Pamela Jackson grew up with her four siblings in Louisiana, her grandmother raising them in a small housing project in a high poverty neighborhood. Pamela’s grandmother did not allow the children to play outside much. Violence and drug crime had instilled fear within the inner-city, causing Pamela and her siblings to spend many warm days inside their home.
“My mom had passed away so my grandmother took us all in. My grandmother may have had no more than a middle school education so I watched us struggle for quite some time.”
In school, Pamela struggled with math, and because of congested classrooms, she couldn’t get the one-on-one attention she needed.
“I wanted to do better, but the opportunities and resources were just so scarce.”
During one summer when Pamela was about 10, IBM sent employees to the housing project for their annual United Way “Day of Caring” clean-up project. Pamela remembers her and her siblings joining the clean-up efforts, one of the few times her grandmother let them go outside. The employees sparked a conversation with the kids leading Pamela to confess her struggles in school.
“One of the employees agreed to tutor me at the Boys and Girls Club near our home. Because of his help, I went from falling behind to being one of the smartest kids in my math class. He became a mentor and followed me through high school. When I graduated, IBM offered me a scholarship to continue my studies at Louisiana State University.”
Now, Pamela is a United Operations Superintendent engineer at Valero Energy Corporation in Memphis.
“This all started with someone taking the time to help me, and that’s what people in poverty need: the help, time and resources to access opportunities.”
Pamela is the mother of two daughters, one who is studying engineering at Ole Miss and the other a senior in high school. Both daughters are National Merit Finalists.
“That’s a whole generational shift that’s changed because someone gave their time to contribute toward my future.”
An active donor to United Way, Pamela looks forward to campaign season and the Valero kickoff every year. She finds herself as a spokesperson for United Way of the Mid-South, telling her story every chance she gets.
“People like Pamela help us drive our campaign,” said Lisa Jenkins, Public Affairs Manager at Valero. “Our employees look forward to campaign every year. This year, our goal is to maximize and broaden the team’s impact.”
Josh Tulino, Vice President and General Manager, has been with the Valero Energy Corporation for 20 years and a recent transplant to Memphis. He continues to contribute to United Way of the Mid-South particularly to impact their neighboring community, 38106.
“You can see where the money goes,” said Josh. “Once you see the need up close and personal, it’s easy to want to help out and jump in. Luckily, United Way of the Mid-South makes that easy for us to do.”