Jermaine Jacobs lived a story all too common in today's world. Born in Sacramento, California, Jacobs felt helpless watching the pain and frustration his mother struggled with trying to raise her five children as a single parent. Sometimes there wasn't enough food to eat, and sometimes they had to live without electricity. Jacobs was the oldest and felt he had to do something. He met some guys who showed him how to make money, and that's when the drugs came into play. The family went into a downward spiral, and even his Mom got involved, and ended up hardly ever being home for the kids. Things went from bad to worse; child services intervened and separated Jacobs and his three brothers and sister. Then Jacobs lost his grandmother. "I got to a point where nothing mattered in my life and I started to do a lot of wrong things," Jacobs remembers.
Thankfully, there were people who cared. One of Jacob's high school football coaches took him and his brothers. Jacobs started to straighten up his act, but it didn't last long, even when his mother managed to get her children back. He still went back into the drug scene. His high school head coach pulled him aside one day and told Jacobs he needed to get away in order to build a better life for himself and his family.
Jacobs still didn't want to hear it. Not until "one day I met a man who helped change my life, who is now my stepfather … he helped me become a better person and actually lived what he was telling me." He took me in after I got out of foster care "as if I was supposed to go to his house and live; he treated me like his son and never let up ever since. Even when he knew I wasn't doing the right thing, he never punished me. He just told me what I needed to do to be a better man and where the life I was living would put me." Jacob's stepfather is the one who suggested he move to Ukiah and play ball at Mendocino College (Mendo), assuring him he would visit and that he could come home whenever he wanted: "The door is always open."
So Jacobs went to Mendocino College to play ball and go to college in order to give himself a better future and set a good example for his siblings. Mendocino College and Ukiah was a huge change for Jacobs. He recalls "I had never been in an environment like that so it helped me to be more open to people who are different than me. It showed me that I didn't need to treat everyone as if they were out to get me. Mendo definitely helped me with my social skills and being more willing to try new things … In this world you can't be a closed in person if you expect to make it were you want to go."
When asked if anyone in particular at Mendo helped him out, Jacobs states, "First and foremost, I would like to thank Coach Mari. He has been a great mentor for me ever since day one. I truly look up to him as a man. He taught me not to be soft and to deal with what life throws at you like a man." Jacobs had always admired that mentality and over the years it made him a better person. He is "no longer afraid of what life throws at me because I know I can stand up to it like a man."
While attending Mendocino College and with Coach Mari's help, Jacobs earned a spot on the All American Team, and was also League Defensive MVP. "Mari made me the strongest player of the team for both my freshman and sophomore years. Mendocino put me in a great place to be successful. A lot of that success came from the time my coach invested in me. Attending Mendocino College is the best choice I have ever made in my life and I wouldn't change that for anything in the world."
Graduating from Mendocino College was a life-changing event for Jacobs. "I didn't think I would ever go to college, let alone graduate. When I did, I decided to give up the drug life, gang-banging, and all that negativity." While playing football at Mendo, Jacobs earned a scholarship to Portland State University. "It all started at Mendocino College, it's where I realized that I do deserve to live a better life. I just had to work for it."
Being a better man for his brothers and sister is what motivates Jacobs every day. He also wants to "be successful in the eyes of my children if and when I do have some." Knowing where he came from and how he made it out and bettered his life also continues to motivate Jacobs. He will "do whatever it takes to keep from going back to that hell."
Jacob's godparents had something to do with his success as well: "If it wasn't for them, I would not be where I am today. They really took time to work on me and help me become a better person and I thank God for them every day. Without them I would either be in prison by now or dead. I feel as if God put them in my life for a reason."
Jacobs doesn't forget his biological mother either "because even though we went through some hard times, she always did what she needed to do in order to keep her children as happy as possible. Even though we went through a lot I know she bent over backwards to keep things cool for as long as possible."
Jacobs hit rock bottom in life and had to deal with "some of the worse things in life, including the other side of a jail cell. Even though I went through all that, it couldn't break me. I still made it and graduated with my bachelors in Social Science from Portland State … I'm still standing; this world can't beat me. I know whatever happens, good or bad, I will come out okay."
Through everything he has been through, Jacobs has learned something crucial to success: "You have to have love and support from someone in order to be successful. Whether it's God or your family or a friend or mentor, you need someone to help you when things look bad. You also have to be mentally strong."
Today Jacobs is working at a penitentiary with the goal of becoming a Prison Warden, and after that he says: "Only God knows. Whatever it is, I'm ready."
Jermaine L. Jacobs, Mendocino College Success Story
Date of Interview: June 21, 2012
Written by Christine Mullis