A local teenager will be taking a public stand against bullying in a St. Louis suburb this weekend.
Jordan Brooks, a 2012 graduate of Panama Central School and first-year student at Jamestown Community College, will be delivering a brief speech to a crowd of 300 attendees and 21 young adult authors at the Less Than Three Conference on Saturday.
The Less Than Three Conference - which appears as a heart-shaped emoticon when typed on a keyboard - is a first-time young adult/anti-bullying event created by New York Times best-selling author Heather Brewer. Arranged in panels, the conference speakers will focus on the various effects of bullying and positive approaches to tackling the issue.
Through interactions at multiple book conventions and Brewer's online community, Jordan has established a relationship with Brewer. According to Anita Harper, Jordan's mother, it was because of a story shared by another community member that Brewer reached out to have Jordan speak at the conference.
"One of Jordan's friends online had posted something to Heather Brewer's Facebook account saying that the reason she is still around today is because of Jordan," Harper said. "Jordan kept her from doing unspeakable things because of the amount of bullying that was happening to her at school. And I really, truly believe that was one of the main reasons why Heather chose to invite Jordan to come."
"I was honored," Jordan said in regard to being selected as the only non-author to speak at the conference.
Jordan said her speech will be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, and will focus on her experiences with being bullied and intervening in instances where she had witnessed it happening to others. Harper said Jordan's instinctual ability to stand up for and help others who are experiencing the effects of bullying comes from one of their family values.
"In our household, we're firm believers that you shouldn't bully, obviously, but it's just as bad if you see someone being bullied and you turn a blind eye. We have a right to stand up for everybody as we would want someone to stand up for us," Harper said. "I've told mutiple people that when I grow up, I want to be just like her. And as a parent, it makes me feel like I've done something right."
"I think people not saying anything might be a bigger problem than bullying itself," Jordan said.
The Less Than Three Conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. The event will be punctuated by presentations from young adult authors speaking in four separate panels focusing on bullying in school, self-bullying, cyberbullying and bullying in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.
Jordan and Harper will be flown to the convention on Friday and will return on Sunday. Jordan, who has neither been to St. Louis or on an airplane before, said she is looking forward to experiencing new things.
"It's a weekend of firsts for me," she said.