Education Leader Jesse Adams Jr.
The importance of knowing your world
|Kid Reporter Ashley Nhan and Jesse Adams pose in front of a poster of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. at Lumberton Middle School in New Jersey. (Photo: Courtesy Ashley Nhan)|
I was excited and full of anticipation when I got my first assignment as a Scholastic News Kid Reporter. I interviewed one of Lumberton, New Jersey’s local black leaders, Jesse Adams Jr., for the upcoming Black History Month reports. We met in the perfect setting. Adams, a member of the Lumberton Board of Education for more than 14 years, arranged to have the interview in the middle school I attend.
Adams is a product of Lumberton Township. He grew up and raised his family here. His four children are either still attending or have already graduated from Rancocas Valley Regional High School (RVRHS) here. In fact, Adams is also a graduate of RVRHS.
Besides his 14 years on the Lumberton school board, Adams has also worked on the Rancocas Valley Board of Education. He is currently working at Lockheed-Martin. He is the logistics manager for a Coast Guard program.
I talked to Adams about the significance of Black History Month and what it means to him.
“For me, personally, I think Black History Month means celebrating and remembering African-Americans who sacrificed and gave us the opportunities we have,” he said. “Today, I have the opportunity to work at Lockheed-Martin because of what those people went through.”
Growing up, Adams was a big fan of baseball. He admired Willie Mays, but his true hero is his father.
“He left home at sixth grade,” Adams said. “He was out on his own, working his way from Mississippi to up north, and he managed to make a career in the military, start a family, and survive. He did the best for us, so I’m really proud to be his son.”
During the interview, Adams told me about an important event that affected his life when he was young. While his family was driving from Fort Dix to Fort Knox, Kentucky, they stopped by a hotel. His father went to check in, but quickly returned to the car.
“We can’t stay here,” he told his family. Instead they drove all night to reach their destination. Many years later, Adams asked his father about that incident. He didn’t understand what had happened. His father told he was turned away from the hotel. He was told, “Your wife [she is Korean] can stay, but you and your children have to stay someplace else [because they were African-American].”
Today, Adams is a prominent leader in his community. He says he became involved in the Board of Education because he is concerned about all kids’ educations, no matter what their skin color.
He also thinks kids today should learn the importance of getting involved in their communities and working for a common good.
“Kids need to understand what is going on with politics, global warming, and their environment,” he said. “The world has changed dramatically since I was a kid. Technology is driving a lot, and it’s a faster world. People should get involved in what’s going on because it’s their world, and the mistakes we make . . . they’re going to have to live with. So I really think people should get involved.”
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Ashley Nhan is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.