The amazing Ms. Stephens

Senior plans secured with her help

by Molly Krulewitch, Business Manager

Shorewood’s very own Wonder Woman of college and career matters, Marianne Stephens, does it all. From sending out weekly emails packed with scholarship and volunteer opportunities to leading essay workshops and coordinating in-school college representative visits, she keeps seniors on track to graduate and flourish. 

According to Stephens, her job involves “career preparation, college search and application, community service, and extracurricular opportunities for students,” with a “tasks as needed” section tacked on at the end. She is essential to Shorewood regarding students’ futures. “It’s nice because you are doing a variety of things, but it’s also challenging because you could say there’s five jobs within each task there,” she said.  

Stephens sends out emails multiple times per week that include all necessary information for students and parents. “I subscribe to lists,” she said. “For the senior things, I do have a schedule of what’s happening when, but it’s also in my head.” She usually writes these emails from scratch but has material she can look back on and draw from when necessary.

She tries to help students move forward on the right path for them. “Working with students [is] what it’s all about,” Stephens said. “I think a part of my job that’s not super tangible is to help students have confidence in what their next step is… whether that’s a college, or an apprenticeship, or a gap year.” 

A large part of the job is providing guidance to students who might be overwhelmed or lost in the sea of options. “Probably a few times a year a student comes in and they’re kind of crushed about a certain college decision… and we talk through it and come up with alternatives and by the end they’re super excited about what they’re doing. I really enjoy that,” Stephens said. “Some things do hurt at first and that’s hard, but then they almost underestimate themselves for what they can handle and figure out,” she continued.

Photo Courtesy of Marianne Stephens

Stephens knows each person’s college experience is unique so she tries to find representatives from a diverse set of colleges to come speak at Shorewood. “When we started connecting with HBCUs…a representative from Spelman came, which is a [historically black] women’s college in Atlanta and that was probably the most transformative and impactful college visit I’ve ever been in on,” Stephens said. 

Moments like these, where Stephens gets to experience students finding a place where they feel like they belong, are what make the job fulfilling. “It was a group of very involved students here which asked excellent, pointed questions and one of them was ‘We have BSU here and do you have something like that there?’ and the representative said, ‘Well every day is like BSU’ and the entire room was like, ‘Ohhhh’.”

Though Stephens has helped countless students, each individual has varying needs. “I have three students all graduated from Shorewood and as of Sunday, all graduated from college as well, and they are three very different people, so I don’t expect people to be on a certain path.” 

Stephens uses all her resources to try and help each student feel good about their plans going forward, but as a one woman show, she can only do so much. “There’s only one of me. I’m a department of one, and so oftentimes people feel like we should have more for a certain set of students,” she said. “We should have more for college-bound athletes. We should have more for apprenticeships. We should have more for career exploration… It’s just challenging as a department of one to do all that,” Stephens said. However, there is a lot of collaboration behind the scenes. “We couldn’t do everything we do without the cooperation of all the other staff,” she said.

Though more resources could be helpful, Stephens wants students to take their future into their own hands. “I’m amazed at what students do themselves… I think students here have to take the initiative. That’s probably a good thing in the long run.” 

With one of her and 1600 of us, there’s always something to be done. 

“I feel like I’m never caught up or doing enough…but that’s the nature of public education. There’s always more you could do.”