Ricky Jordan

Camden, N.J., has been ranked as the most dangerous city in the United States. I lived there for 12 years. Each time I went outside could have been the last. I should be dead right now.

My mother had a hard time feeding our family and paying the bills. School was a joke to me. Fights at school were habitual, and I had no respect for authority, teachers and, honestly, myself.

I was a wreck, and the pain and suffering of my life could probably relate to many kids that lived in my hometown. I was headed downhill and never thought I would amount to anything in life.

What was I to do with my life? Why didn’t it matter to anyone? Who was going to help me? I needed answers, and I needed them as soon as possible.

Moving to Massachusetts answered those questions and pointed me in a direction of leadership.

I went to Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton, and everything was opened for me. My freshman year, I didn’t really care about too many things, but then my advisor told me she wanted me to go to the state SkillsUSA conference as a delegate.

After that, I began to acquire values, such as high moral and spiritual standards, and pride in my work.

I started my journey by learning the democratic process and by experiencing and understanding our country’s politics. I learned to conduct meetings as well as organize and host conferences. I interacted with students, teachers and business and industry partners, all in a positive and productive way.

Following the SkillsUSA creed, I learned to honor and respect my vocation, cosmetology, in such a way as to bring distinction to myself. Further, I spared no effort in upholding the ideal that being Hispanic and a minority was not an excuse to fail.

Being a nontraditional student in cosmetology, I suffered a plethora of difficulties, such as being called all sorts of names that weren’t appropriate or true. I dealt with teachers who judged my personality and doubted my path to excellence.

I never used the negativity as a roadblock; it made me the young man I am today and helped me with my goal in life.

Now, as a registered cosmetology operator in Massachusetts, I’m looking forward to working in the field and proving wrong all those who thought I couldn’t do it.

Being Hispanic and a member of a nontraditional career motivated me to inspire other Latino students with the same history or experiences as me.

From a follower to a leader

I am now serving as the national Region 1 vice president for SkillsUSA. Winning a national election in June 2010 assisted me in completing my goal to motivate other students to excel, no matter their ethnicity or gender.

I competed for a position to represent an organization with more than 300,000 members in 50 states, the nation’s capital and the territories of Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The opportunity to become a leader and positively influence others, including minorities, demonstrates the importance of diversity to me.

I have a name tag that says “National Officer.” You can’t get any better than that! People don’t even know what it’s all about where I grew up. I have to explain to my family members what it is, and they’re like, “Whoa!”

SkillsUSA helps you think about things so totally differently. You see how other people live in other states. You see that adults don’t judge us as immature, because we are all the same. You conduct business meetings.

I also use etiquette now. I never knew about etiquette my freshman year, but I learned it from SkillsUSA. You learn from it, and it does change you.

I have excelled beyond what I could have ever imagined. Now I want the same success for everyone. I have removed myself from the list of names of those who don’t want anything out of life and added my name to the list of people who want to change the way they live.

Believe to achieve

I may not know what my future holds, but that is the beauty of it. I want to anticipate all the possibilities of where my journey will go next, because that’s what happened when I moved to Massachusetts.

People who believe that minorities can’t succeed are wrong. I am alive and well, and I will spread that mindset to all students who believe they can’t achieve — and let them know that there is always a choice, and that choice is theirs.

Looking back on the times that I cried, laughed, screamed for help, yelled or whatever it was has shown me that I went through a “troubled childhood.” Yet I would not give up my past for a better one, because it’s a past that made the future such a great one.

For those of you out there that have gone through a lot or are still going through a lot, I will tell you this: With hard work and a determined soul, life will get better. I am living proof.