Northern Michigan University student Kayla Stevens of Howard City, Mich., has been selected as the Outstanding Student of Any Class Standing for her significant contributions to the NMU community as part of the Board of Trustees' student achievement awards program.
The senior will graduate May 6 with a degree in elementary education and integrated sciences. She chose NMU because she said it felt like a second home. Stevens entered with several science credits and first intended to focus on the medical field. But she developed a love for teaching and decided on an education career instead.
Stevens' early encounter with teaching was during high school as a member of the National Honor Society. She was placed in an elementary classroom a couple of days a week to volunteer. Her love for volunteering grew as she arrived at NMU and became a member of the Student Leader Fellowship Program (SFLP), a two-year program that develops community-centered leaders. Stevens was also part of the special events committee and helped plan Homecoming and Winter Fest.
“I like to stay busy,” said Stevens. “While I was at Northern, I was planning events and going to them and hosting them with my club. I loved the people I was with; what we did was a lot of fun. The SFLP was really nice because it got me more involved on campus, but it also helped push me out into the Marquette community a little bit.”
Stevens had the opportunity to do field experiences in classrooms near Northern that helped confirm she was making the right decision to pursue a career in education. She said she had great professors in the School of Education and found the Center for Student Enrichment staff particularly impactful and encouraging.
“I think it's hard being in college,” said Stevens. “It's not like high school where you see everything everybody's doing all the time. It's very much like you're doing the things that you enjoy because you like to do them, not because anybody's making you do them. I didn't feel like I was doing a whole lot, but to see it all on paper after four years, it sets in just how involved I was, and that's really neat. There are people in the community who are recognizing the awesome things that students are doing.”
Stevens will soon take a two-week volunteer trip to Athens, Greece. Her itinerary includes being at a sea turtle rescue, working on clay works and volunteering at a career services center. After her trip, she hopes to work and live in the Marquette or Negaunee areas and apply what she has learned.
“It's kind of that feeling of home again,” said Stevens. “I feel like my time up in the U.P. isn't done yet. Growing up, I was in sports and band and volunteering. So I think once I find that teaching job, I want to be able to find those clubs or those organizations where I can continue being involved either in the school community or around town. I very much thrive on being busy involved in doing things like volunteering for other people. So that's definitely going to stay with me.”
Stevens is currently downstate student teaching. She is involved daily with helping students and learning on-site skills for her career.