A high school track star from Westampton, N.J., Stefon David ’17 came to Valpo with high hopes and big dreams four years ago, with little foundation of what to expect. A first-generation student, he wasn’t familiar with the school, or the region, or even Indiana.
Now a recent graduate, his résumé bursts with campus involvement, internships, and leadership roles. He’s a brother of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, ran track for two years, and served as the Morale Team Captain for this year’s Dance Marathon.
But 2017 is not where Stefon’s story begins.
At first, Stefon encountered difficulties finding his footing on campus. “I came to Valpo to run track and double major in chemistry and biology,” he says. “I ended up hating my science courses, and I dreaded going to class.”
Stefon grappled with his coursework and experienced injuries on the track field. It all became too much, and coupled with his newfound freedom being away from home, Stefon struggled to balance athletics, academics, and a transition to college life.
Stefon took a break from track and refocused his energy. Around that time, he took a communications class with Professor Andrew Stem ’05, ’13 M.S. “Professor Stem’s class was really engaging. He really involved the whole class,” says Stefon.
Even as a freshman, Professor Stem noted that Stefon exhibited signs of being a leader. “He was one of those people I could count on to carry a discussion in class,” he says. He became a mentor to Stefon, and the two met regularly to catch up on life and talk about the future.
After that first class with Professor Stem, Stefon came to an important realization. He switched his major to communications, hung up his running spikes, and prepared to pursue other opportunities at Valpo, which included joining a fraternity.
After meeting the brothers of Phi Kappa Psi, Stefon set his sights on becoming a part of the organization and became a brother at the end of his sophomore year.
“Before joining Phi Kappa Psi, I didn’t know much about fraternities. The process was not at all like the movies portray it to be. I found my experience to be more tight-knit and inclusive,” Stefon explains. During his years at Valpo, Stefon became even more involved with his fraternity through leadership conferences and as recruitment chair.
Bonnie Dahlke Goebbert, assistant dean of students for first-year students and commuter programs and the faculty advisor for Phi Kappa Psi, saw firsthand how joining a fraternity changed the course of Stefon’s college career.
“It was fun to watch. Things started to click for him,” Assistant Dean Goebbert says. “He has such a strong presence — you started to see that impact things campuswide in a really positive way.”
In fall 2016, Stefon was crowned Homecoming King, and in the spring he helped to raise nearly $70,000 for Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago through the annual Dance Marathon as the philanthropy’s Morale Team Captain. He also enjoys his on-campus job as supervisor of the call center and enjoys mentoring younger students.
Throughout this journey, Stefon discovered a new academic calling.
“After taking an intellectual property class and watching a powerful documentary, I thought about becoming pre-law,” Stefon says. “My brother, who was incarcerated for a period of time due to a crime he didn’t commit, inspired me to want to make a difference in this field.”
Stefon took the LSAT in February and has already been accepted to several law schools.
Looking back, Stefon has some advice for incoming freshman.
He stresses the importance of developing a strong support system, whether that’s a great group of friends, a roommate, or someone from a student organization. “When you fall, you want to make sure you have someone there to pick you up and guide you. They should be people who bring you up, not pull you down,” Stefon says.
Stefon also recommends new students get involved on campus. He says being involved kept him busy, helped him find balance, and allowed him to develop important relationships.
“I’ve never come across anyone, either faculty or student or staff, who interacted with him and didn’t like him,” Professor Stem says. “He’s got quite a winning combination in terms of affability and smarts that will allow him to accomplish great things in whatever realm he decides to go in.”
Both Professor Stem and Assistant Dean Goebbert use the same word to describe Stefon: Gregarious.
“There are many stories like Stefon’s, but his is so special because of where he started and where he’s ended up,” Assistant Dean Goebbert says. “We miss his presence on campus, but I can’t wait to see what kind of contributions he’ll make as an alumnus and in his career.”