by De’Lara Khalili Stephens, alum and current faculty
I am grateful to Chattanooga State Community College because of all of those individuals who pursued collective excellence in the community by simply being one person helping one person.
When I was only three and visited the campus with my parents, I was here because one professor supported and encouraged one student: my mom. That mattered, so much so that I begged for a Chattanooga State Student ID (and got one—even though I was just three and sporting pigtails). That ID card sits on my desk today, with “Delara” and “3 years old” scrawled in wobbly letters on the back.
When I was in grade school, I visited the robotics lab on a field trip, where one professor patiently answered my feeble questions. That mattered, since he taught college, and I was just a kid, so I paid more attention in physical science thereafter. When I was a high school senior, I visited Chattanooga State’s library, and one librarian kindly helped me locate sources via microfiche (ugh). That really mattered—it’s microfiche, after all—so I was a bit more inclined to choose Chattanooga State officially the following year, when college began.
It was the start of many successive one-to-one moments: a seemingly imposing dean whose face dissolved into a smile when he helped me find my classroom, a professor loaning me her much beloved/dog-eared copy of the Odyssey, an officer walking me to my car after hours, and much more. Those moments continued with my ongoing relationship with Chattanooga State but grew in their significance: my first publication, first trip to the opera, first trip abroad, being first in my family to teach college/attend graduate school/pursue a doctorate. Twenty years later, I’m still part of the Chattanooga State Community, where I’ve taught English and Humanities full-time since 1997 and served in various capacities on this campus. So while the list of reasons I have to be grateful for Chattanooga State is too long to share here, I can convey the one thing they all have in common: in each case, one person simply served one person. And that really, really mattered. Thank you, Chattanooga State.