From an early age, Jackson Knox understood the universal impact education has on communities. Going to eight different schools on three different continents, Knox watched as his mother taught students across the globe.
Knox, who currently serves at the outreach coordinator at the University of Richmond's SpiderShop, continues to be empowered by the profound impact of education, and is running for a seat on the Henrico County School Board.
Knox, 28, first announced his campaign for the Brookland Representative on the board in January 2019. Voting will take place next week, on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
It was Knox's mother, Jackie, who played a large part in influencing Knox's decision to run for local office. Seeing the lasting effects his mother had on her community, both within and outside the realm of education, inspired Knox to follow her lead.
“She was the one who was able to take initiative,” Knox said. “It’d behoove me to act on her example and to make a difference, and hopefully inspire others to become catalysts for change in their community.”
Knox's mother had been an educator for Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS). Knox recalls the countless times he would sit with her in the classroom, watching as she decorated or tirelessly graded papers. The hard work she put in and the effect she had on her students remain evident even today, he said.
“She’s getting letters 20 years on from students that she had when they were in high school, thanking her for the positive influence and impact that she had,” Knox said.
Being born on Guantanamo Naval Air Force Base and living in vastly different cultures in places such as Taegu, South Korea and Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, Knox was challenged to step out of his comfort zone wherever he went, he said. When he enrolled as a student at UR in 2008, he knew that he would need to have the right attitude to seize the opportunities made available to him.
As a student, he worked in the Modlin Center for the Arts and the Office of Undergraduate Admission, was an orientation adviser and sang a cappella. Knox also had an internship with the Democratic Party of Virginia under Levar Stoney, the current mayor of Richmond.
For the last seven and a half years, he has served as the SpiderShop’s outreach coordinator. In this role, Knox is primarily in charge of communications, and works on building relationships between the school store and student groups and faculty on campus.
Knox met some of his current coworkers at the SpiderShop when he was a student. Sabiha Edrenic, SpiderShop cashier, has known Knox since his first tour at the school. She described him as someone who is always very happy, with lots of energy.
When it is raining, he often is the one who brings sunshine into the room, Edrenic said.
Not only did Knox say the SpiderShop had been overwhelmingly supportive during this campaign process, but that some UR students have helped him build his campaign as well.
Sophomore Riley Place, president of UR College Democrats, met Knox at a Henrico Democrats meeting, and afterward invited him to speak at one of his club meetings to connect with students.
At this Sept. 4 College Democrats meeting, Knox addressed topics such as sustainability and inclusivity in the Henrico school district and told the audience that he was eager to have UR students involved in his campaign, Place said.
“I wanted the UR College Democrats to see members of our community, people they see around campus who are taking advantage of political opportunities,” Place said. “He encouraged the club members to go out and actually do something.”
By working with students, Knox said, he has been able to better understand the importance of being an open, transparent leader. Knox has pledged that if elected, he will create a student cabinet made up of student council presidents from all schools in his district to help continue open conversation with the youth.
“I think it’s important to have a leader on school board that can actually listen to students’ concerns,” Knox said. “I know that in order for students to feel connected and engaged in civic matters, they need a leader that really understands them and can connect with them.”
Outside of campus, you can find Knox spending his free time campaigning, which consists of tasks such as sending emails, organizing meet-and-greets and dropping off signs.
“When you believe in what you’re doing, and you believe in your message and you have a good team behind you, it shouldn't feel like work,” Knox said.
Knox hopes to provide citizens confidence and solutions to help the community flourish and help students thrive when they graduate.
“Now more than ever we are going to need someone that people feel like they can listen to and someone that has the enthusiasm, and the energy and the experience to make people's voices be heard,” Knox said.
Contact features writer Sarah Murtaugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.