Laurier Grads Soar is a multi-part series that returns for it’s third installment during the 2018-19 season. The segment features former Wilfrid Laurier University athletes and student-leaders in the Athletics and Recreation Department, and the success they have enjoyed since leaving Laurier. Written by award-winning journalist David Grossman, different features will be released throughout the year that will emphasize the role Athletics and Recreation played in helping them achieve success.
— This article first appeared on laurierathletics.com. The original posting of the article can be found HERE —
Jahmeeks Beckford: Support Worker, Carizon Family and Community Services
When Jahmeeks Beckford was a young football player, some of his biggest tackles and challenges were certainly not on the gridiron.
Beckford struggled with reading and writing, figured he had some kind of learning disability, and it bothered him. He grew up in a low-income area and found ways to mix with good people but some, he remembers, had made bad choices.
When many of his school and athletic buddies graduated from high school and moved on to Wilfrid Laurier University, Beckford, despite some heavy effort academically, just didn’t have the grades to follow them.
There was antipathy and a deep feeling of resentment, but rather than throw in the towel, deep down, he had a flash of hope. Beckford chose to do something about it.
His decisions inspired actions. He knew there was a puzzle that only he could solve.
Fond of painting, illustrations and drawings, which he still does as a hobby, Beckford packed up and left home in Kitchener to study at Fanshawe College in London, Ont.
“It was tough, I was uncomfortable, missed my family and friends, missed football – but I knew it had to be done,” said Beckford.
Four years later, he would graduate with an advanced Diploma in Graphic Design, his academic grades were exceptional and at the top of the class, along with being the recipient of a distinguished College award.
But the knowledge gained, Beckford recalled, was more than just getting a piece of paper to frame on his wall.
“I learned that I could be successful,” said Beckford. “I just knew that I was dyslexic back in in grade school, but accepted it rather than seek help. Guess I just didn’t know any better at the time and it stuck with me through high school. I persevered and, at College, found the various support networks needed to be prevail and prosper.”
For Beckford, a reality check also came in a College classroom discussion, in his graduating year, and one that made him re-think his career course. Later that day, Beckford received a telephone call to his home that encouraged him to take the next giant leap – a university education, a chance to re-unite with his buddies and also play football.
“I was sold after that call, I was inspired and when I was accepted at Laurier, being on campus, the environment, I just felt encouraged, knowing there was also a support network, if needed, and the self confidence was huge. Laurier just changed my life.”
Beckford has come a long way since Rockway Public School, Courtland Junior High and Eastwood Collegiate, where he was a multi-sport athlete, regional football all-star and winner of the school’s Most Outstanding Player award.
He learned to play football, often tackling school friends, in pick-up games during recess on the school field, while in Grade 5. His mother, who worried he would get hurt playing the physical game, quickly became a supporter after seeing him play. In one game, Beckford recalls, she told him that she loved watching him run for a touchdown. Beckford would then inform her that it was his friend, as he was playing defence.
At Laurier, any signs of being tenuous and personal puzzlement were gone, replaced by good fortunes, pride and delight. Beckford would go on to understand, analyze and interpret a variety of social, cultural and economic issues – and earn an Honors Degree in Communication Studies.
Able to play football again, a power of strength on the defensive squad, he would contribute to the Golden Hawks reaching the football pinnacle with the reward of winning the Yates Cup, the Uteck Bowl and the Vanier Cup in 2005. In his final year, Beckford was chosen a league all-star at the cornerback position.
“Oh man, that year was something special,” said Beckford, now a 38-year old, married and a father. “Laurier was a dream come true for me – the school, the friends, the people who helped and had faith in me, and where I learned that I can contribute to building a better world.”
These days, Beckford is a support worker for a social agency – Carizon Family and Community Services. In fact, for the past 10 years, Beckford – working in the Pathways to Education Program – has been showing his own compassion towards helping children, youth and families confronted with a variety of life’s challenges.
“I work with youth in at-risk neighborhoods, places with high dropout rates,” he said. “I’ve kind of come home to the area where I grew up. I hear kids tell me their stories and explain to them that they have talent, purpose in life and offer them ways in which I can help or find others to assist them. I come home tired and exhausted, but really don’t feel that I was doing work. I was doing what I was supposed to do – help people.”
David Grossman is a multi award-winning communicator and storyteller with a distinguished career in Broadcasting, Journalism and Public Relations in Sport and Government Relations