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Magic Johnson gives Omaha teen scholarship during Empowerment Network's 15th anniversary luncheon

Johnson talked about investing in community
Posted at 6:55 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 19:55:26-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Lives were changed Friday afternoon at CHI Health Center downtown, as Magic Johnson gave the keynote speech at the Empowerment Network's 15th-anniversary luncheon.

The former NBA player and businessman spoke about surrounding yourself with those who will lift you up, knowing when you're ready to expand a business, and catering to your customer base.

Johnson made sure to discuss the importance of investing in your community, then put those words into action by offering a scholarship to an Omaha teen.

"I went up there and started shaking. I was kind of nervous kind of starstruck. It’s big-time," Darnell Jackson Jr. said. "It means a lot. I want to thank Magic Johnson and I want to thank God, too. It’s all on me now."

Jackson, an 18-year-old who will be attending MCC, said he attended the luncheon simply expecting a meal and to hear a basketball legend speak. He never imagined the impact the day would have on his life.

Jackson'ss family expressed their gratitude to Johnson.

"It blew me away, thinking about who Magic is, that's an assist — that's what he’s always done is help people and for it to be my grandson, it blew me away. It's personal," Roscoe Wallace, Jackson's grandfather said.

Jackson's family has a past experience of crime and violence; a cycle they say has been traumatic for the family. Darnell Jackson, Sr. spoke with 3 News Now previously about his former gang affiliation and time in prison, hoping his life changes the past few years would carry through to his kids. Now, with a scholarship from Johnson, he confidently knows his son won't go through the same.

"It means everything in the world. All praise go to God just to know today it stops. There’s been so many prayers. His capabilities are everything, no gangs," Darnell Jackson Sr. said.

"We’ve had a lot of trauma in our family, a lot of violence and so I’ve been through it, my son been through it and this is his son. So, we trying to stop this domino with him and for Magic doing that today, it adds so much for our family, not just from a financial perspective," Roscoe said.

The Jackson family aren't the only ones whose lives changed Friday afternoon. Business owners say they're taking Johnson's words to heart and implementing them into their perspectives.

"I was just tuned in taking mental notes to go home with that will really help me from now," Nataya Thomas, a business owner, said. "Do it the right way, don’t take any shortcuts and make sure you invest, invest, invest in yourself before you try to reel off and try to live that life and in that shadow. It has to be right, everything has to be backed up."

Empowerment Network Founder and CEO Willie Barney is grateful the Omaha community, including many members of the Black community, were able to hear the entrepreneur's words.

"He was really encouraged by what he saw, the measurable results. He travels all over the country, so sometimes we live in Omaha and we know there are issues; we still need to address plenty of them, but for someone to come from the outside to have read about and seen the measurable outcomes and results happening in the city, is really encouraging — especially someone of that magnitude," Barney said.

Learn more about Darnell Jackson Sr. and his work:

Positively the Heartland: Ex-gang member gives back to youth through sports