Student Experience at College of San Mateo
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Student Experience
Stephen McReynolds
Stephen McReynolds Stanford University, Management Science and Engineering
Stephen McReynolds was 12 years old when the United States was attacked on 9/11. “I grew up watching news coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I felt like I needed to do my part,” he says. Stephen enlisted in the United States Marine Corps a year after high school and began his service when he was 19. He served as an infantryman for six years, with tours of duty in Afghanistan and the Pacific.

After his duty ended, he enrolled at College of San Mateo. He didn’t have big ambitions. “I barely graduated high school,” he says. But with some hard work and a lot of support from CSM’s Veterans Resource & Opportunity Center (VROC), he thrived in college and transferred to Stanford University this fall. “To graduate from CSM with a 3.85 GPA and gain admission into Stanford University are both so special to me. It shows that people from difficult backgrounds should never aim for lower scholastic or professional achievement.” 

Stephen lived on his own while attending CSM, utilizing financial aid and GI Bill benefits to cover his tuition and help defray housing costs. He says, “CSM is affordable but the cost of living in the area is unforgiving.” With this financial support, Stephen was able to focus on his studies and explore support services that would help him transition from military to civilian life.

The VROC played a huge part in helping Stephen ease into civilian life and continue his education. Stephen initially felt a culture shock and was afraid he wouldn’t be able to connect with the younger student body, but the VROC gave him the camaraderie that he had missed. “The VROC is populated by a supportive group of people and it maintains a culture that allowed me to slowly but effectively transition into civilian life. Its staff has built such a strong program and they largely empower student vets, including myself, to achieve incredible success.”

Stephen’s involvement in the VROC led to other student leadership roles. As a VROC staff assistant he worked with the director, helped veterans enroll at CSM, and acted as a mentor to new student vets. He also acted as a representative for CSM’s Student Veterans of America chapter on the Inter Club Council (ICC). This experience, along with the guidance of Student Life and Leadership Assistant Fauzi Hamadeh, inspired Stephen to run for an elected position with the Associated Students of CSM (ASCSM). “After serving for the ICC and spending time with Fauzi, I realized I wanted to create more visibility for the growing student vet population and represent their interests.” Stephen was elected as the vice chair of ASCSM for the 2016-2017 school year and acted as president for the spring 2017 semester. As president, Stephen also served on other boards and committees, which gave him the opportunity to lead a talented group of students. “Serving alongside my fellow officers was one of my best experiences since getting out of the military, and I cherish my time with ASCSM. From the officers to the advisors, they are all a talented bunch who taught me a lot and made me better.”

While being active in student life, maintaining good grades, and holding down at least one to two jobs every semester, Stephen found himself applying to a variety of universities like Santa Clara University, UC Berkeley, Cornell and Notre Dame de Namur. Stephen was happy to gain admission into Santa Clara University and Notre Dame de Namur, but disappointed when UC Berkeley rejected his application. Then Stanford came knocking, and that was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“I just started my first quarter at Stanford and I still can’t believe I’m here.” Stephen plans to study management science and engineering and is excited for what Stanford has in store for him. “I look forward to enjoying my time at Stanford, finding more balance and focusing on my schoolwork and veteran advocacy.”

However, Stephen still feels like CSM is a home away from home. “I will always fondly remember my time at CSM and how it shaped me. This campus allowed me to build the confidence I needed by taking and excelling in great classes taught by great teachers. It also afforded me the opportunity to be a leader and positive role model on campus for students and veterans alike. Whenever I stumbled, there was always someone who would pick me up or help me correct my course. Before CSM, I would have never thought I could get into a school like Stanford much less succeed there. Despite the challenge ahead, I now have full confidence in my abilities. I’ll always be a Bulldog—I’ll just be a Cardinal-colored one.”