Nonprofit management senior Christian Jackson may have left his professional football dreams behind, but football still plays a major role in his nonprofit business.
Jackson was born an only child in Houston and played football all his life. He accepted a scholarship to play football at a small college in Tennessee his freshman year, but quickly realized it wasn’t all it was made out to be. After transferring to Oklahoma State University his sophomore year, his original choice for college, he began focusing on academics.
“It was definitely tough, it was a rough couple of months going from playing football to not playing football at all,” Jackson said. “I’ve been playing football since second grade, so to completely stop that was a tough transition, and going from a little school to a school with 26,000 was a huge jump, so I really had to find a community so I wouldn’t go through school alone…. It was a rough transition, but it was for the best.”
Choosing a management major was an easy decision for Jackson. The concept of leadership resonated with him not only through football but with his involvement with Christian camps throughout his life, OSU’s CRU organization and OSU’s international student program Bridges as well. After visiting the country of Haiti on a mission trip with his church back in Houston, he switched his major to the more specific non-profit management, which then led to the creation of his nonprofit business, Y-KNOT Missions.
“Y-KNOT Missions is a Christian sports camp for kids,” Jackson said. “It stands for Youth, Knowledge, Nations, Outreach, and Truth. The mission statement of Y-KNOT Missions is ‘To make Christ known and enable, encourage and equip the youth of underdeveloped nations so that they can make disciples in their community.
“I’ve always wanted to do mission work, but I wanted to focus with youth. I want to do international work forever, at least as long as I can. This summer it’s getting launched in Haiti to different sports camps, throughout different villages and orphanages. Y-KNOT is not a one-summer, one-country thing: next year, I will be in seven different countries ranging from Honduras to Colombia to even Zambia and Jamaica. It’s really exciting to see it grow and that it’s not a one-country thing.”
Jackson’s nonprofit business will become a full-time effort after graduating in December 2017. He already has 20 full-time staff members from 10 universities across the nation, all of whom he happened to meet at Christian summer camps when he was younger. Bringing sports in to the equation of Christian camps, Jackson believes he is adding values that coincide with aspects in life.
“Sports teaches a lot of things,” Jackson said. “A lot of character building, it teaches you teamwork, teaches you not to quit, to push on through adversity. There’s so many key aspects of life you can learn through sports, so doing a Christian sports camp is the best of both worlds. You’re getting to teach the importance and value of sports and competition all while trying to glorifying Christ through that.”
His biggest struggle, like all nonprofits, is fundraising. While the aspect of being an entrepreneur is exciting, Jackson understands the struggles he is going to face.
“I’m constantly brainstorming how I’m going to do this or how I’m going to fundraise or how I’m going to market,” Jackson said. “The biggest struggle I am always going to face is fundraising. There’s not many organizations that do international camps, but saying Y-KNOT is going to be a brand new thing, it’s going to be tough to get people on board.”
With his nonprofit management class, adjunct management lecturer Julie Tikalsky and the Spears School of Business, Jackson was able to create Y-KNOT through hands-on learning.
“Dr. Tik has been such a huge help to me in this whole process,” Jackson said. “Just asking her questions, even outside of the classroom in her office hours two times a week asking questions. She’s very interested, it’s not an annoyance to her, so it’s been really helpful to see that relationship grow not just inside the classroom. It’s been a really positive thing helping me grow as a brand new owner of a nonprofit.
“Spears has helped me out a lot. There’s so many opportunities to get plugged in, whether that’s with different organizations or different students. It’s really cool to just be able to have that community of professors and students having the same goal and trying to help you succeed. There’s so many different avenues and opportunities for success at OSU for you to take advantage of.’
To learn more about Y-KNOT Missions, visit https://yknotmissions.wixsite.com/home.