The summer before my junior year of high school I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the island of Antigua on a mission trip. The majority of our trip was spent inland where we were able to see the heart, soul, and reality of this beautiful paradise. Tourism drove the economy of this small island, but the people drove the tourism. I witnessed a unity within the individuals of this community that far surpassed anything I had experienced in my young life.
Even in hard circumstances, these individuals woke up and attacked the day with a mission to better their community and to help others, even if they themselves were in need. The beauty of the island was appreciated and magnified due to the heart of the people.
I returned from this trip with a completely new perspective and outlook on the country I called home. I had a greater appreciation of the potential, the beauty, and those that lived here. I learned that life and value does not rely on material things but rather on the investment into others and community with a heart shaped by servant leadership.
This past fall I had the honor to go through Leadership Jackson, a program put on by the Jackson Chamber that educates individuals on the community, leadership, and needs of our great city. It was through this program that I once again experienced an awakening of my surroundings. Through Leadership Jackson I was reminded that it was not the bright lights and tall buildings that make a great city—it is the people.
For our opening retreat, we were required to get all thirty classmates over a wall. What looked impossible was quickly conquered due to all of us having the same goal, drive and support for each other. While this was a fun activity, we quickly realized there was a far greater lesson to be learned. You will have goals that seem hard to reach, visions that far surpass what you feel you are capable of, but when a unified group of individuals work together, even the most daunting tasks can be achieved. It was powerful to join with twenty-nine strangers to target areas of need in our community. From a new room at the Dream Center and much needed bus seats for the city, to involvement in the city council and school board meetings. I watched as my peers challenged the naysayers and pushed the positive change past potential roadblocks due to passion for change and the strength in unified resources. My perception on how the city and community can grow and improve greatly changed.
The pride for our city, the passion to grow our city, and the desire to have a positive impact on all individuals that live in our city is infectious! All it takes is one person to step up and ignite the positive change and others will follow.
Leadership Jackson took away the borders, the cultural and ethnic differences, the social class, and the titles, and replaced them with a vision of all citizens of Jackson unified together for one common goal. Over the course of those twelve weeks, we learned by helping others and banning together that we can make a difference, and those that come here will see the pride that we have for our great city and the love for our neighbors. This is what makes a community beautiful!
If you are interested in applying for Leadership Jackson, please visit their website for more information.
Guest contributor Jinny Ballard was born and raised in Jackson and is now a mortgage lender at BancorpSouth, runner, cyclist, and traveling enthusiast.
Photography provided by Jinny Ballard.