“If you see something that needs help or needs assistance, you can either be the bystander and sit there and say ‘Oh, that’s unfortunate,’ or you can step in and do something about it,” junior Stephen Washington said. “I’m not one to stand aside and let someone else do it. If I truly believe that what needs to be done takes a skillset I possess, and I am fortunate enough to have, I will go ahead and implement.”
That is why Washington is leaving the university’s council of trustees to become the Student Government Association (SGA)’s president next year.
When Washington sees a need, he sets out to fill it.
According to Washington, the SGA was not meeting its full potential. He said it needs strong student leaders.
“An organization like student government needs strong student leaders,” Washington said. “So I wasn’t going to be a bystander to sit back and not be the one to help make decisions.”
Students who might not remember what the name “Stephen Washington” means may recall his wide and bright smile, or firm and polite handshake as he campaigned around the Ceddia Union Building (CUB) leading up to the SGA Executive Rules Committee (ERC) elections this year.
Washington prides himself on his ability to connect with everyone and adapt his presentation to suit the needs of others.
“People ask, ‘which one is the real Stephen?’ And the truth is, it’s always me,” Washington said. “At the end of the day, it is still my ethics, it is still my morals and values.”
Those morals and values developed from Washington’s experience in the military. These include loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
“You encompass those, you will be an effective and successful leader not only of others but yourself,” Washington said.
It took nine years preparing for a career as an officer in the military before a peanut allergy diagnosis disqualified Washington from serving in any of the branches of the armed forces. This ejected him from the SU ROTC program, one of the main reasons Washington chose SU. He later re-oriented himself for leadership on campus.
Last year, Washington joined the council of trustees as the student trustee to act as the eyes and ears of the board on-campus. After holding a chair on the SGA, Washington realized his calling was to directly serve the students as its president.
Washington is a natural leader who has been influenced by more than just the military, however. He is a fan of personal and professional development. He begins every morning listening to podcasts about leadership and well-being while he takes care of his personal hygiene, and he gets a full night’s rest. Bedtime is around 10 p.m. — or 2200 hours, as they say in the military.
While Washington considers himself social, he says he does not stray from the straight and narrow. He does not go to parties or stay up late because he feels he needs to make sacrifices to achieve his goals.
“I know what I want. When I know what I want, I’m going to bust something to get there,” Washington said. “It’s because I’m focused.”
Those goals include opening a world-premier high school military and leadership boarding academy.
“It will be the top of the world,” Washington said.
Washington frequently compares the SGA to a lighthouse, which is a beacon of light to other students. However, if SGA is supposed to be a lighthouse, it needs a strong foundation.
Washington resolved he would help build that foundation with the help of all the personalities found in the senators for SGA.
“We’re going to have some growing pains. But moving forward, I think we’re going to see a tremendous spike in efficiency,” Washington said.
Washington intends to work for Mercedes-Benz after graduation, where he planned on interning this summer before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic took hold of the nation. Afterward, he has a few milestones to touch on along the way.
“I will be a successful author, a motivational speaker, a personal development coach,” Washington said.
All that will build into that youth leadership academy he has planned. But until then, Washington will keep himself busy connecting with students on campus.