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Memorial Scholarship, Basketball Classic Continues Jackson’s Legacy

The Brandon Jackson Memorial Scholarship and Basketball Classic was held on Saturday, May 20. The event featured a full day of basketball with more than 20 teams from local and outof- area schools, as well as club teams. There were 22 games scheduled, with the highlight being the presentation of academic scholarships to nine local at-risk and underserved students. The namesake of the event is Brandon Jackson, who lost his life to gun violence in February of 2011. He was a junior at John Muir High School, where he played fullback on the football team, excelled in academics and was on track to attend college. His tragic loss spurred the formation of the Brandon Jackson Memorial Scholarship fund later that same year. David Williams is the executive director and knew Jackson well as his AAU basketball coach. “I feel like Brandon had a dream, and because of an act of senseless violence, he wasn’t able to achieve that dream, so I wanted to, in his name, be able to honor those students with the opportunity he was not able to have,” Williams said. This was the ninth annual Brandon Jackson Memorial Scholarship and Basketball Classic, which returned after a threeyear hiatus due to COVID-19. Since its inception, the event has been hosted at various locations and returned to Muir this year. “I decided I wanted to come back to John Muir because this is where Brandon went to high school. That’s why we did it here,” Williams said. “The community feel, just being here back at John Muir, it just felt right.” To date, the Brandon Jackson Memorial Scholarship Fund has awarded 76 college-bound students $130,800 in scholarships. This year’s scholarship was for $1,200 for each of the following nine recipients, complete with a giant check presented at a ceremony on court during an afternoon break in the basketball action.

For Christopher Atme, who will be attending Cal Poly Pomona to major in kinesiology, attending the award presentation was just part of a busy day at the event, where he would later play in two games while also serving as coach for one of them. “I’m a basketball player too, so I like the fact that the scholarship is also a basketball tournament,” Atme, who was a guard on Blair’s CIF championship squad this past season, said. Adam Benton-Littleton attended John Muir for two years before finishing high school with two years of online homeschooling, which has allowed him to take more college classes. He plans to major in psychology and has helped with the event, as well as raising money for the fund. “I was doing the admissions desk. I also went around to different stores and asked for donations and everything,” Benton-Littleton said. “It’s been really nice being part of something like this, especially when I learned what the foundation was based off of, [Jackson’s] story. So it is nice to be one of the people that get to continue on with that and go places he couldn’t.” It was not the first time at the event for Journey Blueford, who has attended John Marshall Fundamental and will be moving on to Morgan State University for business and marketing. “I’ve been coming to this event for a couple years now because it’s local and I have family members and friends who have worked here, so it’s been kind of important to me in growing up,” Blueford said. “So, I thought this year I am a senior moving on in my life path, so I should probably try to get what was given from the community and I’m lucky enough to receive it, so it’s really exciting.” Noel Johnson-Montoya is graduating John Muir High School and will be receiving an associate degree from Pasadena City College in natural sciences. Up next, he will attend Virginia State University to major in nutrition and biology, with the goal of being a physician.

After being a multi-sport athlete in high school, she will play Division II lacrosse in college. “When I heard about [the scholarship] I was really excited because I feel like this is my area, which is community service and sports, so I’m really excited to be here,” Johnson-Montoya said. Kieran Lam attends PCC and will be transferring to University of California Irvine to study biology, with his goal to become a dentist already in motion. “Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to become a dentist because I’ve always thought it was a wonderful job,” said Lam, who currently works as a dental assistant. Hailey Nicole Panganiban attended Blair High School and will be moving on to California State University, San Bernardino to study nursing. “I think the experience is very exciting because the scholarship will help me fulfill my dreams in college and pursue my career in the medical field,” Panganiban said. Naasir Tatum is graduating from St. Francis High School, where he was a threeyear varsity starter for the football team. He is looking to attend the University of Hawaii, where he hopes to continue playing football and pursue his interests. “I’m thinking of the University of Hawaii for football. I really want to do that,” Tatum said. “I heard they have a good astronomy program too, so I’m going to check that out because I like science and stuff like that.” Gabrielle Trice is finishing up at John Muir High School. She will be attending the University of Oregon with an eye toward political science with aspirations of being the president of the United States. “My brother received this [scholarship] four years ago, so it is good to keep it within the family,” Trice said. “This will help me pay some payments, so I won’t be in student loan debt.” Jalen Welcome, not in attendance due to an ongoing battle with sickle cell anemia, also received special recognition in addition to the scholarship: the Debra Williams Spirit of Community Service Award, which honors the executive director’s deceased wife. “Jalen is an outstanding kid,” Williams said.

First published in the June 15 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.

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