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When Jahkil Jackson comes home from school, math homework isn’t the only thing on his mind. The 14-year-old is on a mission to build awareness of homelessness. Jahkil, who was acknowledged as one of three influential people of 2017 by President Barack Obama and the Obama Foundation, is the founder of Project I Am, a nonprofit organization that distributes “blessing bags” (packets of essential supplies), filled with everything from bottled water to socks, to homeless populations. (Even just today, in honor of Giving Tuesday, the Chicago-based activist is partnering with more than 200 children around the world to create over 5,000 bags for those in need.) Understandably, Jahkil was in need of a designated space to spark change—and a simple desk wasn’t going to cut it. 

Crate & Kids recently paid his home a visit and turned the entrepreneur’s basement (once a dark space used for toy storage) into the ultimate work-slash-play zone, now complete with a custom wall mural, cozy seating area with swivel lounge chairs, and a brass-lined basketball hoop. “I can be very creative down here,” says Jahkil of the recently revamped room. “It feels like a place where I can relax, pack up blessing bags for the organization, and invite friends over to hang out.”

The best part: Crate & Kids wants to give four other young activists their dream room makeover (and make a donation to the cause of their choice). Applications are now open through January 7 and the winners will be announced in early 2022. Ahead, Jahkil gives us a peek inside Project I Am headquarters. 

A Bright Future

With only one small window offering natural light, the basement was in desperate need of a bright touch. So the Crate & Kids team added sculptural mirrors on the opposite wall to help bounce sunshine around the space during the day, instantly making the room feel bigger. 

Slam Dunk

Bringing in nods to Jahkil’s other hobbies and interests makes the workspace prime for play, too. “If I’ve had a long day, I love using this room to invite my friends over or just shoot hoops by myself,” he shares. A wood shelving unit that his parents already owned now serves as a display for his favorite kicks, while cool blue stackable storage bins in the corner prevent his basketballs from becoming a tripping hazard.

Picture This

More of Jahkil’s favorite things (like Black Panther and the Chicago Bulls) make an appearance on the wall mural behind the desk (executed by the activist’s dad). “There’s always a lot to get done with school or Project I Am, and it helps to have a colorful space where I can come and be productive,” says Jahkil of packing a punch with hits of red, blue, and yellow. “It helps me brainstorm new ideas but also gives me a chance to relax if I need a break.” Grid curtain panels hide the laundry area, ensuring nothing distracts from the epic artwork. 

Words to Live By 

Inspirational quotes written across the surface of throw pillows and framed collages keep the young world changer motivated, whether he’s writing his own book (yes, Jahkil is also an author) or finishing up a book report. The phrase Don’t wait to be great, written in a large font on the wall, is his go-to motto. “I feel that it tells kids all over the world to go out and shine and be great at whatever it is they want to do,” he says. “They shouldn’t wait, because they can do it right now.” 

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