By Stephanie Dolan
Overcoming adversity. It’s something we’ve all had to do at one point or another. Typically, adversity strikes in adulthood with bills, illness or the loss of a job. Sometimes, though, younger people are stricken with adversity far too soon in life. Thankfully, the Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis recognizes that some young people require a helping hand. On Feb. 8, they celebrated some of these young people at the 44th annual Abe Lincoln Scholarship Awards Program. The Abe Lincoln award is given to a high school senior who has overcome adversity in his or her life.
The recipient of the $16,000 first prize was Perry Meridian High School senior Jordyn Sloan. Sloan has experienced hardship in her young life, dealing with episodes of homelessness after losing her father at the age of 7 to a car accident and her mother to drugs.
“Her nomination was a group effort,” Perry Meridian guidance counselor Rebecca Shull said. “Her name was at the top of the list because we knew the kinds of things she was up against, and we thought she would be the most appropriate candidate for that scholarship. She’s really deserving, considering all the obstacles she’s had to overcome in order to get here, to graduate and go on to the next level. I’m super proud of her.”
“I think when I was nominated, I didn’t realize how big a deal it actually was,” Sloan, 18, said. “I didn’t even realize there was an interviewing process or a banquet. I just thought it was a run of the mill kind of scholarship where you send in your application and hope for the best. I went in for a preliminary interview with the scholarship committee. At the interview, I met other candidates for the scholarship, and it made me feel really honored and humbled because there were a lot of people with really diverse stories. I sort of felt like I wasn’t deserving to even be nominated because the people I was surrounded by were so incredible. I think any nominee could have received that scholarship and deserved it.”
Sloan attended the awards banquet with her brother Shaun, and her two English teachers, Jacqui Sheehan and Jessica Hunter.
“It was only right to bring them because of all they’ve done for me,” Sloan said.
“It’s amazing,” Sheehan said. “A lot of people keep saying ‘congratulations on your work with Jordyn!’ I didn’t really do anything. She already possessed the tenacity to work through her struggles, but I got to be a part of the story and that makes me pretty happy.”
“Sheehan and I have had all the Sloans in class, and what’s amazing with each one of them is their ability to be so resilient but yet in very different ways,” Hunter said. “It’s been a beautiful journey to watch the young woman that she’s become. She’s handled adversity with decorum at times when she could have thrown in the towel again and again. She always manages to be humble and sincere and genuine and she’s going to make a heck of a teacher. I can’t wait for her to come back into this township and hopefully into this building.”
Sloan, a part-time counter girl at Chicago’s Pizza, will attend Indiana University in the fall. She’ll work all summer before going to Bloomington to join her sister Jayla on campus.
“Before my sister left for college, we shared a room our entire lives,” she said. “She’s always been my best friend. Before I felt what it was like not to have her with me all the time, I was set on going to Franklin College. Once she went away to college I was having a hard time dealing with it, and I think that had a big influence in changing my mind and going to IU. I think I’m my best self when I’m with my sister. We’re a team. It’s a huge part of why I want to go to IU. It’s a great school, and I like the campus but that’s the biggest factor.”
Plans for teaching
Sloan took a journalism class her sophomore year and is now an entertainment writer for the school paper. She will be majoring in secondary education and English with a minor in journalism.
“I can’t remember a time when English wasn’t my favorite class,” she said. “I took journalism my sophomore year. I liked it, but I decided that I wasn’t going to join the newspaper. I didn’t do it my junior year, but I did my senior year. My main goal is to be an English teacher. Once I get into college and once I start pursuing journalism a little bit more, I”ll see where that takes me. Right now, the plan is to be a teacher.”
Sloan said that journalism class was a completely different angle on an English class.
“It was a different world of words,” she said.
“I think it’s such a great feeling as the leader of a building to have students amongst us who represent us so well – not only in our school, but in our community,” Perry Meridian principal Kert Beodicker said. “And in Jordyn’s case, her family. It’s really enlightening and humbling to know that I have such an outstanding student walking in our hallways every single day and I have the ability to be connected with her. She’s a great representation of Perry Meridian High School and what we believe in.”
“I feel very blessed to have been able to attend this high school,” Sloan said. “It’s opened up my perspective in different ways. I love being able to see the different cultures and all the people who’ve come from different parts of the world. Opening my perspective to others is something I try every day to do. Being a student at Perry has made it so much easier and more accessible to do that and to understand people. If I’ve gained anything from high school it’s valuing other people’s backgrounds – valuing people no matter where they’re from and no matter what they think.”
Sloan expressed her gratitude for her recent blessings.
“I’ve expressed my gratitude a lot, but you can never do it enough,” she said. “I’m endlessly grateful for Perry and Mrs. Sheehan and Mrs. Hunter and the people at the Abe Lincoln scholarship. It’s nice to know you have people in your corner, and it’s important to recognize your blessings.”
5 questions with Jordyn Sloan
Who or what most inspires you? I think that a person who inspires me is my dad. I always say that even though I only had seven years with him, he showed me the kind of love and loyalty and devotion that every child should feel. If it wasn’t for him showing me that in that seven years, I don’t know if I ever would have felt that or had the opportunity to grow into the person that I am. I feel like that’s really done a lot for me even if I don’t realize it most of the time. No matter what situation we were in, he never failed to make me feel loved. He taught me there’s never a wrong time to show somebody you care about them or value their presence.
What’s your favorite book? That’s a hard one! I think it’s probably Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I read it during a particularly difficult time in my life during my sophomore year. I feel like I read it at the right time in my life and that left an impression on me.
What are you currently reading? The book I’m reading now is actually a biography, which is strange because I very rarely read non-fiction. The book I’m reading now is a biography on John F. Kennedy. I’ve read one before. I’m reading a different one now for some reason. I find his presidency really fascinating.
Who’s your favorite president? The top three would probably be Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. But my favorite is probably John F. Kennedy. I think in addition to his policies and what he did for the government, culturally, he was such an icon. I find it fascinating how it all weaves together.
What’s your favorite hobby? Reading and writing. I think my love for writing is borne from reading other people’s writing.