Leaving The Cones Behind

Students and faculty discuss the impact of Security Guard Sanders Jackson on the school community in preparation for his retirement.

James Hess

Security Guard Sanders Jackson, known mononymously as “Jackson” by students and faculty, will retire after 36 years at the school. In his time at the Upper School, he became known for his booming voice, energy at work and tough but loving attitude, according to an article by HW Life Magazine.

As guard of the North Gate, Jackson interacts with nearly every single community member across the school and is responsible for pick up and drop off, cargo unloading and the checking in and out of students who leave campus.

Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Jackson graduated from Tallulah High School in 1974, where he was one of the few Black students in a majority-white area after being bussed in through the state’s desegregation program. He later moved to East Los Angeles to work as a security guard at Ralphs. In 1995, a friend encouraged him to apply for the open position at the Upper School, and he has remained there ever since, serving first with other guards at the South Gate before moving to the one-person kiosk by the track. 

For his entire career, Jackson has lived roughly two hours away from the Upper School, a commute which he said makes him appreciate the time he has on campus once he gets there.

“I always tell myself that if I spend so much time getting here, then I have to do the best job possible when I do get here,” Jackson said. “That goes for any of my work.”

Talking about his time at South Gate, where the Senior Lot is located, Jackson said he remembers the poor parking done by students.

“Of course, probably the main [duty] of the [South Gate guards] is to deal with kids and parking,” Jackson said. “I keep photos in my phone of the worst [parking jobs] I’ve seen, and there’s been some bad ones. There’s been cars with trash cans under them, which means they had to go through the curb, then the can, and then over the can.”


Video by Billy Montgomery

After moving to North Gate in 2003, Jackson said he appreciates the different tasks, fast-paced action and good location of the job, especially its proximity to athletics.

“You’ve got the deliveries, parents and other people, so I think there’s a little bit more going on,” Jackson said. “Being over on this side until 7 p.m., I’m just about the last guy to leave. I get to watch every football practice, and of course we all love Friday night football games.”

In the first few years of his career, Jackson said only seniors tended to leave campus during free periods, lunch breaks or extracurricular activities, a tradition which has grown to include sophomores and juniors when they’re finished for the day. Upon noticing this change, Jackson instituted the “Cone Zone” in 2008, a section of road on the North Entrance he lines each morning to ensure the safety of students who come in and out of school. Jackson said the zone is designed to minimize the collisions between pedestrians and drivers.

“I really think that it’s saved a couple of lives, the way kids like to run out onto the road and the way other kids like to drive,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen a lot come and go. You’ve always got new parents, new students, and you don’t know what they’ll do. I’m glad [The Cone Zone] is something that’s stayed.”

Cross Country and Track and Field Athlete Chris Weng ’24 said he finds comfort in the Cone Zone’s safety as well as Jackson’s general demeanor.

“Thanks to Jackson and the Cone Zone, I’m still here and kicking, able to run outside of school without fear of being hit at the very beginning,” Weng said. “Every time I leave campus, Jackson makes my day. He’s a really nice guy. I genuinely love him.”

Jackson, who lettered in both football and basketball in high school, said sports have always been important to him. He said he feels fortunate to have a job where watching athletic teams play is not only possible but required.

“I’ve always been crazy about [sports], especially the more exciting ones and the ones I played myself,” Jackson said. “Getting to work and watch teams play is the best of both worlds, and it’s what I like most about [the school].”

For Jackson, the biggest athletic event of the year is also his busiest. At Homecoming, the school’s community-wide festival in October, Jackson arrives early in the morning and leaves late at night, which he says is both challenging and rewarding.

“It’s an eighteen-hour day,” Jackson said. “[I have to] be here early for the SAT in the morning, Homecoming starts at 1 p.m., and the football game is over at 10 p.m. I’ve always enjoyed the whole thing, though, with the In-N-Out truck and watching kids from all over the school have fun with their families.”

One of Jackson’s proudest career moments also involved school sports. In 2005, his son Wendall, then at Pasadena’s John Muir High School, played Harvard-Westlake in a CIF playoff basketball game. Jackson’s loyalties were split, and not knowing which team to root for, he said he looked beyond the sport to appreciate the greater meaning of the event.

“I remember being so nervous walking into the gym and thinking if I should cheer for the players I know from Harvard-Westlake or my own kid,” Jackson said. “In the end, I decided that I would win no matter what the scoreboard said, [even though Harvard-Westlake won the game].”

Football and Track and Field athlete Jesse Goldman ’23 said Jackson’s energetic personality inspires him whenever he practices or plays for either sport.

“Even if we don’t talk that day, he’s always right by me with a joke or word of encouragement,” Goldman said. “I’m usually right by him in the shot put circle, so there’s interaction between us that helps me work harder.”

Like Goldman, East Valley Bus Driver Wilfred Sanchez, who speaks with Jackson every morning while dropping off students, said he appreciates the seriousness with which Jackson handles his job.

“[Jackson is] never afraid to yell at you if he thinks what you’re doing is unsafe for anyone,” Sanchez said. “He’s the only one at that spot where we drop off students, so it’s important to have someone with that kind of attitude when we’re doing things like parking in tight spaces. He’s great at his job, and we’re lucky to have someone like him.”