By Richard Burnett
In his search for himself, Spencer Stevens found it in the most unlikely of places: a closet of castoff computers in Beacon College’s information systems lab. One day, as he eyed the apparent graveyard of electronics, an idea seized him: Fix them and put them back into play.
With his instructor’s blessing, Stevens tackled the daunting task with fervor. Within weeks, he converted the nearly 50 inoperative computers into 20 fully revived units — giving the classroom a badly-needed infusion of equipment for instruction. For Stevens, it was a kickstart to an eventual career.
“I really found my lane and I went for it,” said Stevens, a 2019 graduate and now a PC tech assistant at UFHealth Leesburg Hospital. “For years in middle school and high school, it was so tough, I had to work hard just to stay afloat. I went from that to acing my courses at Beacon because I was so motivated. I really wanted to learn.”
Stevens’ transformation from a shy introvert with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, to an outgoing mentor in the computer lab laid the foundation for his profession, complementing his bachelor’s degree in computer & information sciences & support services.
Today, at UFHealth Leesburg, he is the help desk’s “first responder” for anyone — from doctors to office assistants — who has a computer problem. Earlier this year, he landed the top spot in a hospital survey of the help desk’s efficiency and effectiveness in responding to employees.
He clearly showed that aptitude for helping others in the Beacon lab, said Brenda Jenkins Newkirk, a computer information systems instructor who taught Stevens in many courses. He had an instinctive way of understanding people, solving their tech problem, and communicating the solution, she said.
“As a student, Spencer started out so quiet, shy and reserved,” Newkirk recalled. “But from the beginning he stood out because he was always helping his peers. He started helping me so much around the classroom, he was invaluable.”
In quick succession, Stevens went from CIS teaching assistant to lab assistant to intern, energized by his work ethic, expertise, and “soft skills” working with people.
“Whatever extra time he had, he’d be in the classroom, explaining things to the other students, troubleshooting and fixing computers, downloading updates, and doing whatever needed to be done,” Newkirk said. “I’m so proud to hear he’s doing well, especially in the ‘soft skills’ of customer service, which is something we worked on a lot in class. We focused on giving students hands-on experience helping people.”
Stevens credits Newkirk for creating learning opportunities, helping him focus his energy, and always being there for him with the support he needed: “She was willing to let us learn as much as possible, took all my questions, and helped me believe in myself. She was a wonderful teacher.”
Newkirk said getting such feedback is a blessing for any teacher.
“It makes a world of difference to know I had an impact like that in a student’s life,” she said. “Making a difference — that’s what all of us want to do.”
Another central influence in Stevens’ life is his partner and fiancée Remy Partlow, now a writing consultant for Beacon. They met as students in 2017, fell in love, and were engaged in 2019. For Partlow, Stevens’ personal and professional growth has been inspiring and endearing.
“He’s really become a super IT guy,” she said. “He’s one of the kindest people I’ve known. And that has helped him in his work. It helps him empathize and understand people when he talks to them, even when they are so frustrated and angry. It can really be tough, but he’s so resilient, so hard-working. He’s gotten better and better at what he does and I believe people really appreciate that.”