Social Work student honored with Jackson Distinguished First Generation Scholarship

“I am a proud first-generation student,” Eboni Stevenson said, reflecting on her time at Colorado State University. “Getting to CSU was not an easy task, as I had a very limited understanding of college. I knew I wanted to go to a university, but I had no clue how to get there.”

Stevenson overcame her initial challenges and today her accomplishments at CSU have earned her a prestigious award. She is the 2018 recipient of the Jackson Distinguished First Generation Scholarship.

Denver roots

Stevenson and her younger brother were born and raised in Denver’s Five Points area to a single mother. Stevenson fondly remembers Five Points as her home and will forever cherish the culturally rich and diverse neighborhood she grew up in. Despite her father’s absence in her life, Stevenson considers herself to be a family-oriented individual, as she has a large extended family she often spends time with while not in school.

Eboni Stevenson, a first-generation social work student from Denver, Colorado

Stevenson’s initial decision to attend CSU was influenced partly by her older cousin who attended college before her. Stevenson had visited the CSU campus during her junior year of high school and immediately fell in love with the University and its surrounding areas.

“I liked how lovely it looked and that I would be only an hour away from home, which I thought was the right distance. I only applied to two colleges, and once I got into CSU, I knew that’s where I would be going,” Stevenson said.

Finding social work at CSU

Before her time as a social work major, Stevenson initially intended to become a psychologist and open her own private practice. However, her interest quickly shifted after someone mentioned that she should look into social work for her career. Taking their advice, Stevenson dug deeper and quickly found she was interested in the field. Although she wasn’t entirely confident in her decision and took some psychology courses just to be sure of her choice, she ultimately decided psychology was not for her. But she chose to study social work in tandem with other closely-related field: sociology.

“I declared my double major in sociology during the last semester of my freshmen year. Eventually, I changed my double major into a dual degree because I thought it would be useful to have them separate. I thoroughly enjoy the combination of both fields because social work allows me to understand a client and how to work with them while sociology focuses more on the larger issues,” Stevenson said.

Currently, Stevenson is interning at the Fort Collins public defender’s office as part of an internship requirement in her major. She says the public defender’s office was her first choice because of her interest in criminal justice, prison reform, and alternative sentencing. She anticipates her graduation in December 2018 and will be traveling abroad with Semester at Sea in her final semester.

Overcoming challenges

Upon her arrival, Stevenson initially felt there was a lack of diversity on campus. She grew up in a diverse neighborhood and thought that she would be unable to find a sense community while attending CSU. However, she sought out and joined several on-campus communities and organizations like CSU’s Key Communities, Africans United and United Women of Color to help her find her sense of belonging both on and off campus.

Looking to help those who may be in a similar situation, Stevenson took a number of leadership positions within her affiliated organizations to help further their goals and to help guide others who may have difficulty finding a sense of community.

“I forced myself to find community. If I had not done so, I do not think I would have stayed at CSU,” Stevenson said.

Jackson Distinguished First Generation Scholarship Recipient

The Jackson Distinguished First Generation Scholarship recognizes first-generation students who are either a junior or senior with a 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher. The purpose of the program is to encourage participation in higher education by first-generation college students who have significant financial need. The program also serves as a way to promote diversity within the University’s student population. Stevenson, one of this year’s recipients, thanks her friends, family and mentors for helping her win this award.

“I would like to thank the First-Generation Award staff and those who worked with the award recipients. They have been so kind and helpful in the process,” Stevenson said, acknowledging those who had helped her. “I would like to thank my mother for continuously encouraging me and reminding me why I should be confident in my abilities.”

The School of Social Work is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.