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Jordan Watford Lupton is a North Carolinian through-and-through. She grew up in Thomasville and received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill. Lupton earned her Master’s in Speech and Hearing Sciences in 2006 from the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, which is a part of the Department of Allied Health Sciences located in UNC’s School of Medicine.

As an undergraduate student, Lupton found her strengths and interests lay in language – writing, communication skills, public speaking, linguistics, performance of literature, and Spanish. “As I began learning more about Speech and Hearing Sciences (SHS), I realized it would marry all of my interests and strengths, while also allowing me the opportunity to help others,” she says.

She has worked as a school-based speech language pathologist (SLP) for 15 years in both Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Davidson County Schools, as she and her family recently relocated back to Thomasville after 12 years in Chapel Hill.

Embracing Leadership Roles in SHS

Jordan is currently President of the North Carolina Speech, Hearing & Language Association (NCSHLA). She has been active in NCSHLA since 2006, previously serving as VP of Public Relations and University Affairs, Board Secretary, and 2018 Convention Chair.

“My first Practicum supervisor, Paula Izquierdo, insisted I join NCSHLA in 2005 as a student.  She encouraged me to pay attention to state issues and volunteer at the Annual Convention.  Several of my subsequent practicum supervisors also served in leadership roles for NCSHLA,” says Lupton. “I was inspired by NCSHLA’s work and dedication to the profession and its clients.  I volunteered to serve on various NCSHLA committees in the early years of my career, and eventually became more involved each year with the support of my colleagues.”

In addition to serving as President of NCSHLA, Lupton acts as Secretary to the Board of Directors for Family Services of Davidson County, a nonprofit that provides counseling, crisis intervention, and youth development programs for the community. She is also Co-President of the Beta Xi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Key Women Educators.

Shifting Priorities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As with many state associations and nonprofits, the past two years have been challenging for NCSHLA. The pandemic forced the cancellation of conventions, slowed legislative advocacy efforts and decreased membership renewals. However, it also offered new opportunities to connect with members and the SHS community.

“We offered several successful webinars to meet our members’ need for continuing education credits and designed a new website that is more user-friendly and contains easier options for event registration and sharing information with members,” says Lupton. “We also planned a fantastic in-person Annual Convention that took place in Durham this month.”

Moving the Needle for SHS in North Carolina

NCSHLA played an instrumental role in securing pay increases for school-based personnel in the 2021-2022 state budget. This includes an additional $350 monthly supplement for SLPs, AuDs, and School Psychologists, as well as 1.3 percent step pay increases and several bonuses ranging from $300 to $1,000.

“This year, the NCSHLA Lobbyist, Ashley Perkinson, and I have begun holding meetings with key legislators on House and Senate Health Committees,” says Lupton. “We are stressing our priorities to legislators – strengthening telehealth opportunities and coverage, increasing resources and funding positions, increasing salaries for SLPs and AuDs, updating the Audiology Scope of Practice and Standards, and making sure speech and hearing services are adequately covered and reimbursed.”

Making a Difference for North Carolina Families

Lupton’s interest areas include facilitating functional communication in young children with complex communication needs, teaching and using augmentative and alternative communication, collaborative teaming with other professionals, and literacy and language development.

As an SLP who works with young children, Lupton notes that nearly every day is filled with impactful and memorable moments.

“Witnessing a child’s first words, a parent telling you with tears in her eyes, ‘he called me mama for the first time!,’ watching as your once-unintelligible student rattles on about everything she did this weekend and marveling that you understood every word. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing these fruits of our labor,” she says.

Advice for SHS Students

Lupton encourages students in Speech and Hearing Sciences to join NCSHLA and get involved as early as possible. “Start by attending (and even volunteering at) Annual Convention — it has always been one of my favorite events,” she says. “You can learn an incredible amount of valuable information, make new friends, and network with professionals from across the state.”

When it comes time for students to change jobs, pursue a Ph.D., or find a professional who is an expert in their field, the connections made in NCSHLA are there to help.