Jessie Britt shares his outlook on life, his career, and his community throughout his 20-year career working in children’s mental and behavioral health.
Originally from Gates County, North Carolina, Jessie Britt has lived a life that not many have imagined in a rural farm town. He has played in the NFL, worked on the streets as a police officer, been a teacher within Charlotte Mecklenburg School System, launched his own church, ran a nonprofit with fellow current/former NFL players, and mentored young players through college and professional scouting for football. But through all of these accomplishments, Britt’s most rewarding moments have been making an impact on youth and his time at Alexander Youth Network.
“It has nothing to do with money… for me, the reward is seeing a kid’s face light up when they realize they can accomplish something they never thought possible.”
Britt attributes much of his personal inspiration and success to his heavy involvement in sports growing up. The mentorship he had from coaches and the leadership skills he gained helped him carve his own career path. After a career-ending injury during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers and having to decide “What is next?” he thought of the positive connections he had made through sports and mentorship. One of the most important relationships was the one with his uncle, Clifton Britt. Much of Jessie’s own life journey followed in the footsteps of his uncle, including football and working in the police force. Because of this relationship, Britt knew how important it is to have someone invest in your future. From there, his journey in life was to do what he could to help mentor and inspire others.
While he spent a few years as a police officer, a majority of Britt’s post-NFL life revolved around mentoring youth. He worked in the school system as an exceptional children teacher, coached high school football, and was heavily involved with the Special Olympics. All of these roles have given him a unique perspective on what kids face living in marginalized communities or with mental/behavioral health challenges. For many of the kids at Alexander, it is both.
“Love people through their issues.”
This is one of Jessie’s most important life mottos. He brings this into his work at Alexander, in coaching, and in his ministry. He says you never know the full story of what people are going through. Being there for them as a support system as well as a source of encouragement may have a greater impact than you realize. In his time at Alexander, Britt’s favorite memory was when he was managing a 10-week career readiness/ life skills program for teens. At the end of the program, he hosted a mock career fair for the youth to test their interviewing skills and dress up in their business clothes. He was able to see his kids apply all they had learned and a few of the kids in his program were hired on the spot.
“Oh god, I was emotional. Some of the kids came up to me afterward saying that they never thought they would be ready for the day let alone get a job at the end of it.”
Being a positive connection and making a lasting impact has been the purpose of Britt’s career. He knows the encouraging relationships he builds with students and youth play an enormous role in their successful futures. It is about sharing conversations, mentorship, and encouragement along the way to find their right path.
Jessie started his career with Alexander at Mell Burton Day Treatment (formerly Youth Focus). Over the years, he was worked as a teacher, program manager, mentor, and now a coach for our Therapeutic Foster Care program. In his latest role, he is finding his experience as a police offer, and as a teacher within the district, the system has helped him understand the challenges of both treatment parents and the kids in the program. For him, his biggest role in keeping kids safe and finding ways to make that family’s experience a positive one for the kids while they are in treatment. Though the time they may have together is short, those few months can still make a positive impact on a child’s life. But most importantly, everyone has a chance to make an impact on other’s lives.
“Life is about doing your best when no one is watching.”
Jessie Britt lives in Greensboro with his wife. Together they are the parents of three grown children and oversee their own ministry, Follow Christ Fellowship Church. Britt is always on the move finding new ways to get involved in the community, including running a mentorship program for youth and acting as a high school football coach for over 30 years. Now retired from coaching he hopes to start traveling again with his wife and watch the game from the sidelines (when safe again).
Written by Emily Gordon.