"He taught me what it is to be a man," the 19-year-old says of his father, the late icon

By Jeff Nelson Reagan Alexander
December 16, 2016 12:17 PM

Michael Jackson‘s son is thrilled to be carrying on the late icon’s legacy.

On Thursday night, Prince Michael (born Michael Joseph Jackson Jr.) and Heal LA — the student organization for volunteering he works with at Loyala Marymount University, where he’s a sophomore — hosted their first annual Christmas Celebration at the Boys & Girls Club, Los Angeles Harbor.

Now 19, the legendary musician’s son opened up about how his father influenced the man he’s become, and also inspired his philanthropic pursuits.

“He taught me what it is to be a man; he showed me what it is to be a father,” Jackson tells PEOPLE of his dad. “For me, [I want] to pass that on to my kids, or to help someone else who has kids. My cousin TJ [Jackson]’s kids, I treat them as if they were my kids. I have fun with them, I love watching them. That being said, I do hype them up, and they do get wild around me, but I think that would probably be the way to continue the teachings.”

As for his own passion for giving back, “That is something that my dad always did, and he instilled that in me and my siblings to keep doing it,” Jackson says. “I think it’s just the way that I was raised, honestly.”

Indeed, Jackson remembers the impact his father had on others and the joy he shared.

“I do have a memory: He had taken us to a hospital for children, and I remember that they were very sick. But when he walked into the room it lit up. All of the kids got happy.”

As for the new campus organization’s roots, Jackson says it came together organically—with a serendipitous touch of his father.

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“I met the president [of Heal LA], and he said that he was a big fan of my dad; that my dad had inspired him to pursue a career in nonprofits and that he wanted to get started with a program, a service organization, on the Loyola Marymount campus. It would be called ‘Heal LA’ inspired by [the Jackson song] ‘Heal the World.’ Because one of my dad’s main focuses was children and hunger — and homelessness was another big thing — we decided to focus on that. But because we are only based in L.A., we decided that we were going to call it ‘Heal LA’ in the hopes that we could start a ripple that could spread.”

Adds Jackson: “The more I do stuff like this, the more I realize how much of me it is, how big a part of me it is.”

Jackson’s father died of cardiac arrest on June 25, 2009, leaving behind Prince Michael and his siblings, sister Paris Jackson, 18, and Prince Michael “Blanket” Jackson II, 14.

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