As a new student at her high school, UMW freshman Destiny Jordan was relieved to be first on the bus. She held her breath and hoped she’d be the last to get off that afternoon. She wasn’t.
“I was a little embarrassed at first,” said Jordan, whose family lives in a Stafford County hotel. “After a while, I just didn’t care.”
Tonight on WUSA 9 News at 11, she’ll give a glimpse of her past, growing up without a permanent address. The two-part “impact” segment concludes tomorrow and features fellow UMW freshman Jenifer Bailon, plus a heartwarming surprise. It showcases Stafford Junction, the nonprofit that provided the tutoring, transportation and application-process help that put these two women on track toward college and led them to Mary Washington.
“Jenifer and Destiny were wonderful interviews,” said WUSA9 Executive Producer Sarah Gahagan. “It was clear both young ladies were committed not only to their studies but also to giving back to their communities.”
These days, the two, who met in middle school, share a cozy Marshall Hall room on the far side of campus, with twinkling string lights and “welcome home” posters pinned to the wall. They found Stafford Junction at different points in their lives – Bailon was in first grade; Jordan, halfway through high school.
The faith-based organization helps at-risk youth and their families, providing nutritional support, transportation to appointments and activities, tutoring (often by UMW students) and more. For Jordan and Bailon, it also pointed the way toward higher education, something these women, both first-generation college students, might not have found on their own.
They each liked Mary Washington’s small size and high teacher-to-student ratio. They each secured scholarships and financial aid, but they also hold student loans and despite their best efforts – Jordan works two jobs – struggle to pay for books and supplies.
Still, they acknowledge how far they’ve come.
Hotel life was depressing and stressful, said Jordan, the oldest of seven. “My strength is my brothers. I want to get them out of there,” she said. “I want to provide for my kids the best I can when I’m older so they won’t go through the same things I have.”
Bailon completed UMW’s Student Transition Program, which supports freshmen through that first fretful year. She volunteers with Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters and is thinking of majoring in Spanish.
A member of UMW’s Step Team and Women of Color student association, Jordan is also an Orientation leader and peer mentor. She plans to major in psychology and possibly minor in social justice, on her way toward a career in forensic psychology, counseling or social work.
“Smiling makes a difference,” she said. “I look for the positive and think, ‘life could always be worse.’ That’s what I want to teach others.”
WUSA 9’s Impact Team, which works to affect positive change, partnered with Sheehy Toyota of Fredericksburg and The Invisible Hand Foundation to fund a donation that would significantly impact Stafford Junction and its mission. View a trailer from tonight’s show or visit WUSA 9.