Starting from a young age, Russell Acklin has been called upon to step up and lead both in family and peer settings. While he may not have always felt ready – and perhaps at times a little uncomfortable, Acklin never let that stop him from showing up as a consistent example both on the court and in the community.

Acklin grew up at Edgehill Apartments. Raised most of his life by a single mother, Acklin learned from an early age the importance of having a team of peers as a support system to navigate the challenges of life. Before long, he assumed a leadership role in his family and amongst his friends – a position he initially felt some reluctance towards.

When I was 13 years old, my mom told me I needed to step up because I was the man of the house. I realized that I have to live my life by example because someone is always watching to see if I’m doing what’s right.

Russel Acklin

As he continued through high school, Acklin came to be known as a talking encyclopedia – his peers would often call on him for answers to questions that he had recently researched in books and magazines.

“I was the fact checker of our group,” Acklin said. “I knew I had to use my brain for something positive like furthering my education.”

Acklin graduated from Fisk University with a degree in sociology and continued his education to earn his master’s degree from Morgan State University. He returned to Nashville where he got his first job coaching middle school basketball at University School of Nashville (USN). Just a short walk from the school was Acklin’s childhood home at Edgehill Apartments.

“To go from living at Edgehill Apartments to being a coach at USN was a blessing to me,” Acklin said. “It was a true full-circle moment.”

Today, Acklin is a COVID-19 vaccination coordinator at Meharry Medical College who has been integral in organizing and executing vaccination clinics throughout Middle Tennessee, including on MDHA properties. In addition, he continues to support budding athletes as the assistant head coach for the men’s basketball team at Fisk University.

For others pursuing success, Acklin encourages them to continue their education and not give up when times seem difficult.

“Be prepared to get your hands dirty and work hard,” he said. “Be okay with being uncomfortable and be consistent, because that’s how you grow.”