By Susan Swann
West Forsyth High School 2019 graduating senior Jackson Butler won several awards in basketball this year. While he loves all sports, participating in basketball, soccer and lacrosse at different times over the years, when he had to choose one, he chose basketball. Butler worked hard and put a lot of effort into learning the game and improving his skills. While he reports having had many great coaches over the years, he says his biggest supporter and coach has been his Grandpa Jim, who spent hours coaching and challenging Butler.
The basketball awards he received at West Forsyth High School were not necessarily for his skill in the sport, but for who he is as a person. He was honored with the Mr. Wolverine award in both his junior and senior years, a coach selected award for outstanding participation on the court, in the classroom, and in life. This year, Butler also received the Forsyth County Tip Off Club Boys Service Award, and the most positive boys’ basketball athlete in North Atlanta, presented by Positive Athlete Georgia.
When asked how he selected Butler as this year’s Mr. Wolverine recipient, Coach Frederick Hurt said he chose him after speaking to his teachers who agreed that they respected Butler because he respected them. They also observed that he reached out to include many different students in his circle of friends, as well as being committed to community service. But the most important reason Coach Hurt selected Butler as Mr. Wolverine is because “he earned an Eagle Scout award.”
For his Eagle project, Butler worked with a non-profit organization called Enable Georgia, now called InCommunity. "The new name, InCommunity, describes our mission as partners, dedicated to enriching and sustaining the lives of individuals who have disabilities, their families and their communities," states InCommunity CEO, Whitney Fuchs. "We believe in the importance of the common good to wholly transform individual lives and collective communities. This passion for embracing the abilities in all of us, drives us to support community members with activities and experiences that makes life purposeful such as career training, education, fitness programs, artistic exploration and spiritual pursuits. Activities that provide self-esteem, growth, friendships and love."
Butler discovered that the organization has several different operations aimed at helping adults with developmental disabilities with a day center, homes where clients live with caregivers, apartments for those who can live on their own with visits from caregivers, and other essential services, including helping those who can, find a job and get to and from work.
After doing additional research, Butler found that one of the homes was in desperate need of a privacy fence, so he met with the director to set up the project. Then, Butler designed the fence, purchased the supplies, and assembled a team to build and stain the fence.
The first day spent constructing the fence, the residents came outside and shared pizza with the team, which included Butler’s family members. While the residents were non-verbal, everyone involved found ways to communicate with one another and enjoyed lunch together. When the fence was completed, the director was pleased with the result and said Butler’s efforts had blessed the lives of the residents.
Given Butler’s desire to serve others in both his school and the community, it’s perhaps not surprising that he made the decision to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). With the help of his family, he completed his mission papers, and one week after turning them in received his call to serve the Spanish speaking people in Las Vegas, Nevada. Butler was beyond excited about his new opportunity to serve and to demonstrate his faith in God.
On July 2 of this year, Butler left for the Mexico City Mission Training Center. He will spend six weeks there learning Spanish and will then serve in the Nevada Las Vegas West mission for two years before returning home and attending college.