Santana Jackson

Click here to read Santana’s piece about the Journalism School’s new dean


Responsible, Independent, Outgoing: Santana.

By Anica Green

When others sleep, Santana Jackson, 17, a senior at Porter Ridge High School, is busy opening up Panera Bread before sunrise.

“I know when I grow up and get into the real world I’m going to have responsibilities and I want to be able to handle that,” Santana said.

“I think a lot of kids, when they get on their own, are overwhelmed. Hopefully I’ll be prepared to work hard and be independent.” The final word, independent, resonates throughout Santana’s life.

Santana was born in Washington, D.C., and moved to Indian Trail, N.C. at age 11.

“Everything I have, I got on my own,” Santana said.

She pays for her own gas, insurance and helped to pay for her car. Independence fuels a desire to provide for herself, the same way her mother has since leaving Washington, D.C. 12 years ago.

“My mother is my best friend and my inspiration,” Santana said. While many teenagers regard their parents with annoyance and disdain, Santana has a profound sense of respect for her mother, Valeria Lee, the family’s sole provider.

“She’s the hardest working person I know,” Santana said. Santana’s mother worked her way through college. She rose through the ranks at Blue Cross Blue Shield from information technology into a management position.

This inclination to be a leader is something Santana gained from her mother as well.

Her proclivity towards responsibility has lead Santana to take on leadership positions in student council and her school’s Interact Club, a service organization that organizes blood drives, donates hair for wigs, and buys Christmas gifts for underprivileged children.

“Student council has changed me, made me who I am. That’s definitely been the best part of my high school experience,” Santana said.

This isn’t to say that Santana and her mother are all on their own. Her two older brothers, Dimitri, 30, and Rahmann Lee, 31, play an important role in her life.

“They’ve been almost like father figures because of the age difference, and they are always around for me,” Santana said. With the support of her brothers and mother, Santana has had to struggle and overcome the strained relationship with her father.

“I was put on the Earth for a bigger purpose and when I struggle, I turn to God,” Santana said. When she makes mistakes and seeks guidance, Santana relies on her faith. Through trials and tribulations, she constantly works to be the kind of woman who would make her mother proud.

Santana’s faith is not static; one of her goals is to strengthen and grow in her walk with God. Although she was raised in church, Santana feels as though her journey of faith has been an independent undertaking. She sees her relationship with God as something that is separate from the institution of the church.

Both her spiritual and educational goals are lofty ones. She aims to be accepted into the college of her choice. This kind of ambition will surely pave the way to her career as an anchor at a major news network or as a psychologist working in a major city.

“I’m really a city girl. I love city life, the fast pace and the subways,” Santana said.

Her aspirations in medicine and journalism are a based on her one great passion: helping others.

“I sincerely love to help people,” Santana said. “Helping people is my passion and what I want to do for the rest of my life.”