Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD The methodology behind life's choices can be indefinable and complex. Some call the course destiny, while others fraction their lives into a series of cataclysmic moments.
When Teneshia Jackson was confronted with a fork in her life's road, she chose a college major not for passion but for the "Benjamins."
After spending her teenage years working to pay her way through school, Jackson decided that she wanted to receive a college diploma that would ensure her an easier lifestyle filled with monetary luxuries.
However, after working four years as a project manager at IBM Jackson left her high-paying corporate job to finally follow her passion for a career in the hip-hop entertainment industry. Jackson is currently the general manager at Rush Communications, a hip-hop marketing company in New York City, owned by Russell Simmons, "The Godfather of Hip-hop."
Last Wednesday Jackson was invited to Westfield State College (WSC) to share her story of chance meetings with famous entertainment moguls and the "LIFE bulb moments" what Jackson has coined as forks in the road that have led her to her current success.
Before an audience of over 60 students, faculty, staff and members of the Greater Westfield community, Jackson chronicled her life's story as a struggling child in a single-family household to today's "DREAM" speech as a way to inspire students to learn from her mistakes.
"Don't make the same mistakes I've made," she cautioned the students.
Ten years ago, Jackson asked her college career counselor, "What in this [curriculum] book can I do that will make me the most money? I'm ready to get paid," she said. It was then that Jackson decided to major in computer science.
Jackson said she "selected a career based on earning potential with no regard for passion."
She cautioned students when choosing their majors and careers to "look beyond that starting salary."
Jackson said for years she struggled to discover her passion until watching an episode of MTV's "Making The Band." While P. Diddy was educating the hip-hop hopefuls about the history of the genre, he noted a book that propelled Jackson into her next "LIFE bulb moment." Jackson said she read Russell Simmons' "Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money and God" in one night and realized her passion for the hip-hop entertainment industry and its unique business model.
After a chance meeting with Simmons, to whom she pitched her desire to work for him for free in exchange for the opportunity to learn, Jackson then resigned from her job at IBM, packed up her Minneapolis, Minn., apartment and moved to a tiny studio apartment in Harlem, N.Y. However Simmons had never offered her a job.
She told the students to "be courageous enough to follow the voice within," and to "be prepared when opportunity knocks." Jackson even took it so far as not only to move to New York City but also to fly to Miami to try to meet Simmons during an entrepreneur's conference.
Jackson was later granted an unpaid internship at Rush Communications before landing her first paying job for Simmons on the 2004 "Get Out the Vote" campaign.
"The chase of the dream was worth it for me," she told the audience. "If there's anything you can take from my journey . lead with your passion. Don't be afraid to try. When you try you are living."
In addition to Jackson's job at Rush Communications she has also founded Egami Consulting Group.
After her speech Jackson spent over an hour speaking with students about their passions and future plans.
Jose Delgado, a senior communications major at WSC and co-organizer of the event, recalled his experiences as Jackson's intern last summer. "She reminded me every day that my possibilities are endless," he said, adding that Jackson's "humility, drive, respect and motivation to succeed at all costs" continue to inspire him.
Chris Medina, a sophomore at WSC, said as a person who has had a passion for hip-hop since he was seven years old, hearing Jackson speak was "like a dream come true." He added that she is in a position he sees for himself.
In an interview with Reminder Publications, Jackson said she enjoys offering support to young students and helping them work through a small part of their fears or future plans.
She said now in her 30s she is trying to "experience herself differently" and achieve a balance between her career and her personal life, while reminding all that it is possible to be a woman and have both.