Project YOU!

Idea Leader: Shelby Jackson

Location: Des Moines, IA

Partner Organization: East High School, Des Moines Public Schools

Project Summary: Shelby Jackson, 18, started a program called Scarlet Mentors to pair juniors and seniors with freshman to keep them on track.  In addition to the leadership training and experiences of the pairs, Shelby focused on many service projects as a way to engage students and drawing attention to staying in school.


Talk About the Girl Changing East High

Shelby Jackson is working not only at her part time job or to go to college next fall but to help inform her student body about the drop out crisis and to help decrease it right here in Des Moines, IA. Shelby started school last fall by getting a ten thousand dollar grant from America’s Promise Alliance and AT&T to help fight the battle against the drop out crisis. Larry Lehman, Shelby’s father, said “We are terribly excited that Shelby is going to help out her high school by helping kids graduate and be better people all around.” Shelby started the Scarlet Mentors program, were a group of juniors and seniors help mentor freshman to keep on track and stay in school.

“We have had roughly 20 mentors and 20 mentees this year,” said senior Zane Rustan. “We have had a blast helping them grow and growing with them.”

“We have done some exciting things like the Leadership Training through CYC and going to Adventure Land, but my favorite part was getting to know each other,” said freshman Bonnie Young. “This group has done a lot of fundraisers for the community and charity projects.”

Senior Heather Jensen said, “What projects have I participated in through Scarlet Mentors? Well, Salvation Army Bell Ringing, Jingle Jog, East High Pop Tab Drive for Ronald McDonald House, and the fundraisers we have done selling suckers for Valentine’s Day and the whole school Change Drive.”

They raised $800 for Salvation Army and two and a half boxes full of pop tabs. “I think this year has been exciting for all of us and I think we have made a big difference this year. We have the freshman wanting to be here not only next year but they want to help make difference in other kids’ lives. We have kids realizing that dropping out of school affects you later on in life and that there is a big deal in and of itself,” said Shelby.

So, we asked what are you going to remember most about this year and they replied: “Shelby saying that ‘everyday she wakes up and tells her self that she will be the other side of the statistic.’” said Bonnie Young.

“Our spring leadership training when we were asked who was a leader in our community that we see a lot of the time and almost all of us said ‘Shelby,’” said Thomas Allen.

“After the leadership training when Shelby cried cause it finally hit her how much all of us not only need her but look up to her,” said Crystal Ross.

“Watching Amanda telling Shelby that she wishes she could be a strong confident leader like her,” said Zane Rustan.

“I will have to admit that this entire year has changed my entire life and I could not have done the things I have done with out my friends and my family and the school supporting me,” said Shelby after we asked how this year has affected her and what she wanted everyone to know about the years to come. “I am so excited to be helping out the team next year not as a leader but as a supporter for everything they do. They have all left their fingerprints on my life and have really pushed me to know for sure that I want to be a teacher and not only that but that I want to make it the reason people teach again is that they want their children to succeed like it used to be. I hope that they will remember what they have learned and the people they have met and how much we will always care about them.”