IHSA's Heart of the Arts Award Winner: Meridian High School's Jordan Brewer


The Illinois High School Association works with high school athletics across the state. It also recognizes a student who puts in the same dedication, passion and hard work it takes to excel at a sport, but has overcome adversity in the classroom. State nominee and winner Jordan Brewer is from Meridian High School.

A standout on the field or court can be easy to pick out, but walk into Sheila Moore's Journalism 1 class, and the star may not be as obvious. But acknowledging a student who's overcome adversity, to Ms. Moore, that's a no brainer. Meet Jordan Brewer, winner of the IHSA's Heart of the Arts Award.

"It means overcoming a disability or a deficit and just trying really hard and overcoming that," Brewer explained.

Brewer was nominated by her teacher, Ms. Moore.

"I thought what an awesome way to show her that all of this extra work that she's been putting in would actually pay off for something," Ms. Moore explained.

Brewer has a reading and writing deficit.

"It really means to people that you're going to need help and everything and you can't read and write as good as other people," Brewer described.

Along with that came personal set backs and insecurities.

"I didn't want to look stupid in that way of not being able to be as good as everyone else," she said.

She even developed the nickname, "Don't pick me."

"Because that was her first comment anytime we put something on the board, 'don't pick me.' Don't put mine up,'" Ms. Moore explained.

But today that girl volunteers ideas, speaks up in a group and isn't afraid to put herself out there. And it's all thanks to Ms. Moore's Journalism 1 and Journalism 2 classes.

"The first day I came in here Ms. Moore said, 'Well, it's kind of a hard class,' you know," Brewer said with a laugh.

"So I was worried," Ms. Moore said. "She was worried, too."

Brewer would be required to write newspaper stories and put together live student broadcasts.

"You could tell that maybe Jordan wasn't all the way comfortable with her own skills, so that's when I kind of caught on to maybe we have to help Jordan out and just give her confidence and everything," explained fellow classmate and friend Tre Hoff.

And as teams do, Ms. Moore and Brewer's classmates worked together to help her overcome her deficit.

"I was writing a lot better," she said. "Everyone in the classroom was helping me a lot."

So when it was announced that Brewer won the Illinois Heart of the Arts award, it was an individual, "I'm pretty proud of myself," she said with a smile.

And a team victory.

"We had accomplished something as a group, as in making her a better person and everything, so that was just worth it," Hoff said.

Brewer will be attending Millikin University in the fall.

"I was just going to go to a little college and now I'm going to a university," she said.

On an almost $25,000 scholarship. She'll be majoring in early childhood education. Brewer wants to be a teacher, just like Ms. Moore.

"She's going to leave a legacy of touching lives for little kids and she's going to be an amazing teacher," Ms. Moore said.

And it all started with taking a big swing at a big risk.

Brewer won the award and nomination for the state of Illinois. But she did not win the regional or national award. A student from Florida with cerebral palsy won the ultimate prize, but Brewer said she's happy for the girl and says she deserved to win.

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