Giving back to his community – and empowering others to do the same – has always been a priority for William T. Jackson. In more than a dozen years with the Urban League of Broward County, Jackson, 39, led and managed diversion and intervention programs for young people, while also serving on numerous boards and committees that work with marginalized populations.

The death of Trayvon Martin, followed by a growing awareness of the distrust between law enforcement and communities of color led him to start his own community action task force through the Urban League in 2015. As his exposure to restorative justice practices grew – and following the death of George Floyd in 2020 – he and others decided to incorporate the initiative, and The Justice Project of South Florida was born. Working closely with police departments and social service agencies, the nonprofit organization seeks to reduce youth arrests and incarcerations, while also improving interactions between law enforcement and communities of color.The Justice Project – and Jackson, as its founder and first board president – have received national recognition for their work.

At FIU, Jackson took his quest to serve his community to another level – pursuing his Ph.D. in public affairs and becoming one of the top students in the highly-ranked program, winning numerous national awards and fellowships. His proudest moment came after his dissertation defense when his family, professors and colleagues witnessed him transition from “Ph.D. candidate” to “Dr. William T. Jackson.” Jackson will continue his academic career in the fall as a postdoctoral fellow at American University’s School of Public Affairs.