People Like Me: Kari Stephens

Life is never easy, but you have to recognize what you’ve been through and embrace it.

Baton Rouge native, Kari Stephens graduated May 2022 with a Bachelor of Social Work degree. Growing up, Stephens encountered different experiences than most. Before she was six years old, she lost both of her parents and experienced hardships, but is very proud of the person she has become today. “I can take comfort in knowing that my parents would be proud to call me their daughter. My adopted mom tells me this all the time, but there’s something special in knowing that I would have made my biological parents proud,” Stephens said.
Photo of Kari Stephens at the Huey P. Long beam signing

LSU was not Stephens first school choice, but she wouldn’t change her undergraduate experience for anything. Stephens’ ultimate reason for choosing LSU was for the financial awards she was offered. Stephens said, “The scholarships offered me the freedom from worrying about a job to pay for school or the stress of having to take out loans.”

Due to Stephens’ decisions, her time at LSU has been filled with life-changing connections largely because of the people she has met and the clubs and organizations she has joined. When she chose LSU, she was not thinking about her freshman year, but of her life journey during college as well as after. “I considered the experiences, connections, and friendships I would want, and I made it happen with a lot of hard work and getting out of my comfort zone,” Stephens said.

“Being adopted and having to move to a different state in order to start over definitely didn’t lay the best foundation for me. Occasionally, I still struggle with trust issues and sometimes don’t feel confident in myself or in what I can bring to the table. I’ve had my share of challenges, but my best way of overcoming them has been to recognize the value that these experiences have had on my life and on the story I get to tell others. My experiences have changed who I am for the better and I am proud to have overcome the situations that used to define me,” Stephens said.

Getting accepted into the School of Social Work her sophomore year was a game changer for Stephens. She chose the College of Human Sciences & Education because the programs offered, and the students that the college attracts gave her hope. “They give me hope for our generation and the change that they will make, not only on a local level, but internationally. It will be the students from CHSE who are writing public policy, educating future generations, and changing how organizations and businesses operate and are led,” Stephens said.

Stephens chose social work as her major because she desires to change lives. Stephens said, “With this degree, I can work within schools, hospitals, social service agencies, nonprofits and more.” Social work combines all of Stephens’ passions for service, sociology, mental health advocacy, and encouraging others. “Social work gives me the opportunity to make the grand changes that I want made locally and on a larger scale. It encourages me to stand up for myself and for others and it makes me a better person. I am always proud to be a future social worker,” Stephens said.

Coming to LSU, Stephens was ready to take in everything. Through hard work, both academically and personally, she built a supportive community network. The support encouraged her and kept her safe during the hard times she faced. Stephens said, “In these past four years, I have transformed. My personality remained the same, but my confidence level has been transformed. I am ready to take on the world as a beautiful new butterfly.”

Throughout everything that Stephens has faced in her life, she believes the grace of God kept her going. If she could go back and talk to her younger self, she would tell them, “Your testimony has power. You are power. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

For students encountering struggles, Stephens said, “It’s okay to not be perfect because nobody is…even if social media sometimes depicts otherwise. Just be you. You are absolutely amazing just the way you are. Let your light shine and the right friends will come to you.”

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10