Veronica Jackson has been a custodian with the Physical Plant at Southern Miss since Feb.18, 2019. With Jackson focused on being a good employee, student and mother, she has set high goals for herself and others around her.
Jackson said her job has fulfilled her.
“I didn’t realize if I would like it or not,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to change jobs. The only time I want to change is when I graduate, and it’s time for me to go teach.”
For many people, working the early morning shift is awful, but this is only the first piece of the typical long day Jackson goes through.
“I get up around 4, get dressed, get my stuff in the car, my son in the car. Take him to his sister’s for her to take him to school. Come to work. Work from 5-1:30. Go to class from 3-6 and then on Wednesday, it’s no class. I go to bed on any night from 9:30-11:30 P.M.,” Jackson said.
Jackson has four children, whose ages range from four to 21. She calls her children, along with her four-month-old grandson, her crutches.
“They have been the reason I never give up. There’s no way on God’s green earth I could have made it without him or them. He knew I needed them more than they needed me,” Jackson said.
“In my life, I want to buy a house, graduate from college, get my teaching position, love where I’m at, love the children I’ll be in contact with, make a difference, be a good mother and raise my children.”
Before she began working at Southern Miss, she dreamed of working as a delivery nurse. Then, her life took a turn. For 10 years, Jackson was a single mom who was married for five years, divorced for 10 years and then remarried.
With Jackson overcoming obstacles in her life and experiencing similar struggles with people close to her. Her mother and faith in Christ were the catalysts for life change.
“My mama got hit by a train when I was a 28-year-old. I was not living the life I was supposed to but I knew better. When that happened, my mother was everything that I have ever had, and the thought of losing her was something I could not deal with,” Jackson said.
“I’ve overcome addiction. I’ve overcome rejection. I’ve learned to trust the Lord and not myself. I just pray. When things get tough or hard I just pray. I ask the Lord for something I need to read, hear, or see. He is the beginning and the end, and my children are next to that.”
In her turnaround of life and dealing with issues in her marriage, Jackson decided to pursue education once again to be near her kids and touch others through her work.
Jackson has previous experience working as a substitute teacher and as a cafeteria worker, but she had to resign due to her older son’s peers bullying him over her occupation.
When taking her current position, she had the same concerns.
“I felt a little ashamed at first. I never actually had the title ‘custodian’, and I was thinking my kids would be ashamed of me, but they’re not. They’re thankful. They’re proud. They’re happy that I’m happy. So now when someone asks what I do, I say that I’m a custodian at the Southern Miss Physical Plant, and I love it.”
Physical Plant Director, Chris Crenshaw, said university staff members are given the opportunity to take two free classes every semester as long as they do not take both classes during the day or miss work.
“I have a special place in my heart for the custodial staff,” Crenshaw said. “They are lifting garbage bags that could weight 30 – 40 pounds. What they do during game days preparing and working the events and out there at 5 the morning after cleaning up, it’s hard. It’s a commitment to what our workers do,” Crenshaw said.
Jackson has plans to become a physical education teacher or coach. Jackson said the only time she’s sitting down is she’s in church, bed or sick.
“When you walk 5-6 miles a day just for work, you stay active. Laziness gets you nowhere,” she said.