Release Date: 
Tuesday, May 23, 2023

HawkStrong: Stef Blackburn revived the National Society of Leadership and Success, HFC chapter

Headshot of Stef Blackburn

Being a leader is an identity HFC alumna Stephanie “Stef” Blackburn values.

“Even as a child, I found myself leading group activities or choreographing a dance for a group of girls to learn, because I enjoyed it,” recalled Blackburn, of Brownstown. “So when I heard there was an organization that helps you become a stronger leader, I said, ‘Count me in!’”

For the 2022-23 academic year, Blackburn served as the president of the National Society of Leadership and Success (PDF document) at HFC.

“As soon as the presidency opened, I was eager to take on that role,” she said. ‘Previously, everything was online and there weren’t any NSLS members engaging in events on campus. I wanted to grow in that leadership role, but I also wanted to bring awareness back to the organization.”

NSLS accomplishments

During Blackburn’s presidency, she was able to accomplish several things:

  • Assist 57 NSLS students complete their steps to induction.
  • Continue the Zoom presence to keep members on track with their goals.
  • Represent the NSLS during Welcome Back Days in the Fall 2022 and Winter 2023 semesters.
  • Represent the NSLS during the vigil to support Michigan State University students.
  • Host a “Speaker Broadcast” on campus.
  • Speak to high school groups touring the HFC campus.

“My proudest achievement as president was learning the skill of listening,” said Blackburn. “While I carried traits of a leader previously, I still wasn’t allowing others to say what they needed to say, and I wasn't taking it in. I have learned to pause, listen, absorb, and truly reflect before responding.”

She does have one regret. “It is sad for me to leave campus knowing there isn’t a replacement as president,” she confessed. “Ongoing engagement is a struggle with people's schedules. I hope to see more people take great opportunities such as this role.”

HFC Student Activities Officer Cassandra Fluker worked closely with Blackburn.

“Stef is an exceptional leader – dedicated, focused, and self-driven,” said Fluker. “With her extensive work and community-involved background, she brought a lot to the NSLS presidency and the organization. As a leader, Stef demonstrates high levels of tenacity and resiliency. She doesn’t let much get in the way of reaching her goals. Stef is one of HFC’s outstanding student leaders. I greatly appreciated connecting with her and being part of her journey. I wish her the best as she pursues her future endeavors.”

HFC has helped Blackburn get closer to achieving goals

The fourth of six children, Blackburn was raised in the Delray neighborhood in southwest Detroit. She is a graduate of Allen Park High School. Blackburn’s mother, Gina Blackburn, attended HFC (then called Henry Ford Community College).

“Watching her take classes, work a full-time construction job, and raise her kids – and she engaged with us – was probably more rewarding than I realized at the time,” said Blackburn. “My mom attending HFC probably influenced me attending.”

Blackburn earned her associate degree in general studies from HFC in 2013. She returned to the College to take additional courses to complete the requirements for the Michigan Transfer Agreement, which will allow her to continue her education this fall at Northern Michigan University, where she will major in psychology.

“As a youth coach and mentor, I believe majoring in child and adolescent psychology will only strengthen my coaching and mentoring skills,” she said. “In 10 years, I see myself being a force for good through the art of coaching. By then, I will have been a published author of children’s books, traveled the world to teach positive coaching, and have a small farm where I rescue animals. Be sure to look me up! In the end, I want to always ensure I am living out my purpose and doing what makes me happy. HFC has helped me get one step closer to all of those goals.”

More open-minded and open-hearted

Leaving HFC for a second time is tough.

“The wonderful staff and friends I have made along the way is the best part of attending HFC!” she said. “They are supportive, encouraging, and they challenged me to become better. The most challenging thing about attending HFC was myself. I held myself back for so long. Afraid to ask for help, afraid to admit I was struggling, afraid to fail, and even afraid to achieve. But with the help of some HFC staff members, the NSLS, the Mindfulness Club, and empathetic professors like Magidah Alaudi, Dr. Ali Bazzi, and Jared Boyd, I was able to break the barriers down to continue my life journey on the right path.”

Blackburn has many great memories of HFC. Her fondest was in an Eastern Religions class she took in 2012.

“The professor [Joel Geffen] would have us meditate at the end of class for five minutes. He’d dim the lights, have us straighten our posture in our seats, and just be still. He would always mention this mind of ours constantly getting distracted, and that this was a way to reduce the distraction for just a brief period. At the time, all I had was my distracted mind. I would shake my leg, tap my toes, think about 217 things, and dash out of class as soon as he turned the lights back up,” recalled Blackburn. “When I look back, I think, ‘Why didn’t I allow myself those five minutes?’ I did not realize that 10 years later, I would come back being open-minded and open-hearted to not only making meditation a daily routine but even joining the Mindfulness Club on campus. If I saw the professor now, I would say to him, ‘Namaste, my friend. I am here and now.’”