Sharing that both he and his wife were involved in the field of special education and special needs children long before the birth of their son Aaron, who was born with Down syndrome, "We knew what we wanted to avoid and what we wanted to represent," said Dave Jackson.
Flash forward 22 years, and following approximately five years of martial arts training at Northeast Martial Arts Dance and Fitness, on Monday, Oct. 8, Aaron Jackson tested for and was awarded his black belt.
Having begun at the age of 16, in a press release, Jackson's father shared that the benefits of his training extend beyond the obvious physical perks to improved discipline and focus.
Photo by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Still reveling in the excitement of the recent receipt of his black belt following five years of training at Northeast Martial Arts Dance and Fitness, 22-year-old Aaron Jackson is pictured donning the accoutrement.
According to Jackson, expectations for Aaron were much the same, and in the months leading up to his black belt testing, one-on-one instruction was added to his son's twice weekly sessions to further hone his skills, which include breaking boards, hitting the pads, etc. Asked what he most enjoys, Aaron claimed forms as his favorite.
Since his son began taking classes, many people have come and gone, said Jackson, adding that once placed in the adult class, many of them came to his assistance, offering encouragement along the way.
"I think they learned as much from him as he learned from them," said Jackson.
Crediting his wife, Sharon Jackson with suggesting karate, Jackson admits to his own initial reluctance, but is quick to share that despite the regimented schedule, "He's always ready to go," he said of Aaron.
A graduate of Austintown Fitch High School, Aaron now attends No Limits Alternatives Day Training, continues his karate training, and, according to Jackson, he and his wife are actively seeking an appropriate job placement for Aaron. They welcome information on such via his email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to placement at TJ Maxx through No Limits, where Aaron successfully completes the tasks of hanging and folding clothes and breaking down boxes, Jackson said his son also formerly worked at a bowling alley.
"When he worked that job, he did a great job with it," he said, proudly noting his quality assurance, work ethic and personable approachability. "He likes bringing home a paycheck."
Keenly aware of his son's attributes, Jackson went on to share that Aaron had a 19-year-old sister who lost her life at the hands of a drunken driver 11 years ago. Jackson credits his son with keeping up the family's spirits during such a difficult time.
Stating that although as parents, he and his wife have worked to place Aaron in various situations, "It was his intrinsic motivation to succeed," said Jackson on the many successes of his son. Speaking more generally as a parent of a child with special needs, "Given the opportunity, our kids will surprise you all the time," he said.
Though the excitement of earning his black belt still looms, Aaron appeared eager to move into the routine of his weekend. A self-proclaimed fan of scary movies, for Aaron, Saturday is horror movie day. Smiling as he prepares for a road trip with his dad to rent the day's flicks, "He has a wonderful blend of interests," said Jackson of Aaron, who has grown to represent a life lived passionately. "I couldn't be happier," Jackson said.