Jordan Keeley, a senior goaltender at St. Mary’s University, took a class her freshman year that she said altered the way she approaches her life
Already a service-minded person with a number of volunteer experiences to her name by the time she arrived on campus, Dr. Scott Sorvaag’s Leadership introduction course rearranged the way Keeley approached every day by posing a deceptively simple question: What if everything you did mattered?
“He really just pushed my mind to the limit about what it really means to be human. What it means to care and to love and what love looks like. What leadership is and how we can lead with love and make that impact in our communities. What is service and why does it matter?” she said.
Keeley believes each individual kindness matters and has an impact, but she also believes in the importance of influence. Her passion, she said, has become encouraging others to volunteer and helping them find the passion that will draw them to make service a regular part of their life.
“I can continue to find a way to influence people that will long outlast me,” she said. “I’ve been focused on making meaningful connections, helping people recognize what they’re passionate about, and being leaders in their own right. It’s something I think I’m the most proud of in my service journeys, being able to take a step back and see the impact that other people are going to continue to make in their communities and their passions.
“I think my purpose in life, at least as for now, is to help other people find theirs. That’s been kind of a driving point for me.”
It’s little surprise that a professor at St. Mary’s inspired Keeley and helped her on the journey that led her to be nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. A member of the St. Mary’s women’s hockey team has been a finalist for the Award each of the past three seasons. Delaney Wolf won the award in 2020.
Keeley isn’t sure if St. Mary’s attracts a certain type of person or if the university brings out the service-minded aspects of students once they’re on campus, but she does know that the second she visited the Winona, Minn.-based school, she knew she was home.
“This is my family. This is my place. This is where I’m meant to be,” she said. “It’s not the physical space that makes St. Mary’s what it is, it’s the people, it’s the community here that makes it truly one of a kind. The people here definitely helped me define my purpose in life.”
As with many folks who get reflective as their college career ends, Keeley has been taking time to be mindful. For her, that means pausing and being “incredibly present” in the things she does from day to day. She wonders what her legacy will be and is shifting her service focus away from individual moments of giving to finding ways to have bigger, longer and farther-reaching impact.
“Volunteering is kind of a form of self-care, it’s something that I feel more in tune with myself and who I am and who I want to be when I’m helping others,” she said.
Though it took some reflection for Keeley to get to this point in her service journey, that she landed on a path that focuses on helping others to create a ripple effect of influence is unsurprising.
Growing up on a farm, Keeley said she spent a lot more time hanging out with animals than with humans.
“I learned from an early age we don’t have to speak the same language to share the same love,” she said.
That lesson about the importance of caring and compassion was reinforced by her second-grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson, who Keeley said was the first person outside of her family that told her she could be somebody. As she got older, she started volunteering at the hockey rink which helped her to understand the importance of having a mentor or someone to believe in you.
“It made me think about the impact that people had made on my life,” said Keeley, who went back to volunteer in Mrs. Nelson’s second-grade classroom as a high school student.
“It is a really unique thing to take a step back and think, ‘I am the product of my surroundings. I am the product of my environment.’ You never forget who helped build you. Imagine if every student, every youth hockey player, every athlete, every kid in the world, every kid in our communities had the opportunity to have even just one person who told them that they could be something. That they could be who they wanted to be. Imagine how different our world would be.”.
Keeley plans to get her Master’s in Organizational Leadership and has already brainstormed a non-profit that will focus on mentors, empowerment and leadership. She also plans to go to Physical Therapy school. PT, she says, combines her love of science with her drive to help people.
“I think physical therapy really is just a beautifully complex mix of both. A huge part of the reason I want to be a physical therapist is I want to be that person who helps someone (that gets injured) realize that it’s not the end, it’s just a new beginning.”