By Jano Tantongco
“Having a glass in honor of Jordan, the most amazing girl. Jord, if I grow up to be half the person you were, I will be eternally grateful. You have absolutely no idea how much we love you.” #CheersToJordan
--Casey Hunter, Newbury, New Hampshire.
“As my heart aches for friends today, as I stand in awe of their strength, I send them love, hugs, and comfort for the days ahead. And in celebration of the life of an amazing young woman, I raise a glass.” #CheersToJordan
--Debbie Rogow Pringle, Coral Springs, Florida.
“‘Never selfish, always loving and kind, these are memories you leave behind.’ Celebrating a most beautiful life today.” #JordanSchuman #CheersToJordan
--Jodi Vale, music director of Long Island’s 98.3 FM.
These are just some of the posts on social media in honor of South Huntington-native Jordan Schuman, a 22-year-old journalist who died in a car crash Dec. 23 in North Carolina on the way to see a friend.
Schuman’s mother, Peri Schacknow, created the #CheersToJordan hashtag to commemorate the life of the young reporter.
“When you lose a child… there’s no denying the tragedy,” said Schacknow. ”But at the same time, in order to live with the loss, the best way to honor Jordan is to celebrate how she lived, not what we lost.”
Schacknow is a radio anchor at CNBC in New Jersey. Her husband and Schuman’s stepfather, Peter Schacknow, also works as a senior producer for CNBC. They live in South Huntington.
“She grew up with media people in the household. She saw what an interesting career it could be,” she said. “Her skills and personality wound up being a great fit.”
Schacknow said Schuman, who graduated from Walt Whitman High School in 2011, initially wanted to become an elementary school teacher, but a passion for journalism emerged.
Schuman graduated from the University of Miami in 2014, with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and a double minor in psychology and teaching and learning.
“She loved to meet people and hear their stories, and to share their stories with others,” Schacknow said.
In trying to pinpoint what Schuman felt her purpose was, Schacknow said, “To tell the stories. To bring people closer together. The more we know each other, the more we care about each other. The more of our stories that we know, the better we work together.”
Schuman began working at WPDE, an ABC affiliate in South Carolina, as a multimedia reporter in March 2015. After several internships, it was her first professional position in the field.
Shortly after WPDE News Director Victoria Spechko hired Schuman, she recognized the Schuman’s enthusiasm bubbling inside her. Spechko and Schuman scheduled weekly 2:30 p.m. phone calls for Mondays, where they would review the previous week’s coverage.
“Jordan had a light and a spirit about her... she just embraced everything she did to the fullest,” she said.
Spechko added that Schuman had a special connection with veterans because their stories intensely resonated with her.
“She just had such a respect for people who give their freedom, and in some cases sacrifice their lives… that so moved her, that when she told those stories, that respect just came through in every word that she wrote,” Spechko said.
Recalling her high school days, Judy Leopold, Schuman’s former chorus teacher at Walt Whitman High School, said Schuman “was the kind of student that could brighten the room just by entering. She had a positive outlook about everything in life. Even in the vagaries of everyone’s adolescence, she could always self-regulate.”
She noted that Schuman sang since she was in elementary school, and that while Schuman enjoyed chorus work, her passion blossomed on the theater stage.
Leopold helped her get into the part of Little Red for the production of “Into The Woods,” when Schuman was just a freshman. She also performed as Tzeitel in “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Leopold saw this clearly translate into her career in broadcast journalism, saying that, “broadcasting is the intellectual side of theater.”
“...Jordan was one of those very rare, bright birds who changes you for the better,” Leopold said.
Schuman’s mother added that more than cards and flowers, she wants others to honor her memory by “emulating her best traits.”
“Be a friend. Share a kindness. Smile. Sing in the car--loudly. Dare to dream. Put on a kickass pair of high heels. Laugh. Love. Rock a red lip. And live every moment you are lucky enough to be given,” she said.
A funeral was held Dec. 27 at the I.J. Morris funeral home in Dix Hills, with the burial at Mount Golda Cemetery in South Huntington. In addition to her mother and stepfather, she is survived by her father Brian Schuman and his fiancé, Patrice Golde; brother Justin Schuman; and grandmothers Lorraine and Roz.
Schuman’s family is in the process of organizing a scholarship fund to be administered by the New York Press Club.