Newberry High School graduate Alayna Jackson remembers her days volunteering at Dudley Farm Historic State park fondly.
“My grandma would take me there as a little girl, and the two of us became volunteers,” Jackson said. “This is where my love for history began.”
Jackson has now combined her love of history with her career as a planner and joined the City of Newberry planning department and her new office is in the Little Red School house adjacent to her alma mater.
The two-story red brick building where Jackson works was built in 1909 and used as a K-12 school until 1930 and then as an elementary school until 1975 when the current Newberry Elementary School was built.
The city introduced Jackson to the Newberry Commission and the public last week at the Nov. 8 regular commission meeting.
Jackson told the commission that she attended all three Newberry schools from K-12 and is a “double Gator.”
Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe spoke of Jackson’s time volunteering at Dudley Farm and said, “We’re going to be using that historic preservation degree to help save the Perkins House. She doesn’t know that yet.”
Jackson explained why she received her education at the University of Florida.
“I also always knew I would be a Gator,” she said. “At UF I chose to study anthropology because it was an intersection of my interests—people, culture, and history.
“I was drawn toward historic preservation and ultimately planning because it is a field that can make a difference in people’s lives.”
Jackson started her position on Monday.
“My title is planner,” she said, adding that, “My current responsibility is to assist the two senior planners with my specific responsibilities evolving as I gain skills and experience.”
Jordan, who is also a Newberry High School history teacher, noted Jackson was one of the highest performing students he’s ever taught.
“Alayna Jackson’s specialization in historic preservation will make her an asset to the community,” Marlowe said. “Not only will she be able to help us move into the future, but she will also help us hold on to our past. We are excited to have her on our team.”
Jackson said she will utilize her master’s degree in Historic Preservation as Newberry continues to grow and change.
“Like urban planning, it’s about managing change,” she said. “Change is inevitable, but the aim is to guide that change for the betterment of the future of the community and, in the case of historic preservation, for the preservation of cultural resources.”
After graduating from NHS, Jackson said she moved to Gainesville for her studies and studied abroad for two months in Ethiopia for an archaeological dig in 2018. This past summer, she completed a summer internship in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and then returned to settle down in Gainesville.
“One of my favorite aspects about the city is the people that live here,” Jackson said about working in Newberry.
“There is a friendliness and a sense of community that I have not experienced elsewhere. I hope to help continue to make Newberry be as great of a place to grow up in as it was for me.”