If there were one word to define how Professor Cindy Stephens approaches her life, it would be “perseverance.” A child development instructor since 1992, Stephens encourages students to push through the challenging times (like the last couple of weeks of the semester) and stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel (like graduation).
She always knew she wanted to be a teacher, but her mom told her she “should get a job where she could support herself.” While taking secretarial classes at a community college, she enrolled in a child development class. “I was inspired!” she said. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in child development and a Master of Science degree in counseling from CSU Northridge, Stephens thought she would pursue a career in child therapy, but found herself on a different path: teaching adults about teaching children.
As an instructor, she places high expectations on her students. She believes that a commitment to excellence – and the perseverance that comes with it – is how people attain their true potential.
In 2010 while many students and instructors were enjoying a well-deserved break from the rigors of the semester, Stephens was celebrating her 50th birthday by bicycling across the country. Starting in San Francisco, she spent 52 days making her way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, enduring heat, rain, strong winds and hail along the way. About half way through the ride in Kansas, she began to wonder if she had the tenacity to complete the trip. “My then-girlfriend, Denise, who flew to Kansas to see me, brought just the encouragement I needed to get back on my bike and finish what I started.” Denise and Stephens have since gotten married.
If an almost 4,000-mile bike ride isn’t enough to demonstrate perseverance, Stephens also has completed the L.A. Marathon and two half marathons. What’s more, the training for the L.A. Marathon began just weeks after having knee surgery. She trained for that one as part of an AIDS Project LA team in honor of a friend she lost to the disease. She was one of the top fundraisers for the Team to End AIDS, an accomplishment of which she’s rightfully proud.
Stephens knows what it feels like to want to give up when the going gets tough. She understands that reaching one’s goals – such as getting a college education – can be difficult and discouraging. She also knows that working hard and persevering pays off in the end. “When something is handed to you, it’s not that rewarding,” she said. “But when you work for it, you not only understand the value of what you’ve accomplished; you also realize how much more you’re capable of than previously thought.”