Ken Stephon has been told by friends that he thinks like a computer; he works quickly, he works hard, and he’s got multi-tasking down to an art form.
For Stephon, a computer science wiz, it’s high praise. It’s also proven useful, as that computer brain has led him to where he is today: a soon to be Bucknell scholar.
Originally from Princeton, N.J., Stephon moved to Doylestown with his family as an adolescent. From a young age, he showed an advanced aptitude and interest in computer technology.
“I’ve been doing this literally my whole life,” Stephon admitted. “My father brought home a broken computer from work when I was six years old. It was damaged beyond repair of a child, but I tore it apart and figured out what all the parts did, and I was fascinated by the guts of this thing…to see inside a computer and see it wasn’t a magical thing; it was a sum of these parts. It was really interesting to me even at that age and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
After graduating high school in 2007, Stephon proceeded to work for several years at Radio Shack, where he quickly moved up the latter to become a store manager at the age of 19. The ascent was not always easy.
“I would routinely work 60 hours a week, and if things were crazy I would work about 80 hours a week,” Stephon shared.
Moving forward from Radio Shack, Stephon again revealed managerial and technological aptitude by becoming a department lead for computer repair and sales at Staples. It was during this time that Stephon decided to continue his education in computer science.
Although it was out of county, Stephon made the decision to attend Montgomery County Community College due to its nationally ranked technology programs and resources, a decision he jokes was certainly worth the out-of-county fee.
“When I first started going to school I was planning on going part time for three years, or however long it would take to get my associates degree as a part-time student,” Stephon mentioned. “I had no idea it would lead to what it has led to.”
Stephon excelled during his time at the College, impressing faculty through his computer programming ventures while also getting involved with tutoring. The recognition he received eventually brought him a new and surprising opportunity, the chance to participate in the Bucknell Community College Scholars Program.
“I was actually on the way to my Grandfather’s funeral when I got the email,” Stephon said, “and he had always wanted me to pursue higher education.”
Although it presented a change of direction, Stephon was impressed during an informative trip to Bucknell’s campus, and he rushed head first into the intensive six-week summer program in 2013.
“It was a crazy experience, and probably the best experience ever,” Stephon raved. “I really felt a difference with Bucknell. The professors there don’t only know their fields, but they are helping to define their fields.”
Coming home, Stephon had to rearrange his entire schedule in order to embrace transferring to Bucknell. He quit his job, began doing freelance computer repair, and became a full-time student.
“Within two weeks of the six week program I had decided that this was thing I wanted to do. Making that happen was a little more complicated because I did not have as many credits as several of the people who were there for the summer program,” Stephon revealed. “So since I’ve returned from Bucknell I have been overloaded on courses to make sure I can attend on time as a transfer student. It was an option for me to transfer out of cycle, but it was really important to me to get out there will all these great people that I had met during the summer program…and I wanted to make sure we could all do it together.”
As a result of his steadfast commitment, Stephon is currently living in two worlds with a schedule worthy of a computer-like brain. He’s taking classes this summer, finishing up requirements such as a six-week calculus class, while simultaneously traveling to Lewisburg on the weekends and searching for an apartment while meeting with Bucknell faculty. He’ll then have six days between finishing summer classes, and starting his fall semester at Bucknell.
Stephon is used to the fast pace, and his readiness will come in handy someday at a large tech company like Microsoft or Google, where he hopes to work on project management. For now, he’s focused on taking advantage of what’s directly in front of him.
“I’m just excited for the opportunity that it all presents. I didn’t go to college at all for many years, and then when I decided to go I thought I’d go part-time as a night student,” Stephon said, “and now next thing I know I’m a full-time scholarship student at one of the best colleges there is.”
It’s a lot to take in, even for someone who thinks like a computer. Of course, Stephon can’t help calculating a little bit more into the future.
“I am strongly considering graduate school at this point,” he mentioned. “I never considered anything beyond an associate’s degree and that was something that took me many years to get. Now all of the sudden this Bucknell opportunity came to me, and I figure why stop there?”
~ Kelly Cox