ALBANY, Ga. - Pamela Jackson, community plans liaison officer, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, will be awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor at the White House, Friday, according to a White House press release.
Jackson is one of 10 people to receive the medal from President Barack Obama. A native of Albany, Ga., she was selected for the award because of her work with childhood obesity.
President Obama is recognizing Americans whose work has had a significant impact on their communities, but may not have garnered national attention.
“It is my distinguished honor to award these individuals the 2012 Citizens Medal for their commitment to public service,” President Obama said in the release. “Their selflessness and courage inspire us all to look for opportunities to better serve our communities and our country.”
Jackson is the founder and CEO of The Youth Becoming Healthy Project, a nonprofit organization committed to reducing the epidemic of childhood obesity through nutrition, fitness education and physical-activity programs. YBH was created in memory Jackson only brother, Bernard Green, who died in 2004 from obesity-related illnesses.
“I’m honored to be recognized at this level for my passion to create a generation of healthier children,” she said. “Receiving this award is another reminder that my labor has not been in vain.”
“The award is being presented almost nine years to the date of my brother’s death and the opening of the first YBH site,” Jackson added. “Knowing that combating childhood obesity is also the First Lady (Michelle Obama’s) passion and a concern of military leaders is just as rewarding.”
YBH provides resources for wellness programs, both during and after school, for elementary and middle school students as well as a summer wellness camp where students learn about exercise and nutrition and can participate in martial arts, a walking club and dance programs.
“The mission of YBH is to reduce the epidemic of childhood obesity through nutrition education and fun physical activity programs,” Jackson said.
Since the launch of YBH, in-school fitness centers have been placed in eight local schools, giving students the opportunity to participate in a safe physical activity program at the school they attend. Community partners such as Procter and Gamble, Wal-Mart, Wellcare of Georgia and others provide funding, nutrition education and other services as needed. YBH is currently partnering with the Albany Recreation and Parks Department to reach out to families and other underserved populations through events such as Family Day of Play.
The program has become an integral component of the school wellness programs in Dougherty County, Georgia’s schools. This project has reached thousands of students since its implementation by providing after school programs to help reduce the epidemic of childhood obesity.
Jackson’s husband, Larry, oversees the daily operations and program management of YBH.
Jackson’s efforts extended to educating the students’ families as well as the community, local elected officials and state and federal legislators through advocacy efforts. This commitment to ending the epidemic of childhood obesity has resulted in tangible results, including allowing the participants opportunities to pursue careers within the armed services and participate in high school and college sports.
“I may not be able to help every child, but if I can save a few from the same fate as my brother, then it will be worth it,” she said.
YBH also hosted its first summer wellness camp in 2009 for youth ages 8 - 16 who were referred by their pediatricians for intervention.
The popular camp is free to participants and involves intensive intervention programs taught by Marines, certified dieticians, fitness trainers and monitored by referring doctors.
In her quest to end childhood obesity, she has successfully, with other health organizations, advocated for the reinstatement of mandatory physical education in grades K-8 at the state and federal level. Her participation in these efforts with other organizations, including her testimony at the state capital, led to the passage of House Bill 229, The Student Health and Physical Education Act. This legislation went into effect in 2011, making fitness assessments mandatory in schools.
Due to Jackson’s hard work, the YBH project continues to gain recognition. She was selected as a 2009 CNN Hero, one of only 28 chosen from a pool of more than 9,000 nominees worldwide.
She was the recipient of The 2010 Department of Defense Women’s History Month Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Role Model Award and the 2011 - Department of Defense National Image Award for Meritorious Service.