Jordan Toma inspires students at all learning levels to overcome specific challenges
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – A motivational speaker who recently visited Middle Township School District had inspiring words for all students but delivered extra encouragement for those with IEPs.
Jordan Toma, an East Hanover native, went through school with his own IEP (Individualized Education Program), and is now on a mission to break the stigma for students who need extra support as they learn. Toma felt as if those three letters placed him in a box for the first 18 years of his life. While in school, his confidence wavered, and he struggled to keep up. But, once he discovered his learning disability didn’t define him, everything changed.
In a post on Toma’s Facebook page, he pointed out a student who asked him, “How did you get through it?” His response, “I looked at her and said, ‘Keep showing up. This moment in time right now where you’re at is where you want to be. I told her this is where you find yourself.’ I said, ‘if you learn how to overcome this, when you get out there no one will be able to catch you.’”
Toma spoke at three schools in one day — including two in MTSD – and handed out 50 copies of his book, “I’m Just a Kid with an IEP.”
“Jordan’s story is inspiring,” said MTSD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Toni Lehman. “Toma’s pitch that your struggles can also be your strength gave students hope. So many of our students really made a connection and were excited to participate. That’s what it’s all about, encouraging our students and our community to be successful in their future endeavors no matter what obstacles are put in their path. Middle Township has caring staff that are on hand to support all our students and more specifically those needing that extra encouragement. There are resources and support out there, and more specifically right in our halls.”
Toma wants to be a resource for students who need a little hope.
“I want to go back and find the kids that were like me, share my story, and motivate them to keep working hard and live up to their true potential,” said Toma.
Toma’s “ah-ha” moment came when he was accepted into Centenary University after being denied by 15 other colleges. Thanks to Centenary’s Step Ahead program, a pre-college program for students with learning differences, his mindset began to change. “By using all the accommodations and people they had in place, I was able to maximize my academic success,” Toma explained. “For the first time in my life, I passed a test on my own, and all these things started happening that had never happened before. I finally felt like I was coming to life.”
As Toma’s confidence grew, so did his academic skills, personal relationships and aspirations. He graduated from the program with a 4.0 GPA and finished college with a 3.3 GPA, going on to start his own insurance company. After being asked to speak to a class about his journey, he realized how powerful and inspirational his story could be, and wanted to share hope with students who struggle like he once did. “I wanted to come back and say, ‘I went through this. I struggled. I was one of those students just like you that could have slipped through the cracks, but I put myself out there. There are programs in place and people who will help you along the way, so don’t give up.’”