Sports, friends help St. Louis Park High senior overcome personal challenges

Senior Jordan Gooden Moore as a St. Louis Park High School basketball player. Gooden Moore said football, basketball and wrestling have helped him cope with the challenges in his life. (Submitted photo)

As St. Louis Park High School senior Jordan Gooden Moore sets his sights on graduating, he looks back on the friends and sports activities that helped him through.

Gooden Moore grew up in St. Louis Park and attended Peter Hobart Elementary School and St. Louis Park Middle School. When he came to the high school, he said he had amazing friends but his mindset had not been on school given his mother’s long-term illness.

“I was taking care of her at that young age,” he said.

His mother’s death led to turbulence his sophomore year.

“That’s when everything started to shake up,” Gooden Moore said. “I was really, like, stuck in my head and dark places.”

He moved between the homes of friends as he sought to adjust. His grandmother became his guardian, but he said he often did not stay with her because he wanted to continue attending school in St. Louis Park. In his junior year, he moved to Lakeville South High School, though, where he joined the football team in going to state.

Football, basketball and wrestling have helped him cope with the challenges in his life.

“It was like a therapy for me,” he said. “I had to keep my mind off everything.”

The second semester of that year, he returned to St. Louis Park High School, where he said he wanted to be and felt comfortable.

“My mom passed away and I was still dealing with it, but I had support here,” Gooden Moore said as he mentioned friends and their parents.

He has had to work hard this school year in working toward graduation at a time when classes fluctuated between learning in classrooms and online instruction.

“That’s what I’m doing, and I’m bettering myself,” he said. “I made a promise to Mom that I will graduate and make her proud.”

He found online learning to be stressful and added, “I’m not the only one. There were tons of kids going through it and having a hard time.”

In persevering toward the goal of graduating, Gooden Moore said, “People won’t understand how much it will mean to me.”

Earlier in high school, he had not even thought about graduating and “going into the real world,” he said. The previous lack of plans put a larger weight on his shoulders this year, but he said, “Now that I’ve been working on myself, I’m planning to go to Dunwoody (College of Technology) for plumbing.”

A school project on the profession helped pique his interest, particularly after other students approached him for help given his aptitude.

“I really like it, and that’s a great path for me to go,” said Gooden Moore.

Coming back to in-person classes has helped, he indicated.

“I like to make people happy,” he said. “That’s what I do – I come here and go to make somebody’s day. The energy is not here when I’m not here.”

He’s long been a jokester, he added – a trait that has helped him bond with teammates.

“What helped me is being closer as a team – and being more to me, and that’s family,” Gooden Moore said. “It’s sticking together wherever and whenever, doing anything, and that impacted me the most.”

High School Athletic Director Andy Ewald said he has known Gooden Moore nearly his entire life.

“I’ve been super, super impressed the entire time,” said Ewald, pointing out that Gooden Moore has had to contend with chaos at home and in life. “He’s always had a strong desire and will to make sure he’s staying positive and doing everything he can to put himself in situations that are healthy and supportive of himself. His internal resiliency and his bravery I’ve been very impressed with.”

Sports provided lessons not always available in the classroom, Ewald added.

“It was a positive, caring, loving situation for Jordan, and that’s what we hope it is for all the kids that participate in our programs,” Ewald said. “He’s always going to have a place here and relationships here that will last his entire life, and, again, that’s a testament to who he is.”

Friends he has had in St. Louis Park since sixth grade have been vital in helping him, Gooden Moore said.

“They just took me by my side and said if I need anything, I can talk to them,” he recalled. “Anytime I’m down, they just pick me up. We keep moving.”

Reflecting on his mother, Gooden Moore said, “I think she would be proud of me. That’s all she ever wanted me to do: graduate and keep moving.”

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