Unsupported and misunderstood, Maygen Stevens, a 26-year-old former Tyler Junior College student with cerebral palsy, wants to use her struggles to inspire others.
“I hope to give back to the community as much, or even more, than it has given me,” said Stevens, a senior at The University of Texas at Tyler.
“The key in life, I think, is to aspire to something great (and) being grateful regardless of life’s experiences, positive or negative. It’s how I’ve grown so much. It’s the primary reason I’m able to reach and inspire others through my struggles.”
Her struggles began at 6 months when she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
“The doctors explained that she would never be able to read, write, walk and understand anything, but I just didn’t believe it,” said her mother, Laura Stevens, a financial aid officer at TJC.
Although Maygen proved to be smart, Mrs. Stevens said she fought battles with teachers and school officials.
“Even though she tested intellectually off the charts, there was that stigmatism attached to her because she had a disabil- ity,” Mrs. Stevens said.
She recalls being livid after learning that Maygen was being kept inside during recess because a teacher didn’t feel May- gen should go out on a playground. Other teachers questioned whether she should be allowed in a regular classroom.
“A lot of teachers at that time, felt that if you had any kind of disability, you needed to be in special ed,” she said.
At TJC, Maygen graduated with an associates degrees in history, psychology and biology. At UT-Tyler she is concentrating her studies on sociocultural anthropology.
She plans to eventually enroll in the University of Arizona and earn a PhD.
“I’ve always known that I wanted a doctorate since age 7 and I’ve also always loved people,”she said.”Teaching,or work- ing at a museum, anything that involves inspiring others while learning myself, has always been my passion.
Maygen credited TJC with establishing her future and vision for quality education.
“Educationally, TJC is a wonderful place for someone to get their prerequisites, acquiring their basics,” she said. “It was at TJC, after falling in love with the campus, I decided to graduate with three associates degrees.”
Besides overcoming learning challenges, Maygen has also overcome physical challenges as a result of the cerebral palsy.
“Every time physical therapists told Maygen she would not be able to do something, she set out to prove them wrong,” said her mother.
Today Maygen exercises to strengthen her muscles weakened by cerebral palsy.
“Maygen remains to this day incredibly physically fit,” said Mrs. Stevens. “She swims, rides a bike, works with a trainer and is so fit.”
Those who know Maygen say she is an inspiration. “Any and everyone who meets her knows how special she is,” said Sue Willis, testing center manger at TJC. “She’s definitely a remarkable woman.”
Mrs Stevens said her daughter is phenomenal.
“Her need to want to help others is unbelievable and she has the biggest heart.”
Maygen said that having to overcome obstacles has shaped her life for the better.
“I treasure each and every one of my experiences and I believe there’s always a reason behind them.”