To SCC student Brryan Jackson, every tragedy has a silver lining. His story is a tragedy, he says, but he turned something horrible into something good.
When he was 11 months old, Brryan was injected with HIV-tainted blood by his father in an attempt to kill Brryan to avoid paying child support. Five years later, Brryan was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS and was given only five months to live.
With the help of medication and the support of his family, Brryan has maintained his health and his perseverance.
“I’ve learned to forgive my dad for what he did, but forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting,” Brryan said. “My experience has given me a unique way to connect with people, and I want them to know there is hope.”
Brryan graduated from Francis Howell North in 2009, and volunteered for Upward Bound, an outreach program and local ministry, as a speaker. But Brryan’s mom, Jennifer, urged him to go to college.
Jennifer, an SCC alum, encouraged Brryan to go to SCC to get his feet wet before going away to college. He agreed to a “college experience close to home,” and enrolled at SCC in the fall of 2010. He’s made his mom proud.
“He has a ‘spirit of boldness,’” said Jennifer. “He inspires others and offers hope, and he tries to find a blessing in everything.”
One way Brryan has spread his message is through Hope Is Vital, a non-profit AIDS awareness group he founded when he was 18 years old. In 2009, he was awarded $10,000 for Hope Is Vital, as well as $10,000 for his college tuition by winning a TeenNick HALO Award for his charity efforts.
His story was published in the PEOPLE Magazine special series, “Heroes Among Us,” in September 2010. He was featured in an ABC News special with Diane Sawyer, “Hope for the Future,” that December in honor of World AIDS Day. On the same day, he addressed nearly 150 people at an SCC-sponsored World AIDS Day event about his incredible story. In April 2011, Jackson was featured in the Japanese Fuji TV program, Amazing Stories.
With two years of college under his belt, he’s enjoying the experience. “It’s an amazing feeling … I wasn’t expected to make it to high school – I wasn’t supposed to be here,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be here; I’m just grateful to be alive.
Brryan doesn’t take his life for granted. In addition to college and running his non-profit, he volunteers at Camp Kindle, a summer camp program for kids who are HIV positive, and has lobbied for AIDS awareness in Congress.
At SCC, he is involved in Student Senate and was selected as the MCCA (Missouri Community College Association) Student Government Association representative to the board in 2012. While he has yet to pin down his four-year major, he’s studying communications and sociology at SCC and will include a minor in political science as he works on his bachelor’s degree.
His ultimate goal? President of the United States. “I will always be a voice for those who are silent and not ready to speak,” Brryan said.