Grad Feature: Joshua Stevens – A Story of Inspiration

  • SDI Admin

“There is merit without elevation, but there is no elevation without some merit.”
~Nobleman and writer François de La Rochefoucauld.

Veteran, published author, college graduate, and future gunsmithing business owner Joshua Stevens’ name may seem familiar. Joshua’s winning essay, “The Rise of 80 Percent Firearms,” was published by Gun Digest as part of a large essay contest, and he has been the focus of various news releases put out by Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI), where he attended and graduated. Recently, Joshua was picked as SDI’s Famous Alumni. He was selected for this recognition because his work, personality, and accomplishments outside of the classroom were exemplary. Nobody was aware that he did all of this while undergoing diagnosis, surgery, and recovery for a large invasive tumor inside his head, which was the result of a traumatic brain injury while on deployment. He did not want help—he needed to complete school on his own.

SDI Director of Curriculum and Assessment, Mike Olson, went on to say, “You know, the best part about this guy is that he stood out right away. He was always engaging with professors and meticulous with his work. I called him up to tell him we had selected him for our Famous Alumni award after he was published in Gun Digest and it was not until he received the award that we saw his video detailing his struggles with a traumatic brain injury. He never said a word about it to anyone.”

Joshua Stevens went on to earn a 3.83 GPA and never missed a step. It was a point of pride for him to graduate. For Joshua, it was difficult to go back to school. He had been in the military for six years and was nine years removed from high school. Remaining thankful, he credited Sonoran Desert Institute’s advisors for helping him every step of the way as he went through the enrollment process, and they continued to do so as he worked his way through his degree.
In a school setting where attendance is required, Joshua most likely would have had to withdraw from his program. There is no possibility that he would have been able to work through his trials without anybody knowing. Attending SDI, though, enabled him to pursue what he really loves, keep a flexible schedule, and keep his health status guarded so he could go through school on his own terms.

Joshua’s statement on his time at SDI shows humility and sums it up best. “I actually really enjoyed my time with SDI. Initially going into things I was I guess a bit arrogant and didn’t really think I’d end up learning much, I knew having a certification or degree in the field would set me apart from the other gunsmiths in the area and that was my main motivation for enrolling. I was quite happy to find out I didn’t know half as much as I thought I did and not only did I learn a lot while attending but I was able to ask myself the right questions and really ensure that gunsmithing was the correct career choice for me. Graduating despite adversity was really just the cherry on top of everything.

When I first found out I had a brain tumor and then everything else that happened school was one of the only things in my life that was still normal in a sense. I guess in a way it was one of the things that kept me grounded and provided a light at the end of the tunnel, a goal that gave the storm purpose. Being as successful as I was, getting published, and now being honored as a Famous Alumni were all unexpected and tremendously humbling, I just gave everything my best effort and have been amazed at where that’s taken me, everything has really reassured me that I’m on the right path and doing something that I’m good at.”

This piece starts with a quote from François de La Rochefoucauld for a specific reason. Much like Joshua Stevens, François was a military man, a businessman, and a writer, and he found success after overcoming a traumatic brain injury. Joshua has already amassed an impressive body of gunsmithing work and he has found success in writing. There is no reason to believe that he will not reach every goal just as he did with his education. He will be elevated by his merit.

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