One was a heavy talk just before he started high school with his mother, Mahalia Jackson, about taking academics seriously.
The other was learning that his father, Carl Jackson, was valedictorian of College Park’s Benjamin Banneker High School class of 1998.
“I worked extremely hard to get [to the top] and to go even further than he did,” Arrion said. “I pretty much saw that where I wanted to go in life, I couldn’t mess around. I had to handle my business so I could get to the place that I wanted to be.”
Arrion earned a GPA of 4.054 while taking accelerated classes; performing in marching, concert and jazz band; and participating in numerous clubs and organizations, including DeKalb County’s Youth Commission, a teen advisory board with representatives from schools across the county.
He has been accepted to Georgia Tech, where he plans to major in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics.
Arrion came into Carl Jackson’s life at the age of 4, when Carl and Mahalia met on the campus of FAMU.
Carl was on a music scholarship and was one of the school’s famed Marching 100. Mahalia was a theater major and a music minor. The couple married in 2000 and have four children. Arrion is the eldest.
A former DeKalb schoolteacher, Carl said he set his own goal to become high school valedictorian early in high school, but he hasn’t pushed his children to reach the same goal.
“For me, it was all about getting the grades and the high test scores,” he said, “but I just encourage them to do their best and then allow them to do that.”
“I want them to put more purpose in learning, to think about why they’re learning something and how they can apply it to their lives,” Carl said. “Let the grades be the end result of it, not the goal itself.”