No family. No home. Very little money. What would you do if you faced such adversity in life? Some people might give up, blame the world, or turn to drugs, alcohol, or gang life. But not Jordan Bryant who was exactly in that predicament as a teenager. Today, he’s preparing to graduate from college, pursue an MBA, and continue helping everyone around him.
The 24-year-old senior at Santa Clara University says people have two choices when it comes to misfortune.
"You can believe that your past dictates your future, shut down, fail yourself, and fail others around you. Or you can learn from it, strengthen yourself, and help others who might be in similar situations, and show them that they can achieve something greater," he says.
Bryant chose to succeed. He has a 3.61 GPA and is in the Political Science Honor Society and taking an honors thesis writing class. Outside of class, he works for Rights of Passage Program, which mentors African-American high school students, volunteers at the Sacred Heart Community Center, and helps the elderly in the area.
Bryant sounds like the perfect student with the perfect family encouraging him and supporting him throughout his childhood. However, the only ones in his life and who will be attending his commencement in June are his mentors and employers.
His mother passed away in 2001 from ovarian cancer when he was 14 years old. His father has not been a part of his life, and his half-brother, who is 8 years older than him, didn't want to help him, which forced Bryant to move in with his grandmother whose health was also failing. The death of his mother and his grandmother's illness took a toll on Bryant, causing him to flunk out of Bellarmine High School and later drop out of Santa Clara High School. He ended up at New Valley Continuation High School, where he realized that he needed to refocus on his responsibilities.
Bryant began concentrating on his college career at De Anza, while working full-time at Visger Precision in Santa Clara and caring for his grandmother. She passed away in 2006 during Bryant's junior year. And just when he thought his life couldn’t get any worse, Bryant discovered that he wasn’t allowed to live in his grandmother's section 8 housing anymore, because his grandmother’s name was the only one registered and not Bryant’s.
“I was told that I needed to apply for section 8 housing, but until I was approved, I had to move out. Where was I going to go? Live in my car?” he says.
Fortunately, one of his friends told his parents, who allowed Bryant to temporarily live with them until his application was approved. Today, he thanks them for their help and for being his mentors. He says he looks up to them and views them as his own parents.
While at Visger, Bryant worked his way up from the shop floor, where he worked in shipping and receiving, to bookkeeping, handling financial statements, and accounting. His boss encouraged him to achieve his dreams of attending SCU and told Bryant he could work part-time.
After he was accepted to SCU, he realized he didn't have enough money to pay for tuition. But he didn’t give up. He jumped online to gather information about applying for financial aid and scholarships and managed to put together enough money and not take out any loans.
Bryant was also able to get out of section 8 housing just two months ago and rent a room in a house in San Jose.
After everything he’s been through, Bryant firmly believes that nothing can stop him from accomplishing his life-long dream of starting his own business and creating an endowment fund that would help other students to attend college.
“My mother taught me that I can be whatever I want to be. I can choose if I want to fail or if I want to succeed. I chose to succeed. Those were some powerful words she ingrained in me, and I want to spread that message to other people.”
Connie Kim Coutain | email@example.com | 408-554-5126 office | 408-829-4836 cell