Jordan Carroll is tough. Tough enough to move out of her home at age 16 and make it on her own. Tough enough to skip meals to pay bills. And tough enough to stay positive throughout it all.
While many of her peers work summer jobs to save for college, scrimp for a special trip or pinch pennies for those designer jeans they’ve been eyeing, this Outward Bound Leadership Scholar works year-round just to pay for the basic necessities: food, lodging, clothing and transportation. And although Jordan, with her effusive personality, wide-open smile and sparkling blue eyes, may look much like her peers in Fort Meyers, Fla. (where she attends a prestigious prep. school on a full scholarship), Jordan’s life experiences thus far are quite different from those of her classmates.
Last spring, Jordan was thrust into the world of adulthood when her father lost his business and, as a result, the family’s home went into foreclosure. What had once been a safe haven became a toxic environment. And almost overnight Jordan went from a naive teenager who expected a house over her head, cabinets stocked with food, daily showers and money for weekend activities to a savvy, self-sufficient young woman. Jordan finished her last month of school, packed up her car and headed to nearby Sanibel Island, where she scrambled to find work– a tall order, given the state of the economy.
“Everyone was looking for the single parent who got laid off, who has work experience and who has earned a degree,” Jordan recounts. “Seriously, how does a high school student compete?”
Jordan finally did land a job at a local ice cream shop and found a family who welcomed her into their home, but the first few months on her own were tough.
“The money was going out so fast,” Jordan remembers. “I was skipping meals to pay bills. I learned to never buy pre-made food. I could buy peanut butter, jelly and bread for cheaper than a sub from 7-11 and keep it in my trunk. I learned to appreciate everything more; I was happy doing less, or for less.”
After an entire summer supporting herself, Jordan returned to school with renewed independence, motivation and optimism. “So long as I believe in myself enough,” Jordan says, “I will achieve whatever it is that I want.”
Jordan does not let obstacles drag her down; in fact, she is thankful for them. She feels fortunate to have a father who cares about her – even if she cannot be under the same roof as him now. She looks back at the times when she ate P.B.J’s from the back of her car as learning experiences – even if they felt demoralizing at the time.
“I focus on maintaining a stable life, emotionally and financially,” she says. “I am trying to make the best with what I have by not allowing the awful things in my life to prevent me from appreciating the many beautiful things I do have.”
This summer, more than a year after her sudden entrance into the working world and subsequent navigation of uncertain waters, Jordan will embark on a different kind of adventure. An Outward Bound adventure.
As one of four Outward Bound Leadership Scholars, Jordan was given the chance to go on almost any Outward Bound USA expedition. Eager to explore her love of environmental studies and outdoor leadership, Jordan chose an Alaska Sea Kayaking and Mountain Expedition starting in July. Ever since school let out Jordan has been running her heart out to train for Alaska’s high-altitude air in addition to working doubles to earn money for the gear she’ll need.
Jordan is excited to take this trip, which she hopes will teach her patience and show her how to better deal with stress. She also wants to push herself to trust other people.
“I’ve taken care of myself since day one,” Jordan explains. “I’m not used to people telling me ‘trust me, I know what to do.’ It will be hard to let go.”
Jordan sets off on her journey July 1. She will encounter challenges along the way, but there’s no doubt she will emerge from the experience an even stronger, more self-aware individual than she already is.
We wish her the best. And we know that in the weeks to come she’ll enjoy plenty of delicious peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches in the fresh Alaskan sunlight.
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