now.”
Yeah, I can serve as a bad example. Do you have a relationship with your parents?
“My mom lives real close, so I see her all the time.”
You were part of the Gary Freedom School.
“Yes, I’ve known Val Carr, the project director and one of the mentors at Highly Flavored, Inc., for a long time. I go to church with her in Gary. When I became of age, Sister Val told me to come in for an interview. In Freedom School, you learn about the community and how much it needs help.
“After going to Freedom School, you notice things that can be improved. Through my group, I realized that I wanted to help teenagers that are about 13 or 14.”
And how did you plan on doing that?
“I came up with a self-esteem seminar. It was interesting to see how they felt about each other or themselves.
“Teens today are blamed for how we act, but we also have to look back on the other generation coming from the ‘60s ‘70s or ‘80s.”
“A lot of the adults are out and about because they still have things they want to do. Because of that, there are kids who are taking care of their younger siblings. Those kids really need support.
“If they’re not getting it at home, I would love to give it to them. If I could possibly get my seminars farther than just my school. If they need somebody to talk to or to cry to, I’m there. Most of their parents don’t have time to listen.
You mentioned Bessie Owens Community Center.
“I think community centers are great, but things are so bad right now, nobody has any money. Grassroots organizations like Freedom School could help solve some of the problems.
“Our latest program is an intervention where we will go into the schools to see if there is an alternative to school suspensions.”
Do you foresee any flak from some of the schools regarding this intervention?
“We can see some schools not wanting us to come in. Some of them might say, ‘We can take care of this by ourselves.’ I’m sure HAST would be open to any community involvement.”
“I’m all about volunteering. With that said, I am looking for a job.”
Why is that?
“I’m a teenager who needs money for a car.”
The kids today? Interviewing a well-mannered, well-spoken 17-year old like Daykyeon Jamison gives me hope for the future.
I believe she’ll grab the world by the lapels.