Six years ago, Dashun Jackson was a boy in need of a voice. After years of abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend, he had many physical and emotional scars, including what he describes as an inability to talk with men.
Today, Dashun is not only confidently representing himself—as a junior in college and program manager at a youth service organization—he is also speaking up for the rights of foster children as an advocate in state and federal government settings.
Below, Dashun shares the story of his path from being an abused boy to co-author of the Nevada Foster Care Bill of Rights and a 2012 Congressional Coalition on Adoption congressional intern.
I often quote the title of a book to describe my journey in life: Eternal Victim/Eternal Victor. As a boy, my three sisters and I suffered just about every form of abuse you can imagine—emotional and physical attacks by my mother, later sexual abuse by her and her boyfriend. When I was 13 years old, we were all removed from our home. After that, I bounced around, from a children’s emergency shelter to an aunt’s house, then back to the shelter. There was so much I did not know about the foster care system. Without knowledge or the power to speak up, I felt like a victim.
A year and a half later, I met my CASA volunteer, Robert. And everything changed.
Robert taught me how to communicate, how to represent myself and my needs. He helped me understand what was happening in court and taught me how to stand up for myself.
When I had something to say, Robert made sure my voice was heard. When I did not want to or could not speak, he spoke for me.
At every school event, Robert was there. From ROTC ceremonies to my high school graduation, he was there. When I took hold of my diploma, I heard his cheers above the rest.
About that same time, I was placed into my final foster home, where I learned about service to others. My foster father did so much more than he had to do, for me and for those around him. From that moment on I decided that there was much that I need to give back.
I have basically dedicated my time to helping children whose life circumstances are similar to mine—from gathering gifts for children of abused women at the holidays to advocating for the rights of foster children on a state level. Today, I am working for a youth-serving organization. As a program manager, I am creating a new mentoring program for youth who have been raised by their grandparents or in single-family homes.
This summer, I had the amazing experience of being an intern in Sen. Harry Reid’s office in Washington, DC. I had seen a lot of legislation in the state of Nevada, but the magnitude of change in DC amazed me. This summer I learned that if you have a voice, there is someone who is willing to listen to it and to try to make change.
I’ll graduate from college in 2014 with a major in psychology and a minor in political science. Right now my plan is to go back to Washington and hopefully get another internship.
I’ve been given a powerful voice. I intend to use it as much as I can, for as long as I can.