old CSTCC college student ID

50 Faces of Gratitude: De’Lara Khalili Stephens

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.

6 thoughts on “50 Faces of Gratitude: De’Lara Khalili Stephens”

  1. Chattanooga State Tech, (C S T I) was such an opportunity for those of us in the early classes. Building lasting memories while receiving an education in our respective vocations. After attending classes downtown and then moving into a new building that housed all classes where we were not over crowded was a big deal for first class to attend a new building. After graduation I returned to Bowaters Paper Corporation in the Management Information Department, where I did programming and analysis applications. I then left Bowaters and went to Nashville and spent 30 years in Information Technology doing program analysis and system management supervision of large main frame hardware . This concludes my IT career except messing with the home computer to mostly communicate with friends.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Bill! It is so inspiring to hear about your lifelong career in programming and IT thanks to ChattState!

  2. What a beautiful article! And thank you, De’Lara, for being that one person to me…one of many on the CSTCC staff who opened up a whole new world to me. You were the one who helped me see that I could love writing and appreciate the deeper meaning of literature. You were the one who took me to Birmingham and sparked in me a passion for civil rights. You were the one who convinced me to travel abroad and showed me a world beyond my own. You helped me embrace my passion to teach, and now the legacy continues with my own students.

    ~Giselle <3

    1. Giselle, Such a beautiful tribute you make to De’Lara, and how powerful that you are paying this forward to your own students.

  3. I loved ready the story of how ChattState and the people who lead and encouraged her mother to our campus! Letting her have a student ID at 3 just like her mother shows the care and compassion of the staff of our campus! From that day forward this young woman was part of our community as we were hers!! So lucky to be part of this campus/family employer!

    1. Samantha, So glad you enjoyed this story and to hear that you feel fortunate to be a part of our campus community. We have a lot to be grateful for, and this is a good time to reflect as we celebrate 50 years serving Chattanooga.

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