There are two societal myths that a conversation with Jordan Garland dismisses. First, that young people today are more self-centered and socially disconnected than generations past; and secondly, that girls who win beauty pageants are shallow and, well . . . not very smart.
Jordan and her family moved from Indianapolis to Midland in 1999, as a fifth grader. In grade school and then in high school at Midland High, Jordan played sports, was involved in a great deal of volunteer work and decided in 2005 to enter the world of pageants. She loved her basketball experience (especially her 7th and 8th grade teams), the time she devoted to community service and competing in beauty pageants. In 2005, she won the first of her pageants, Miss Midland Teen USA. In 2006, she was a semi-finalist in the Miss Michigan Teen USA contest and again repeated Miss Midland Teen USA in 2006, followed by her first-runner-up position in Miss Michigan Teen USA 2007.
Of her pageant experiences, Jordan is quick to reject the common biases surrounding beauty pageants – that they are outdated and only “skin deep.” “I was surrounded by young women who have big dreams, and I learned a great deal about interviewing skills and gaining confidence.” Jordan adds that her pageant participation was never about winning a crown.
Instead, it was and is about gaining a voice, a voice for Jordan that is meant to speak for breast cancer awareness. Her mom was only 32 when cancer was discovered; Jordan’s grandmother received a similar diagnosis. Though both are now fully recovered, the experience generated in Jordan a need, and an added sense of urgency, to make women aware of the importance of breast examinations for early cancer detection.
When Jordan arrived at SVSU in 2007, she was sure of two things. She wanted to be a teacher, and she wanted to live on campus so that she could have a more well-rounded university experience. She was accepted into the Living Leadership Program, a residential program for 40 select freshmen who develop leadership skills, live and network with “like-minded” students who are highly engaged in community service.
There she met secondary education / theatre / communication major who told her he didn’t “picture someone like you in a program like this.” Of course, Jeff was wrong. Not only was the program right for Jordan as a freshman, but she now serves as a mentor for the Living Leadership Program; she has forgiven Jeff his stereotypical first impressions and now considers him one of her dear friends.
Jordan has taken advantage of the many opportunities SVSU students have to be fully involved in volunteerism on campus, and in the larger community. She participated in a Veterans Affairs Break and an Urban Affairs Alternative Break trip to her hometown of Indianapolis. The experience was particularly impactful as Jordan notes, “This (poverty) is in a place I loved and grew up in; this happens here, and I wasn’t aware of it.”
She has changed her major from elementary education to management. She hopes to form her own non-profit organization with the goal to raise awareness of and money for breast cancer detection and research; possibly focusing on women in poverty by creating opportunities for them to have regular access to mammograms and early cancer detection.