With a few strokes of a pen on paper, one Red Oak senior not only defied the odds; he inspired a group quite a few years his elder. That February signature also made a commitment to much more than a university.
It was his promise to himself and a community to not become another statistic of circumstance, at least not a negative one.
You see, Swinton Jackson has never had a bad day. At least not that any of his Red Oak High School teammates and family can remember. Yet, he's certainly had every reason to. After all, immigrant children that age out of the foster care system are not supposed to graduate high school, let alone bond a community.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were over 400,000 children in the foster care system in 2018. Approximately 23,000 of those young people "aged out" following their 18th birthday.
Both statistics apply to Swinton.
Research also shows that 1-in-5 of those who age out of the system will become homeless after the age of 18. Only one-half of the 23,000 will be employed by the age of 24, while one-quarter will graduate high school and fewer than 3 percent will earn a collegiate degree.
Male foster children are also 4-times more likely to commit a crime, according to HSS, while former foster youth are 7-time more likely to develop a drug dependence. These numbers increase for immigrant children.
But not Swinton. He is destined to be much more than a statistic.
On the football field, Jackson captained a Red Oak defense the limited opponents to fewer than 11 points per game and a 9-2 record. The defensive end recorded eight sacks, 15 quarterback pressures and five tackles for loss.
The win total was the most for the Hawks since 2012, which two years after Jackson immigrated to the U.S. from Liberia while in the third grade.
Shortly after returning to American soil, where he had first visited as a toddler, Jackson was placed in the foster care system.
He, like many, bounced around a couple of homes in the DFW area, eventually finding a longer-term living situation in Red Oak in 2013.
It was a house, but far from a home.
Swinton was often put in a position to provide for his foster 9 brothers and sisters, all on top of his athletic, scholastic and choral duties. The situation led Swinton to defeat his first foster-care statistic in April 2017.
As a junior in high school, Swinton landed a job at the Red Oak Chick-fil-A. He was soon juggling fatherly responsibilities at home, juggling coursework at school and leading an entire football team, all without a mode of transportation.
The job also connected Swinton with Jeff Trojacek, a former football and baseball coach who is also quite familiar with the foster care system.
Then, just as Swinton began to flourish on the football field and in the classroom as a senior at Red Oak High School, his world was once again turned on its axis. It was only a couple weeks prior to his 18th birthday when Jackson's foster mother told him he could no longer live in her home. He had aged out.
Swinton turned 18 on November 10, 2018. The Hawks had defeated Seagoville 63-0 the day prior. It was a Saturday and Swinton should've been focused solely on his first taste of the postseason six days later.
Instead, he was once again without a family or home.
He found that home, a real one this time, with the Medels one week later. Swinton and Angel Medel had been practically inseparable since the third grade, playing the same sports and sharing a love for choir.
Three months late, Swinton defied another odd by signing a national letter of intent on Feb. 6 to continue his football career at West Texas A&M University.
His walk across the graduation stage a few weeks ago was the icing. For now, at least.