When Pamela Green-Jackson began her battle against childhood obesity almost a decade ago, she never imagined her efforts would be so fruitful. Nor could she dream it would bring attention to her and her efforts at the nation's highest level.
In an emotional ceremony at the White House Friday morning with President Barack Obama, Jackson was honored with the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation's second highest civilian honor.
The road to the White House began with a tragic start — the death of her only brother, Bernard Green, who died in 2004 from illnesses caused by obesity.
With a passion to combat the problem of childhood obesity, Jackson founded The Youth Becoming Healthy (YBH) Project. The nonprofit organization seeks to help youngsters become healthy through a variety of activities including wellness programs both during and after school. Youngsters are given an opportunity to exercise and receive training in nutrition.
Summer camps are conducted and programs and facilities have been added at local schools.
Jackson stays busy as community plans liaison officer at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, but much of her off duty time is spent working with YBH. Her husband is responsible for the day-to-day management of TBH.
The program previously earned national and state recognition, but Friday's ceremony in Washington is the ultimate for Jackson. Not only was her work honored, but the award was given by President Obama. She is one of his most ardent supporters, having attended both of his inaugurations in the nation's Capitol.
Although Jackson was in the national spotlight Friday, that is not her goal. And, much of the hard work is done in fitness centers and playgrounds far from public or media attention.
President Obama made mention of that during the ceremony which honored nine other Americans.
"This is a moment when we, as a people, get to recognize an extraordinary group of people who have gone above and beyond for their country and their fellow citizens often without fanfare; often without a lot of attention," Obama said."
Jackson teared up during the ceremony as she remembered her late brother, the motivation for the organization. The award comes almost nine years to the day after his death.
No matter how worthy a cause, people often need motivation to continue the fight. Jackson believes she found that Friday morning.
"I was thinking that my brother would be so proud of his baby sister. I miss him so much, but this opportunity added to my motivation to continue our work," she said.
It's a worthy endeavor that deserves the support of our local schools, parents, business owners and others.
Jackson also earns our admiration for her work here and for representing Albany in such a favorable light.
— The Albany Herald Editorial Board