‘Always be willing to help out’: Albert Lea teen becomes Junior Citizen of the Year while balancing school, sports and volunteer work

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

One crucial part of any thriving community is a youth population that is passionate and involved with helping others. In Albert Lea, the 2024 Junior Citizen of the Year, Jordan Habana, is a great example of this.

Currently a senior at Albert Lea High School, Habana is part of several committees including student council, prom committee and National Honor Society.

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She is also part of Link Crew, which helps incoming eighth graders and new students become familiar with the high school building. Habana is also involved with Tiger Vision, which plays news and other announcements during the school day. For one of her classes, she got the opportunity to help teach elementary students about history at the Freeborn County Historical Museum, Library & Village.

“I just always liked to kind of help around … with people,” she said. “I’ve always liked to work with kids so that’s a plus.”

Habana is an accomplished athlete. She has played hockey for over 10 years and volleyball for about six years. One of her favorite ways to volunteer is to teach her sports to younger children through youth volleyball and hockey leagues.

“Just the other week, me and my teammates went to Hawthorne and we [taught] the third through fifth graders how to play floor hockey,” Habana said. “It was really cool to see how excited the little kids actually got and how involved they got.”

With high school, college-level classes, sports and her job at City Arena, Habana has learned to expertly manage her time to have room for everything.

“[My schedule is] kind of crowded,” she said. “Sometimes you have to miss a little bit of school or miss a little bit of work. Like when I went to Hawthorne, I had to miss a few hours of the school day, but I just made it up later on.”

Not only does Habana herself take time to help others, but she also encourages her friends to serve the community as well. She and a group of friends organized a holiday giving event for students in need. She and the Albert Lea girls’ hockey team also had a personal care item drive for the high school’s care closet.

“Usually they’re pretty much up for it,” said Habana about her friends and teammates. “They like to help out too … I have a pretty good group of friends.”

Outside of school and sports, Habana serves others with her involvement in Relay for Life, Wind Down Wednesday and helps out at Trinity Lutheran Church. She assisted at a bike rest area during Rock-n-Roll the Lakes, a bicycle event in Albert Lea. She was also in two plays at Albert Lea Community Theater, “The Miracle Worker” in 2018 and “State Fair” in 2019.

Habana has done a lot of these acts of kindness without expecting recognition. She never thought that it would contribute to her becoming Junior Citizen of the Year. She was nominated by her mother, Jenny Habana.

“I thought it was pretty cool, especially to find out that there’s only one person that gets it,” she said. “I got a text from my mom and she’s like, ‘I nominated you for this. Don’t be mad.’ … I didn’t even know it was a thing.”

She was also nominated by ALHS prom adviser Trista Partlow, who has known Habana for three years.

“Jordan has a go-to attitude. She is positive and always willing to help in any way she can,” Partlow said. “Jordan brings great attitude and advice wherever she goes … She is funny, caring, passionate about things she really cares about and is always looking to make others smile.”

Habana has decided to go to Minnesota State University, Mankato. One of the reasons for this choice is so she can remain close to family.

“I’m more of a small-town girl than a city girl,” she said.

She is in the process of deciding what she would like to major in.

When asked why she continues to spend so much time giving to others, she replied, “It’s important to always be kind. Always be willing to help out. Be in the community so it’s not a bad place to be.”

When asked what some of her motivators are for doing so much to help others, Habana said that it can be difficult to need something and not know where to go for help so she wants to be someone who provides it.

“Always do as much as you can,” she said.