Stephen was born in New Jersey, and he grew up in a small steel producing town in Pennsylvania. He received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College, and his graduate degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. His working-class upbringing and training as a social worker keep him grounded in the problems of everyday life.
Both Stephen and his brother are Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Stephen received the Bronze Star Medal for service in Iraq. He is a retired United States Army Reserve Officer with the rank of Major. In addition to other medals and awards, Stephen earned the Parachutist Badge and the Air Assault Badge. He served honorably with the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Stephen’s family history of service informs his ideas and beliefs about selfless service to our nation through servant leadership. Stephen’s service in the Army also shaped his ideas about national security, the use of military force, and the importance of taking care of Veterans.
In 2005 Stephen moved to Durham after leaving the Army and decided to make North Carolina his home. Shortly after, he graduated law school from the NC Central University School of Law. During law school Stephen was employed as a social worker with the Department of Veterans Affairs. There he advocated for Veterans like himself. After law school he was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. State Department.
While at the U.S. State Department he gained valuable foreign policy experience. He worked with United States Congressional staff, the White House, and the Department of Defense during the historic Presidency of Barack Obama. He also worked under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and was detailed to the office of Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey for a time. Stephen served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s office. His time at the U.S. State Department helped develop his ideas about promoting democracy and human rights through diplomacy.
In 2016 Stephen joined the faculty of the social work department at NC Central University. His time as a social work educator helped to inform his ideas on social policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as fighting for vulnerable populations. In 2020 he returned to the NC Central University School of Law to serve as the Director of the Veterans Law Clinic.
His time at the law school offered him an opportunity to provide legal representation to Veterans seeking VA benefits. He also had the privilege of engaging in conversations with students about advocacy, policy, democracy, voting, and their fears for the future. Their concerns about whether voting matters, and their concerns about the direction of our country motivated him to enter public service. He understands the importance of falling and getting back up because this is the reality for him and thousands of other North Carolinians.
Stephen lives with his wife Valarie in Durham, North Carolina. They have three beautiful children who attended Durham Public Schools.