Every time I run into Jhacori Stacy, I’m amazed at how quickly he’s becoming a man.
I first met the teenager in 2013 when he was just 15 years old. At the time, he and his mother, Tiffani, were spearheading a campaign to educate the community about the plight of people living in poverty. They did that through a SNAP challenge, which dared local officials to try living on $5 a day, like many of their food stamp constituents.
The project was funded through a $500 Sodexo Foundation Youth Grant that Jhacori received to address childhood hunger in Columbus as part of Global Youth Service Day.
Jhacori seemed just a little taller than me back then, and his face reflected the innocence of a child. He has Asperger’s syndrome, which makes it difficult for him to socialize and communicate, so he didn’t really say much when I interviewed him for stories about the SNAP Challenge and other community projects.
But Jhacori was always very pleasant and respectful, and I could tell that he was being raised by a mother who wouldn’t let him fall through the cracks. So I continued to follow his progress. The last time I wrote about him was in August of 2014 when he was one of five national finalists for a Maytag Dependable Leader Award. The impetus for that national recognition was a feeding program that he started at the Elizabeth Canty public housing complex, where he and his mother reside.
Well, I ran into Jhacori and his mother again recently, and could see a real difference. Jhacori is 18 years old now, standing 5-foot-11, and sporting a close-shaven beard. I detected a new sense of confidence, even a little swag.
I told him how nice it was to see him and he just smiled.
Last year, Jhacori was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. So he and his mother applied for yet another grant from the Sodexo Foundation; this time to teach economically disadvantaged children how to manage diabetes through a healthy diet.
The $400 grant was recently awarded to Jhacori, and now he is organizing the project with the help of his mother, a diabetes educator and other volunteers. The local organization handling the grant is the Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
On Global Youth Service Day, which will take place April 15-17, they will show local youths how to shop for healthy foods, even while living in “food deserts” that limit their access to quality fruits and vegetables. Jhacori will share a few things he’s learned along the way.
He’s growing up, serving his community, and making us proud.