When opportunity has knocked at Jerry Washington’s door, he’s answered it.
After moving to Omaha from Illinois as a child, he had the opportunity to play football in high school and he jumped at the chance. A little later in life, he was given the opportunity to show some of his art in a special show, and so he did. And, after asking his boss for a better understanding of what makes Lincoln tick, he was offered a place in one of Leadership Lincoln’s programs, and he accepted it.
Now he’s working to offer opportunity to others, wishing them “peace and progress,” one of his favorite sayings.
Several years back, Washington moved to Omaha with his mother and seven siblings. He was only 6 years old, and while Omaha was home for his mother, it was new, different and challenging for him. There was a new home and school, getting to know different friends than the ones he had in Peoria, Illinois, and a bit of a challenge fitting in. But he was given opportunities throughout his education, and one of the results is his desire to give back as a teacher and administrator in the future.
After high school, he was given the opportunity to enroll at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the College of Engineering. But about halfway through the coursework, he realized that his real love is art, so he changed his major. He wanted to do portraits of his son Jérmond, his grandpa, his dad and himself as a legacy for his son.
And that led to another opportunity – the chance to do a show at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Washington would love to teach art, to give other young men and women like him an opportunity to discover their talents.
And that brings us to a more recent event for Washington, now a TRIO program staff member at UNL (http://trio.unl.edu/).
“I asked my boss to help me understand how things work in Lincoln,” he said. “As a result, I was able to participate in the Leadership Lincoln Fellows program. It was a great experience for me, and I became friends with many people that I might not have met any other way.”
And now, not only does he have a better understanding of what makes things happen in Lincoln – he’s part of it through his work and volunteer activity.
UNL’s TRIO program is part of a federal effort to serve and assist low-income, first-generation college students and individuals with disabilities to move through their middle school and high school education and pursue college degrees. Washington was given the opportunity to participate in the TRIO program when he was a youngster, and now he seeks to give others the same opportunity as part of the UNL TRIO staff.
When asked about what causes him to give others the same opportunities, Washington noted, “One thing I’ve noticed is that the divide between different races, the divide between people of different income levels, the divide between those with higher education and those without should call us all to action.”
Oh, and about that slogan … Washington notes that no matter what challenge we may face, things will always get better; and when that happens, there will be “peace and progress.”