Woman of Influence: Marcia Jackson

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Marcia Jackson, director, SACHS Foundation Research

Marcia Jackson’s life has followed an elegant arc curving around the ideal of giving back to the community so that others can make a future contribution.

The Sachs Foundation research director, clinical psychology doctoral student and Women of Influence honoree freely admits she didn’t do it all on her own. In fact, she credits much of her success to a chance encounter 17 years ago with the Sachs Foundation. Colorado Springs philanthropist Henry Sachs formed the foundation in 1931 with the goal of helping Colorado’s African-American community pay for college costs. Over the next 79 years, the foundation helped more than 8,000 students.

Jackson was a community college student struggling to make ends meet and juggle all the demands of everyday life. A former supervisor told Jackson about the foundation and the work it did. She contacted the foundation and met with its president.

“We talked at great length, and I was candid about the social ills facing the black community,” Jackson said.

Frankness was just what the foundation president wanted, and Jackson left the meeting with an education grant and the ongoing support of the foundation’s leadership. Foundation leaders didn’t just write checks, Jackson said. They took a strong interest in her as a student and person and were always willing to help.

“They have taught me the importance of self and the value of treating people right,” Jackson said. “I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the Sachs Foundation.”

She came back to the foundation for help with her master’s degree. The foundation then decided it wanted something more from Jackson.

“They offered me an opportunity to head up the foundation’s community assistance program,” Jackson said.

She said yes, of course. It was a perfect way for her to offer something extra to her community and to give back to the organization that had given so much to her.

Since forming the community assistance program in 2001, Jackson has put $1 million into the African-American community. The program addresses human services needs not being met by Colorado state programs. Jackson typically works with a family or individual to evaluate the problem, prepare a report requesting assistance and then present the report to the foundation board for action.

When not working for the Sachs Foundation, Jackson is completing a required internship program at Franciscan Community Counseling Inc. On top of that, she’s preparing for her upcoming doctoral dissertation defense.

Assuming all goes as planned and Jackson receives her doctorate in 2011, it will be time for a well-deserved break. She and her husband of 31 years are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon and looking forward to some quiet time to enjoy nature.

But then she’ll be back in the trenches doing what comes naturally to her — giving back to the community as a way to reward the community for giving so much to her. The way Jackson sees it every person she encounters, no matter their station in life, makes her life all the richer.

By Dan Cook