President/CEO, BACA (Bertie Alumni Community Association)
(Retired Federal Certified Officer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
Mr. Google defines “service” as, “the action of helping or doing work for someone.” That particular definition is indicative of the selfless work that Jackie Lyons-White has taken on for the people of Bertie County. Jackie’s volunteer work for the students, high school alumni, and the elderly, is driven by her sheer passion to be of service to others. Her interview details her “backstory” of what fuels that passion. It is so heart-warming and is so much of the reason why it is important to tell your story. As you read Jackie’s interview, we can easily be convicted by what we’re not doing; what we’re not sacrificing...I'm feeling convicted for sure. Jackie is the force that founded BACA (DBA BACA Education and Community Outreach). Created in 2010 and registered with the NC Secretary of State in February 2011, the organization serves to, “offer programs and activities, educational services and support, and mentorship to empower and uplift the youths, and their families in the community.” Since its inception, BACA has awarded over $37,000 in scholarships to over 75 students. This has afforded Bertie County students the opportunity to attend higher education institutions like, NC Central, UNC (Chapel Hill and Greensboro), Fayetteville State, Norfolk State, Methodist University, Johnson & Wales, Elizabeth City State, East Carolina, Pitt Community, Martin Community, etc. What a mission to make sure that students experience success as adults in this ever-changing society! Jackie’s commitment to service doesn’t stop there. She is the connector for everything happening in the county. Through social media platforms, she ensures that we are informed of community happenings—events, alumni accomplishments, alumni deaths (and their immediate families), Bertie merchandise for sale, etc. All of this is done, as she manages a health condition that may “pause” her, but certainly doesn’t stop her! We can all learn a lot from this tireless soul. Jackie Lyons-White is indeed Bertie County Black History, and we are so proud!
TCV1: What community did you grow up in as a Bertie County youngster?
JLW1: I grew up in the town of Lewiston, NC.
TCV2: What are your first thoughts of life in Bertie?
JLW2: My childhood upbringing was by strict parents. I was raised in a Christian household and was taught to respect my elders. I remember walking to Woodville Plains Baptist Church to Sunday School. We lived near the church, so there was no need to drive. Our parents were hard working folk who had us working hard in the fields, picking cucumbers and sweet potatoes on the Williford Farm, to be able to pay for our school clothes and school fees.
TCV3: Why did you decide to form BACA?
JLW3: It was because of the love that I have Bertie County, the welfare of others, to help disadvantaged students and adults. I want to help educate, empower, encourage, and elevate students and people to be their best selves. At one point, I was involved in community service and mentoring in Durham, however, my heart was always in Bertie.
TCV4: Who was the most influential person who formed that decision?
JLW4: My beloved mother, Mrs. Julia Lyons. During my upbringing, my mother was always giving food that we raised in our gardens or canned/pickled items and clothes that she made to people in the community. We didn’t have a lot, but she would continue to give from her heart. Also, another fellow alum, Rickey Freeman, influenced me after I shared my vision and goals with him. He encouraged me to involve other alumni from all graduating classes.
TCV5: What is your most memorable experience as a community advocate/organizer? How has it motivated you?
JLW5: There are two experiences that stand out. BACA organized a fundraiser event to award scholarships. One of the recipients said that if it weren’t for us (BACA), they don’t know how they would have paid for their expenses or college books that semester. The other one is when the tornado disaster hit Bertie County. One of the victims told me that if it weren’t for me advocating on the phone and helping them to complete their paperwork for assistance, they would not have known about any of the assistance for funding, housing, and food opportunities that they received. It motivates me to keep helping because I saw, and continue to see, the need for these types of advocating services and educational opportunities.
TCV6: What year did you graduate from Bertie Senior High School? What college(s) did you attend, and why?
JLW6: I graduated with the best and most active alumni, the Class of 1981. This question is the main reason my heart lies on helping other students receive their education. I quit college three times because of financial hardship and raising my two sons. At first, I was attending Roanoke Chowan Community College and finances were so hard to come by. Driving to school every day added to the struggle. My parents didn’t have the extra money, so I went to work. Later, I received a grant to go to WSSU (Winston-Salem State University), and after one year, I moved back to Durham to care for my child. I enrolled at Rutledge College, which used to be in downtown Durham, then Durham Technical Community College to complete courses because of my job requirements.
TCV7: How did high school and college prepare you for life?
JLW7: It motivated me to have a job, a career, to work hard for the things that I have in my life, and to make sure that my two sons would have an education. I didn’t want them to go through the hardship that I went through to earn their college education.
TCV8: What has presiding over BACA taught you?
JLW8: Leadership, compassion, respect, and how to deal with circumstances in other people’s lives. Presiding has also taught me how to organize events and fundraisers over the past 12 years.
TCV9: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
JLW9: I’m most proud that working with BACA Board Members, alumni members, and volunteers, we have awarded numerous scholarships and assisted with funding since 2010.
TCV10: What are two words that sum up your service life?
JLW10: HELPING OTHERS – I am so blessed to be able to help others, despite my health condition.
TCV11: What words of wisdom do you have for today’s citizens---Bertie and elsewhere, regarding getting involved with alumni relations and the community?
JLW11: Help others when you can--share your talents and expertise for nonprofits or a good cause. Give back to the community through your services. Put in some sweat equity to help with community events, fundraisers, and donate to worthy causes, even if it’s not much. All efforts count and all dollars adds up.
TCV12: What advice would you give young children that would motivate and inspire them to accomplish their goals?
JLW12: I would tell them to work hard to accomplish their goals, never give up, seek help if needed, and trust God in all aspects of their lives.
TCV13: Your favorite quote?
JLW13: Philippians 3:14 ~ I press toward the goal for the prize. Even when it seems like I can’t go another day because of the struggles, God will give me the strength to keep pressing toward the prize or to keep pushing onward.
TCV14: Today, I am grateful for________. (One or more words)
JLW14: Today, I am grateful for LIFE.
TCV15: What do you want your legacy to be?
JLW15: …That I was a hardworking lady and kindhearted; I cared about not only myself, but my family, friends, and others in the community, especially the kids and the elderly; I was always willing to help others to benefit society. I want to be known as a leader, who encouraged, challenged, and influenced others to do community service, and give back in different ways-- whether it’s volunteering or donating. Finally, what I want others to know about my legacy is, when I get to the end-time of my lifespan, please remember that I didn’t give up, I just gave out.
***Donations can be made to support BACA and its efforts by sending checks and money orders (payable to BACA) to this address:
PO Box 234
Windsor, NC 27983