Advice to My Younger Self: Lauren Jordan, Social Impact Educator

January 2019

Lauren Jordan, ’11, works in Washington, D.C., at LearnServe International, a nonprofit that equips high school students from diverse backgrounds with entrepreneurial and leadership skills to tackle social challenges. Lauren’s role is to help more students create social impact programs by integrating LearnServe’s curriculum directly into high schools. A native of Southfield, Michigan, Lauren recently shared how her experiences at U-M helped shape her work with youth.

Do it all. My time at U-M encapsulates my life. You can never do too much. I was on the multicultural council, the Mary Markley Hall Council, and was part of a peer-education group called Sexperteam. Even now, I do extracurricular activities. I am learning Korean as well as Spanish, co-founded a book club, and am part of an improv group.

Set goals. I wanted to graduate early from U-M to help my parents, who were paying for my education. I finished in three years. It was one of the best decisions I made, though I worried I would miss the fun of senior year. Eight years later, I still have beautiful relationships with the same people. I’m happy I decided to be financially responsible.

Change your mind. Though I majored in sociology, I planned to go to law school. It wasn’t until I read “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paolo Freire my last year at U-M that I realized I wanted to be an educator. After I graduated, I served in San Jose, California, with City Year, working in an elementary school. Though we were in wealthy Silicon Valley, the public school kids had zero tech stuff. I saw the stark segregation living in a place where many 3-year-olds had iPads. I then decided to get a master’s in higher education.

Travel abroad. Right after I graduated, I went on a service-learning trip to Nicaragua through U-M. It prompted my taste for travel. I studied abroad in Argentina during my time at NYU, and after receiving my master’s, I took an internship with Ashinaga, a nonprofit in Japan that provides access to higher education and mentorship to students who have lost their parents. Afterward, I traveled around Asia and Europe for a year.

Give back. Growing up, I volunteered with my church and fed the homeless. It was important to my family, particularly as my mother and grandfather are veterans. I moved back to Michigan after my year of traveling when my grandmother was ill. I then became involved in the Detroit branch of BYP 100 (Black Youth Project). When my grandmother got better, I saw the job at LearnServe. I had only been to D.C. for one day (on Obama’s inauguration), but as an experiential learner, I knew it would be interesting. Now, I build volunteer programs, recruit and train teachers, and every summer take 10 to 15 kids abroad to Paraguay. I am involved in the social causes I care about.

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