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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Women of the Year: For Jordan Stevenson, being active is the way to help others

Jordan Stevenson is a senior at Eastern Washington University studying International Affairs. Dan Pelle/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

As a child Jordan Stevenson was an overachiever. She competed in speech and debate in high school, graduated with honors and loved to volunteer.

Then, just weeks before she finished high school, she found out her parents were not going to help her pay for college.

“It was completely unexpected,” Stevenson said. “It didn’t occur to anyone in the whole sphere of my life.”

Three years later Stevenson, 21, is a senior at Eastern Washington University studying international affairs. She has traveled out of the country on prestigious scholarships, founded campus groups and completed numerous internships – all in the pursuit of helping others. Stevenson’s interests may be varied but all focus on helping those less privileged.

The road to college wasn’t easy though.

After high school, Stevenson got a few jobs to save up for college. She worked over 60 hours most weeks.

“I realized that I was feeling sorry for myself for not being able to get an education when there were millions of girls across the world who would never have access to it,” Stevenson said. “And all I had to do was work for it.”

So Stevenson began volunteering for Planned Parenthood, an organization she felt connected to both as a woman and a sexual assault survivor.

“I knew I had to do something else to make myself feel like the time I was spending on this earth was meaningful,” Stevenson said.

That’s when she met her husband and nominator, Tynan.

The pair met at the Vancouver pride parade and it was love at first sight, Stevenson said. The couple, who are both bisexual, moved quickly. Stevenson proposed while they were talking about college plans, and the couple got married a few days later.

“It’s really a partnership,” Stevenson said. “He is such a supporter of me.”

For Stevenson, working at Planned Parenthood hit close to home.

“I know that Planned Parenthood does a ton of direct service providing health care to people when they can’t afford it,” she said.

Shortly after the couple started dating, Stevenson suffered a miscarriage. The experience pushed her toward serving others and sharing her personal story.

“When I was at my lowest points, I felt like my life was meaningless unless I was serving others,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson and her husband decided that EWU would be a good fit for both of them and transferred from WSU Vancouver in the winter of 2018.

Moving across the state came with its own set of hiccups.

“Oh, it was chaos. When we first moved, our lease did not start for the on-campus house for a month into the quarter,” Stevenson said.

The couple ended up living in a motel until they could move into married student housing.

“It was scary and not fun,” Stevenson said.

That didn’t stop Stevenson from jumping into school and her new job as an office assistant in the School of Global Learning.

“I have so many friends who had given me the advice to slow down first quarter,” Stevenson said. “ ‘Take it in, smell the roses, and try to have a normal semblance of traditional college life,’ but I knew right away that wasn’t going to happen.”

She interned at the Human Rights Education Institute and Planned Parenthood Global among her other volunteering and student leader positions.

In the fall of 2018, she researched political and electoral rights for the United Nations Development Program. That winter she received the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman Award to study abroad in India this summer.

The “short” version of her résumé is three pages long; Stevenson acknowledges that she may be a workaholic.

“I just really feel like it’s my obligation but also my responsibility to serve,” Stevenson said. “That’s what drives me and that pursuit of justice and the call and it sounds really hokey but it’s true.”

That push to serve has taken Stevenson to conferences around the U.S., where she proudly represents the Inland Northwest.

When she attended the United Nation Commission on the Status of Women conference, Stevenson was one of the only women who actually lived in a rural area.

It’s hard to empathize well with the difficulties faced by women and girls living in rural areas if you aren’t one of them, Stevenson said.

Stevenson loves advocating for policy change at all levels of government, but one of her biggest accomplishments is the emergency contraceptives vending machine she lobbied for at EWU. It’s located in the gender neutral bathroom on the first floor of the student union building. Easy access to emergency contraceptives is something Stevenson hopes will help students without health care and reduce the number of students who drop out due to unplanned pregnancies.

The vending machine was a personal intersection between her experiences with sexual assault and the health care policies she advocates for in the U.S. and globally.

When she attended a conference for her Planned Parenthood fellowship, she focused on global advocacy.

“It was humbling to talk to women from around the world,” she said.

The conference inspired her to continue advocating for health care rights at home and abroad. It also pushed her to streamline her goals.

“We’re not trying to change individual people from being bigoted or discriminatory, because that seems a little futile,” Stevenson said. “We’re looking at changing laws and enacting widespread change at a government level.”

Stevenson has one year of school left at EWU, and she doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon.

She hopes to go to graduate school in Washington, D.C., and eventually law school to study international and gender law.

The one thing Stevenson hopes she never loses sight of is working to make the world a “more perfect” place.

“I think that one of the things that I learned early on as an advocate is that using your story is the most effective way to advocate for legislation or for laws that matter to you and will make your life better – make your community’s lives better,” she said.