Seven years ago, David Stephens’ daughter Gwenith was born with a birth defect that caused her to be blind. It has been a learning experience for the father, and he continues to find ways to help his daughter, including becoming the coach of a youth baseball team for special needs children.
“Coaching this team (has) changed my life forever,” said Stephens, a junior communication studies major at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). “Coaching kids (who) are blind, paralyzed, have Down Syndrome, deaf and more showed me that perfection comes in many shapes and sizes.”
Stephens continues to coach and has involved his older daughter as well as other people in the community with whom he shares his experience. He plans to form special needs leagues in other sports such as bowling and soccer.
His efforts outside the classroom were recognized recently when he was selected as one of four inaugural recipients of the Douglas W. Robinson Student Success Scholarship at CSULB along with three other underclassmen, including Roozbeh Ghasemian, Lauren Golem, Taylor Ortega.
Named for the recently retired vice president for student services at CSULB, the Robinson Student Success Scholarship focuses on students’ experiences and efforts outside of the classroom. The 2014 winners were selected from a pool of more than 75 applicants, and each of them received a $500 award for the 2014-15 academic year.
To be eligible for the scholarship, recipients must be full-time undergraduate students at the university, maintaining a minimum grade point average of 3.0 or better. Candidates were asked to write a personal statement that describes a learning experience outside the classroom that had a positive impact on their lives.
Ghasemian, a senior mechanical engineering major, wrote of his immigrating to the United States with his family at the age of 13 and putting aside college after graduating from high school to work full time to help support the family.
Golem, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice, discussed her involvement with sports throughout her life and the major life lessons learned from it. She works at Peninsula Bay Cities as a swim instructor and enjoys being able to influence her students’ lives by teaching them determination, self-confidence and safety.
And Ortega, a senior communications studies major who is also minoring in film and electronic arts, was recognized for her involvement with her sorority at CSULB, Gamma Phi Beta, for which she is serving as president.
Robinson retired as vice president for student services at CSULB in August 2013. He began his tenure at the university in 1989 and started his duties as vice president in 1991. For more than 20 years, Robinson provided leadership to more than 35 university departments and programs that focus on the needs of students outside the classroom.