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Taking The Lid Off Greatness 
By Kimberlee Buck, Contributing Writer
Published February 15, 2017
 Paris Adkins-Jackson (courtesy photo)   

Paris Adkins-Jackson (courtesy photo)

Paris Adkins-Jackson is a student, mentor, professor, researcher, who spent majority of her childhood believing she was less than. Today, she is encouraging college students and members of the Black community that they too can flourish in their neighborhoods and become their own success story.

Currently, Adkins-Jackson is a faculty member at Los Angeles Southwest Community College where she teaches Anthropology. In Baltimore, Maryland Adkins-Jackson works at Morgan State University as program assistant on one the university’s research grants called, A Student-Centered Entrepreneurship Development (ASCEND). The research program is designed to increase diversity in biomedical research and empowers students to creatively research their own topics.

Growing up in Los Angeles, wasn’t easy or blissful for Adkins-Jackson. In class, she believed she wasn’t smart. Her teachers often labeled her as a misbehaving and aggressive student.

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“I started thinking maybe I am a bad kid,” said Adkins-Jackson. “In the third grade, one of my teachers told me I wasn’t going to be good for anything but prostitution, and I said well maybe.”

Although Adkins-Jackson was eager to learn, as soon as one of her teachers gave up on her, she gave up on herself. Anytime a teacher associated a behavior with Adkins-Jackson’s intelligence, she began to accept it. She started believing that she was an unintelligent misbehaving student. Later, she was placed in honors classes and began doing well. She believes the reason for her improvement is due to the investment of the teachers who taught her honor’s classes.

“Those teachers got beyond all of my questions, they realized I was just curious, I wasn’t misbehaving,” said Adkins-Jackson. “Instead, they would pump me up, and ask me what other questions I had and I became the classroom pet.”

Later, she attended Hamilton High School. While determining her post graduation plans, she became pregnant during her senior year.

“I will never forget when I was pregnant and I told my friends from the hood and they all had kids,” said Adkins-Jackson. “They were like finally, what took you so long, and I remember thinking, finally I did something that was hood smart. I was always the weird awkward hood kid.  They always told me, ‘you are white since you are always going to the white schools anyway, because you act different’. So I thought finally, I made the hood proud.”

After much deliberation, Adkins-Jackson decided to get an abortion or what other girls at school called, “the four day vacation.”

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“I remember my friends in the hood being really disappointed with me saying ‘see, you got an abortion, that’s that white people stuff’,” said Adkins-Jackson.

Soon after her abortion, Adkins-Jackson began smoking marijuana on a regular basis and drinking. She didn’t feel like she fit in with her friends in the hood. At the same time, she didn’t feel like she fit in with the students at Hamilton High.

“I started thinking maybe I will take a couple of classes at Southwest like I been doing, get a job at McDonald’s,” said Adkins-Jackson. “What do I really need money for but gas and weed? That’s where my head was after I graduated high school.”

Paris Adkins-Jackson (centered) with her mother and father after graduating from Hamilton High School. (courtesy photo)

Paris Adkins-Jackson (centered) with her mother and father after graduating from Hamilton High School. (courtesy photo)

Later, she applied to University of Southern California (USC) but failed to complete the essay portion of the application, resulting in her not being accepted in the university’s journalism program. Soon

after, Adkins-Jackson received a recruitment letter from Humboldt University.

Her mother, saw the recruitment letter and tried convincing her to submit an application. After being pressured by her mother, she submitted an application but received an incomplete notification due to fact that she did not complete the essay portion.

“She literally cut out a newspaper article that I wrote for Hamilton and mailed it and I got in,” said Adkins-Jackson. “I started thinking who goes to college I know, no one. We went up there for orientation and I took the opportunity to buy a bunch of weed and I learned all of the smokers and had no intention of going back up there ever again. I was going to work at McDonald’s and take a few classes at Southwest.”

Later, Adkins-Jackson’s mother falsely took her on a vacation instructing her to pack all of her belongings due to the weather conditions.

“The next morning she wakes me up, and we are at Humboldt. She said you going to go up them steps, you gone take some test and you ain’t going to embarrass me,” said Adkins-Jackson.

After taking her Math and English placement exams, Adkins-Jackson returned to her dorm to find her mother had unpacked all of her belongings.

“She was like okay don’t embarrass me, bye and she drove off,” said Adkins-Jackson.

During the first week of school, the newly undergraduate students found herself feeling sick. Soon after, she discovers she is pregnant for a second time. Two months later, Adkins-Jackson went to Planned Parenthood to have an abortion, the second one that year.

“That knocked me off my feet that changed me completely,” said Adkins-Jackson. “It is a different story when you mess up one time you start making up excuses to yourself. You are like get ya life. The second time you mess up, you are like nah son, you the problem, you gotta restructure everything about yourself. You don’t want to embarrass your family. You are here, what are you gonna do, be a college dropout because you still want to do stuff half-ass?”

After the second abortion, she began to turn her life around and her appetite for knowledge and curiosity was back. She sat in the front of the classroom, attended her professor’s office hours and became extremely active in campus clubs and organizations. All of her hard work paid off when she graduated from undergrad in three years with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism.

“I just tried a different me, because the other version clearly was not working out for me,” said Adkins-Jackson. “I tried so hard to be less than I was, I surprised myself as somebody that cares about my brain and cares about my body. I think I am worth something now. I was desperate to fit in, if I didn’t fit in, in school, that was okay because I could fit in in the hood.”

Today, Adkins-Jackson holds a master’s degree in cultural anthropology with an emphasis in gender, culture and society, a Masters of public health in applied biostatistics and epidemiology. Currently, she is attending Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland where she is working on her doctorate degree in psychometrics.

(From left-to-right): Paris Adkins-Jackson and her advisor and dissertation chair Dr. Jocelyn Turner-Musa at the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference in 2016. (courtesy photo)  

(From left-to-right): Paris Adkins-Jackson and her advisor and dissertation chair Dr. Jocelyn Turner-Musa at the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference in 2016. (courtesy photo)

To add to her many educational achievements, she has recently been awarded by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) as an all-star student, the program recognizes 73 undergraduate, graduate and professional students across 63 HBCU’s. The students are recognized for their academic, leadership and civic engagement accomplishments.

Her submission essay discussed U.S. policies and the “Girls Count Act.” Adkins-Jackson shares the award with 72 students from other HBCU’s. Out of the 72 student’s Adkins-Jackson is the only student to hold the award from Morgan State University and one of two award recipients in California.

 The previous Morgan State HBCU Allstars left-to-right: Triston Bing-Young (2014 Allstar & bachelor of engineering alum), Marcel E. Jagne-Shaw (2015 Allstar- former graduate student), Paris. Adkins-Jackson (2016 Allstar-doctoral student in Psychometrics), and Trevor McKie (2014 Allstar-doctoral candidate in higher education). (courtesy photo)  

The previous Morgan State HBCU Allstars left-to-right: Triston Bing-Young (2014 Allstar & bachelor of engineering alum), Marcel E. Jagne-Shaw (2015 Allstar- former graduate student), Paris. Adkins-Jackson (2016 Allstar-doctoral student in Psychometrics), and Trevor McKie (2014 Allstar-doctoral candidate in higher education). (courtesy photo)

“I am not the smartest, I am not the strongest, but I am one of the most determined people because I sacrificed so much,” said Adkins-Jackson.

One piece of advice Adkins-Jackson has for Black students who are struggling in school is, “don’t get caught up in the insults.”

“Never stop giving yourself chances at a better life. Even if no other soul helps, you must be the one to motivate yourself through,” said Adkins-Jackson. “Sometimes that takes examining your faults, forgiving yourself, and being willing to get back up the next morning. I’ve made some of the same mistakes multiple times, but I never let my mistakes outnumber my attempts at a greater me.”

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