Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica McConico.
Jessica, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Before I begin, I want to take a moment to thank Voyage LA for this opportunity to share my story. I consider this a privilege and I do not take it lightly. Thank you Voyage LA for considering me.
My story began in South Central Los Angeles in the Crenshaw district. I was raised by my mother and father along with two siblings. We went through a lot together from family dysfunction and unstable living to homelessness. During my youthful years, I was exposed to the reality of poverty and its many forms. I grew up during the aftermath of the War on Drugs.
My parents raised me in the Christian faith. My mother did everything she could to protect us from the environment we would inevitably grow accustomed to. She always kept my siblings and I busy with choir rehearsal, dance practice or any other activity she could find to sign us up for in the church. While my family and I were between homes, my mother pushed us to get involved in extracurricular activities outside of church. I started with bowling and then I explored drumming for black diamond drill team and drum squad.
During this time in my life, I also explored my ability to play the game of basketball which came more naturally to me. So I chose to pursue basketball full time. I began playing basketball year around at Shatto Park and Normandie Park in midtown Los Angeles under the leadership of Mckinsey Hadley. He developed a team of girl athletes that competed in coed leagues which enhanced our game to new levels. We played together and dominated at a number of tournaments across the city.
Basketball then opened the door for me to attend and play at Junipero Serra High School in Gardena California. Following high school, I was forced to redshirt at Salem International University in West Virginia. Then I decided to transfer with the head coach to Talladega College in Alabama where I served as a student assistant and student-athlete. I stepped away from the game to return home and discover my purpose. More importantly, I needed to make money to pay back student loans. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Talladega College. I returned to Gardena to earn a Master of Science degree in Counseling at University of Phoenix.
Currently, I work full time serving my community in the field of social work as well as run an online business JaiGotSoul.com. Five months ago, we launched the Assets Over Liabilities Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to enhance the financial literacy in urban communities. Our goal is to host workshops and build programs that educate at-risk youth and under-served adults on how to choose assets over liabilities and replace poor spending habits with strategic wealth-building habits. We believe that through education and application of more practical steps, we can build our way out of the economic disparities that leave us trapped in vulnerable positions.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Absolutely not, growing up in south-central LA was like survival of the fittest. It was tough to stay out of trouble and remain focused on things a child should be focused on like school, homework, and going to bed on time. When I was just nine years old, my family and I were between homes. During that time, I was completely sold out to the game of basketball as my coping mechanism. Basketball taught me majority of the survival skills that I utilize till this day. I learned to channel my emotions within the game of basketball, not to mention many other valuable nuggets imparted into me by my mentor/trainer.
I flunked out of middle school which forced my mom to sit me down for a year. During the year of reflection, my mother and I came to an agreement that I would keep my grades up and she would pay tuition for me to attend Junipero Serra to play basketball. I was placed on academic probation due to my record from middle school. Nevertheless, I was being prepped for the college experience. It was a struggle for my parents keeping up with tuition with three children involved in three different activities. Even so, I honored my commitment but I was not awarded the full scholarship I set as a goal to achieve. I wanted desperately to carry my own weight by earning a full scholarship to help my family out.
My decision to attend Salem International University was short notice but I was determined to prove that I could compete at the college level. My Freshman year was heartbreaking to say the least. I struggled with the ACT and scored a few points below the average score for eligibility. I was devastated. Then, I suffered a concussion while in practice causing me to sit out for about a month from practices. Suffering a brain injury rattled something inside of me. I was losing sight of the passion I had for the game of basketball. I was miles away from home when I received news of two killings in the city that hit home for my family and I. Suddenly, I thought that life had to have more meaning than this.
My sophomore year, I transferred to Talladega College an HBCU in Talladega Alabama which gave me a sense of pride because my father’s side of the family is from Alabama. However, I struggled with PTSD and symptoms of depression in which I could not muster up the motivation to play basketball. I decided to give myself time and remain a part of the team but as a student assistant. My junior year I decided I would play again. I trained myself every day at the crack of dawn all summer to prepare for the upcoming season. I tried out for the team and I made it. I gave my final season all I had left to give, which ultimately resulted in a national championship title.
During my senior year, I spent the spring semester in Los Angeles interning for an organization called Developing Options under the direction of Eugene “Big U” Henley. I was right in the center of my community alongside OGs giving back to my community. I decided then that I wanted to continue serving my community. But I ran into some major barriers when I learned that my degree overqualified me but my lack of experience under-qualified me. It was tough to lock down a permanent full-time position. It was a frustrating time in my life.
I began writing and setting my intentions on the path I wanted to take. I applied to many jobs but I wanted more than anything to own my own business. Scams and misinformation were easy to come by. I was pulled in many directions to join pyramid businesses. Then I got caught up entertaining desperately broke hustlers with predatory tendencies. Filtering through what I did not want, led me to the path of least resistance. I decided I would bring the education that I left the hood to obtain back home to uplift my community.
Please tell us about The Assets Over Liabilities Campaign.
JaiGotSoul.com is an online platform that was developed to educate, serve, and uplift my community. You will find two written blog posts, one book review, radio appearances as well as a mental health awareness interview and more. We also have merchandise available for sale which I designed myself with the help of my colleagues and friends.
We specialize in building our community by using our unique talents. The Assets Over Liabilities Campaign really caught on via Instagram. In 2017, I began writing a series of articles titled “Can Black Wall Street Be Resurrected” which is the prerequisite to the Assets Over Liabilities movement. These articles detail some history of African American progress.
I am most proud of the shift in my community since launching the Campaign. In five months, we developed a growing community of people that are consciously making better financial decisions. Each purchase in our online store is a pledge to choose assets over liabilities. The merchandise in our store acts as active reminders to make financially healthy decisions.
What sets us apart is the fact that we don’t sell merchandise to enhance our personal gain. We are aiming toward providing our community with more resources to learn the information that they need to lead financially healthy lifestyles. We are on schedule to host workshops in our community to offer information and resources that build a road to generational wealth.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory was traveling to play basketball with former teammates. As I stated, basketball opened many doors for me. Any chance I got to take a break from south-central LA, I enjoyed it.
I gave up my social life for the game of basketball for about six years straight. The reward was traveling to play with friends.
- The signature Assets Over Liabilities shirts are $25 and $30 for 2X and up. All signature shirts are made to order.
- Black money matter shirts are $15 & $20 for 2X and up.
- Financial Literacy is Wealth shirts are $15 & &20 for 2X and up.
- Black money matters hoodies are $30 and $35 for 2X and up.
- Address: 14021 Vermont Ave, Gardena CA 90247
- Website: https://www.jaigotsoul.com/
- Email: Jailoves14@gmail.com
- Others: https://youtu.be/Al6pOeDYqDQ and https://youtu.be/HeYp4fOziRM
Bree Suber of N’Focus Productions