At graduation, you can almost always expect the students who have earned the title of valedictorian and salutatorian to give a speech on their four years at their alma mater. The speeches are almost always conventional and expected, and they bring smiles to the faces of the families all over the room. Jordan Nickles, salutatorian at Northwest High School, gave a different kind of speech during his graduation ceremony. He did talk about his high school experiences, but focused on a topic that is inflicting schools everywhere, but is seldom paid attention to.
Nickles transferred as a PSEO (post-secondary enrollment options) students at Shawnee State University halfway through his high school career because of the bullying he was facing in school. So, when asked to give a speech that would reflect his time at Northwest during a graduation he didn’t even want to attend, he did.
“My speech was focused on what I endured during my time in high school. I was a victim of a lot of different bullying instances, many of which focused on people calling me a homosexual, which I am not. This was sort of my chance to let them know what had happened to me and let them know that even though nothing was really done about it, I still overcame it,” Nickles said. “I mean, you hear a lot of bad stories about victims of bullying taking their own lives, so I wanted to take this opportunity to show that someone actually overcame their bullying circumstance.”
A speech like this can leave a lot of different impressions on people. It’s no surprise that a few people were upset with a speech that was centered on a kid’s recollections of being bullied by his classmates. Nickles did not go into his speech with the aim of bashing his high school; he was looking for an opportunity to share his story.
“For the most part I’ve heard mostly positive feedback, but there were a lot of people that were saying that I was ruining something that was supposed to be a happy time for a lot of people. One person that actually used my name on Facebook, that I didn’t even know, said that it was basically one big curse to the school,” Nickles said.
Nickles doesn’t want his speech to be taken as a threat or curse against the school. He claims to be setting an example for younger kids who are going through what he did.
“There are a lot of good teachers and students at my school. I really did not aim to attack anyone; I didn’t even use the school’s name once in my speech. My speech was aimed toward the students who gave me so much grief. I don’t know if their intention was to ruin me, but I just wanted to let them know that they didn’t,” Nickles said. “I just want some good to come out of this. I’ve had a couple of people come to me and say they went through the same thing in school and they were really happy with my speech. I just hope this is kind of a shout out to all of those kids who are facing it now and to show them that they can rise above it.”
Nickles has zero tolerance for bullying and said something more needs to be done about it by the students, teachers and law officials.
“Bullying should be intolerable,” Nickles said. “Some schools are taking the right approach and are teaching anti-bullying at a very young age and even make the police involved if something should arise, and that is something we don’t really have here. Teachers make a big difference, too, because some don’t really care. For instance, I had one teacher come up to me in middle school and look me straight in the eye and said “nice purse,” when I had a pencil case sitting on my desk. You just can’t do stuff like that to kids; it really messes with their mentality and psyche.”
Rick Scarberry, principal at Northwest High School, expressed possible interest in bringing Nickels back to Northwest in future years to talk to the students about bullying. Nickles said he would be up for it, if the school was serious about it and if it would help the students.
Nickles will appear on the Community Corner with Barb Pratt on June 29 at 8 a.m.