TSCS 2018 Valedictorian Jordan Harding not only attended school at The Soulsville Charter School, but she is also working her way through college as a guest services representative at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music on the same Soulsville campus. We recently caught up with Jordan to ask about keeping it all in the family during difficult times posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TSCS: Which grades did you attend the charter school? Tell us what your experience at the charter experience was like for you – the work, your teachers, the CAST counselors. In what ways did they help and encourage you?

Jordan: I attended The Soulsville Charter School from 6th to 12th grade, and my experience was great. The work was challenging, especially in my junior and senior years. My teachers were so supportive, and if you didn’t understand something, they would spend extra time with you until you got it whether that was during advisory, study hall/break period, or after school. The CAST counselors were my biggest fans. They wanted you to have every option available.

TSCS: Did you have any struggles at school or in life that they helped you with?

Jordan: The staff at Soulsville is so caring. I had a couple of instances where they helped me. One of the most memorable was in my sophomore year. My uncle lost his battle to lung cancer that November. I remember going to my debate class – it was only for those in the debate club that year – and telling my coach/teacher Mr. Alfuth that I couldn’t go to the next meet because I had to go to the funeral that weekend. All my teachers after that class gave me their condolences, some even gave me candy. I was trying to figure out how they knew and realized Mr. Alfuth must have told them. As far as school struggles went, my teachers always reassured me that it is my decision of where I wanted to go, and they would support me no matter what because I stressed a lot over that.

TSCS: What do you think was your driving force to become the 2018 valedictorian and what was it like when you found out you were it?

Jordan: I did not have a driving force to become the 2018 Valedictorian because I never intended to be Valedictorian. I just wanted to graduate with the highest grades and GPA possible to get a full scholarship from one of the colleges I applied to. I remember going to open house a month into the school year, and my parents asked my counselors about my placement. I was number one at that time, and I remember not being too excited because it was the beginning of the school year. When they told me I was it, I was shocked because I knew maybe two people who deserved to be in the spot. Then, I understood that Valedictorian is a measurement of work ethic, not smarts, and I was ecstatic. 

TSCS: How did the charter school prepare you for college?

Jordan: Soulsville is a college prep school, so the work was college level and classes simulated what a college class would be like. I took three AP classes in my junior and senior years apiece there. Those classes were more discussion-based, and you took your own notes as you saw fit.

TSCS: What was your college experience like at Southwest? Was that to get the basics under your belt and are you now planning to attend another college?

Jordan: 95% of my Southwest experience was a whole lot easier because of Soulsville. The other 5% were all my math classes, but yes, I did go to Southwest to get my general education out the way for free with TN Promise. I plan on finishing my last two years at the University of Memphis.

TSCS: You worked your way through college at the Stax Museum? What was that like and did that make you feel like you are a part of a Stax family?

Jordan: Working at the Stax Museum was/is great. I definitely feel a part of not only the Stax family but also the Soulsville family because it’s one thing to go to the school and another to work on the same campus as your school. I’m happy that the Stax Museum is my first job because all of my coworkers get along. There’s no tension there.

TSCS: How have you been coping with the coronavirus through finishing college and being off work at the museum while it was closed? Any lessons learned?

Jordan: Covid-19 canceled a lot of major plans. I was looking forward to walking across the stage in my cap and gown. I was looking forward to my spring break studying abroad in Paris, France. It made my Calculus class so much harder. Through my last month and a half left of college, I coped by really staying on top of my work and getting as much done ahead of time, so all I had to do was turn assignments in and take tests. A lesson I learned was to slow down. I was doing too much at once, and life really paused and made me sit down. I’m so grateful for that.

TSCS: What’s next for you and what do you ultimately want to do as a profession?

Jordan: What’s next? Finishing my business degree and evolving into the best version of myself. My ultimate profession is being a chairwoman of my own company and helping others get to that same position. I’m already in the process of doing it, so stay tuned.