Triplets carve out their own paths in college and fraternity life
When Sedrick, Spencer and Sterling Jackson graduated from Peoria High School in 2011, they knew exactly where they were going.
The Jackson triplets were headed to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where Sedrick planned to major in mechanical engineering, Spencer planned a course that would lead to becoming a sports agent, and Sterling planned to study civil engineering.
They graduated from SIU in December. They were among the top in their graduating class in college as they were in high school. (Sterling was a co-valedictorian at Peoria High.)
Except for one change, they’re following the plans they laid out in high school.
The triplets were in Peoria last week, one of the last times they were together before going in separate directions.
Sedrick, the stylish one, according to his brothers, left Saturday for Rockford, where he begins work as an associate electrical engineer at UTC Aerospace Systems. He’s the one who made the biggest career-changing decision in college — switching from mechanical to electrical engineering.
Spencer, who all three agree is the quiet one, will return to SIU for law school, another step in his plan to become a sports agent after graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in sports administration.
Sterling, the most outgoing of the three, graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a minor in math. He leaves later this month for Akron, Ohio, where he’ll work as a transportation engineer for G. Stephens Inc.
“This will be the first time we have to plan to see each other,” Sterling says of life after college.
But, they say, college prepared them to take the next step.
“College helped set us apart from each other,” says Spencer, who was on SIU’s track team all four years. “In track, people didn’t know me as a triplet, they knew me as Spencer.
People knew his brother Sterling, he says, as a civil engineering major and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. They knew Sedrick as an electrical engineering major and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
Influenced by an older sister who was already an engineer and parents who had guided them to engineering summer camps and programs since middle school, the triplets always knew where they were going. But it wasn’t clear where Peoria High was going during their high school years.
The high school underwent substantial changes, courtesy of a $6 million federal grant designed to turn around failing schools, shortly after they graduated in 2011.
In spite of the school’s failing status, the Jacksons found they were prepared for college — academically and socially — once they got to SIU.
All three say they were surprised to discover how ill-prepared some students were, particularly in math.
“High school prepares you for the skills you didn’t know you’d need, like social skills and basic math,” Sedrick says. “It’s crazy how much basic math you need in engineering.”
With one set of goals accomplished, they’re looking at the next, both short- and long-term.
Sedrick wants to own his own business one day. On his way to becoming a sports agent, Spencer is looking forward to taking the universal bar exam, which would make him eligible to practice law in several states at once. Sterling wants to work in government, possibly as a city engineer, possibly politics.