Jacqueline C. Goodwater is the big sister to five brothers, the department she leads, and anybody else who walks through the doors of the historic Fairchild Building at Texas Southern University. She believes in her community and it’s obvious that her community believes in her. She ends her conversations with motivational anecdotes which make you walk away thinking: all of the things I’ve gone through have made me who I am today and I’m ready to do the best I can. She works for TSU’s Student Academic Support Services, and as a black woman working in education, being able to look like the community she serves helps her voice be heard and lead like the leader she was born to be.
Growing up in Ohio, Goodwater watched and learned as her parents did everything they could to help the less fortunate. Her mother was a special education teacher and her father gave his shirt off his back to help people who were in need.
“I would see my dad go to the grocery store and buy someone groceries and even though we weren’t rich,” Goodwater explained, “just seeing that let me know why my family is so blessed. Because we help people.”
Goodwater’s experience as the only girl growing up in a house full of five younger brothers taught her the importance of structure and the ability to implement that structure to maintain a steady household. It made her step up to the challenge of being in charge.
“My parents were young when they had me and they loved me as much as they could but being the only girl had its quirks. It was tough.” Goodwater remembered, “Sometimes my dad would be out of town for work and my mom would attend night school, so I would get off the bus, help my mom cook dinner. My mom would go to night school and by the time she got back the boys would be fed, washed and in bed. It taught me a lot.”
Years later she would work with the city of Houston, first for the Parks and Recreation Department in Sunnyside and then as a Community Center Manager in Alief. Goodwater’s drive to help people enabled her to enact change in those Houston communities, from running youth summer camps to connecting families with counseling services. It wasn’t long until she was recruited to work at Texas Southern University to help run a new tutorial service for underperforming students.
Goodwater shares similar experiences with a lot of the students she helps. At Texas Southern, a good portion of students grew up in areas that did not have strong community resources; Goodwater gives students structure, discipline and often a shoulder to cry on, and fits in perfectly with the big sister role many students at an HBCU need.
“Being a black woman holds large importance with who I am because I look like the community I serve. When you look like the community you serve and you have relevant experiences, the community listens.”
By Ryan Nickerson
Photo: Jacqueline C. Goodwater