This Pirate finds fulfillment
through math, music and ministry.
This Pirate combines interests in math, music to serve others
When Trayshawn Stepney’s not crunching numbers, he leads worship for the student organization Collide Ministries.
The senior mathematics and secondary math education major said he discovered his second home when he met students from Collide during Hurricane Irene clean up.
“I grew up in church and when I got to college, I didn’t want to have anything to do with church,” Stepney said. “(The people from Collide) were so chill and down-to-earth, so I started going to the services. They asked me if I could play any instruments, and I said ‘yes, I play piano, drums and guitar.’”
As the worship coordinator, Stepney organizes music practice and decides which songs to play for the weekly service.
“I wouldn’t say Collide is like a church, because we’re very open and laid back. We focus on just being who you are and not trying to put up a front,” he said. “It’s like any other student organization; we hang out, play basketball together and eat together, but we have a service.”
Stepney, who has played piano since he was 10, also plays piano for worship services at Burn Greenville and Open Door Ministries. “I love playing because I can express my emotions and feelings in ways that I never could with words,” he said.
Stepney also volunteers with Hope of Glory Ministries and participates with their local outreach. “We’ll go to lower income areas and we’ll play sports, do face-painting, play with the kids and provide free food,” he said. “It is a lot of fun and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for somewhere to get involved with volunteering.”
When visiting his hometown of Lillington, Stepney takes home-cooked meals to the South Wilmington Street Homeless Shelter. “When I was growing up, my mother was always helping others in some type of way. Seeing her heart for serving has made volunteering one of my top priorities,” he said.
Stepney is attending ECU as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow, a competitive program that pays student’s tuition under the condition that they will teach at a North Carolina school after graduation.
As part of his Teaching Fellows curriculum, he co-teaches a math class at D.H. Conley High School. “Depending on the day, I either float around the classroom to see if the students need help while their instructor teaches, or we do parallel teaching, where their regular teacher and I trade off teaching the lesson,” he said.
Stepney said the transition from student to teacher has been the biggest challenge for him. “The students like me, though,” he said. “They said they want me to be their permanent teacher.”
Stepney hopes to find a job teaching high school math following his graduation in May. And he plans to continue playing piano.
Why do you enjoy math?
Math and music were my favorite two subjects in school. I love how you have to think logically about everything. In high school, I could just go through a set of steps, but now I have to really think about how it works. I have problems that I can’t solve in one sitting – it might take more than a day to work through it. I enjoy learning more about the theorems behind the basic skills learned in high school, like learning the concepts behind why you can’t divide by zero.
Why do you want to be a teacher?
My mother is a teacher. I had the best math teacher in the world in high school. I want to be like them and help out in any way that I can. I enjoyed my time in high school - I loved it. I want to try to make that experience as enjoyable for other people as it was for me.
How has ECU helped you prepare for your career?
ECU has the best teacher education program in the state, and Teaching Fellows has given me opportunities that many other students won’t experience. We go on cultural enrichment trips; last year, we went to Boston and New York and we’re going to New York again in October. It’s really cool because we get to see different city school systems.
Coming to ECU has also opened my eyes to diversity on all levels. I grew up in a very traditional Christian family, and being here, I am around so many different people that I never would have had the chance to be around. It’s awesome getting to know people for who they are.
What is something that everyone should do while they are at ECU?
If you don't do anything else, go to a Pirate football game!
Photography by: Cliff Hollis
Written by: Grace Haskin
College: College of Education
Majors: Secondary Mathematics Education and Mathematics
Hometown: Lillington, North Carolina
Hobbies & Interests: Music, sports and relaxing with friends
Clubs & Organizations: ECU Gamma Chapter of Mathematics, Collide Campus Ministries, ECU Teaching Fellows and College of Education Junior Advisory Board.
Hangout: Collide Ministries
Place on Campus: The Student Recreation Center
Place to Eat: The Croatan
Class: MATH 3263 - Modern Algebra, taught by Dr. Gail Ratcliff.
TV Show: SportsCenter
Musician/band: Billy Joel
Movie: Next Friday
Most Influential Professor: Dr. Heather Ries
Dream Job: My dream job is to be the best educator I can be in the classroom and outside of it.
You Can’t Live Without: My family
Role Models: Jesus Christ
Words to Live By: Do your best at everything and if that's not enough, do some more.
Advice to Fellow Students: Try to stay on top of everything. Sometimes failures in school, work and life in general happen, but you have to keep going.
Something cool about ECU you wish you knew as a freshman: I wish I had known you could print for free at Austin. It would have saved me a lot of trouble.
“Try to stay on top of everything. Sometimes failures in school, work and life in general happen, but you have to keep going.”
– Trayshawn Stepney