Recent Centre grad helps pick up the pieces in Joplin
June 23, 2011 By Elizabeth Trollinger
competed at the track nationals in late May, winning third place
in the 400-meter hurdles and setting a new school record.
After her success at track nationals, Jackson (above, second from
right, with track teammates and coaches) returned to her
hometown and aided in the tornado relief effort.
When Kasey Jackson ’11 walked across Centre College's Norton Center stage to receive her diploma on May 22, she had no idea that her hometown of Joplin, Mo., was about to be torn apart by a series of massive tornadoes.
“I heard about the tornadoes about a few hours after they happened. I was at my graduation dinner with some friends and family,” Jackson says.
Tornadoes are no unusual occurrence in Joplin. In fact, Jackson says, “I ignore tornado sirens sometimes because they go off so often.” This series of tornadoes, however, affected Joplin in an unprecedented way. “Joplin is a relatively small town. Everyone knows someone who passed away, lost their house or was injured. A huge part of the town is devastated,” says Jackson. “I felt helpless as I watched all the images on TV of my hometown; it's unrecognizable. Furthermore, because the phone lines were down, it was hard to reach friends and family back home to make sure they were okay.”
Since Jackson was graduating that day, her parents and sister were all in Danville when the tornadoes passed through Joplin. Their home was left relatively unscathed as well.
“My family was incredibly lucky, as our house is about a mile away from the path of the tornadoes. We all feel very fortunate,” Jackson says.
As badly as Jackson wanted to go straight home and lend a hand with relief efforts, there was somewhere else she needed to be the week after Commencement: the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championship in Delaware, Ohio.
“I found it hard to stay focused on nationals and, at times, I didn't even want to go to nationals. I felt like I should be at home in Joplin helping,” Jackson says. “Luckily, I had the support of my teammates, coaches and family. They were so helpful.”
Despite her heart being in Missouri, Jackson had an amazing run at nationals. She began by qualifying for the finals of the 400-meter hurdles and simultaneously setting a new school record during preliminaries with a time of 1:01.27. In the finals, she broke her own new school record with a time of 1:00.63 for third place overall, also winning the title of All-American for finishing in the top eight. Jackson also competed in the 100-meter hurdles and came in twelfth place with a time of 14.53.
Jackson is no stranger to success. She set numerous school records during her track career at Centre, in both indoor and outdoor events. Still, winning at track nationals was a milestone for Jackson.
“It was really an experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life,” she says.
After track nationals were over, Jackson returned to her hometown to help pick up the pieces. So many people had come to help, though, that no more volunteers were needed, so Jackson was only in Joplin for a few days before heading to Cleveland, Miss., to begin training for the Teach for America program.
Because clean-up efforts have been so effective, Jackson left her hometown confident that it is already on its way back up.
“I know Joplin will bounce back and be even better than before,” she says.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 24th among all the nation's colleges and universities and has named Centre No. 1 among all institutions of higher education in the South for two years in a row. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, click here.