Sanele Stewart

Sanele Stewart
Choosing Community College
When Sanele Stewart graduated from high school, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do next. He was unsure about attending community college, but then he connected with an Oakton employee who told him about the Emory Williams Academy for Black Men. After learning about the opportunities to continue his education, he was confident Oakton College was the right path forward.

“In high school, I was pretty sure I wanted to continue my education, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do community college. I thought I wanted to become a chemistry teacher. It was a weird time because of COVID and I didn’t really feel prepared for what was next. After hearing about how Oakton’s Emory Williams Academy for Black Men program could connect me with people who share similar experiences, Oakton became a ‘for sure’ in my mind.”

Discovering a Career Path
Since continuing his education at Oakton, Sanele has decided he does not want to become a chemistry teacher and wants to pursue a career in environmental science—specifically ecology. Taking biology classes at Oakton, joining STEM Scholars and working as a student employee helped him hone in on the education and career he wants to pursue.

“My classes really helped me realize what was best for me academically. In ecology, each living organism on this planet works together to make ecosystems and the biosphere work. I realized that connection fills me with hope and happiness. Through the STEM Scholars program, I attended seminars and listened to people working in the field. It is important to see people who have made it in the field that you want a career in because it makes you start to believe you can do it too.”

Sanele's impactful contributions on campus focused on restoration and preventing the spread of invasive species, notably buckthorn and the spotted lanternfly. His work on campus culminated in an impactful presentation where he encouraged others to connect with nature both on campus and in their daily lives.

“Through my student employee position, I worked alongside Oakton's Naturalist and connected with nature. Something else I’m proud of is the presentation I did for Campus Sustainability Month. Public speaking is hard because I always feel I could’ve done better. I had to learn that I couldn't include every idea that I felt was important in the presentation. It is important to learn how to get an audience to understand without including every little detail. This job has kept me busy. It’s been awesome and I feel lucky.”

Making an Impact at Oakton
Sanele plans to transfer after his time at Oakton. He is grateful for the opportunity to work with amazing people, confident in pursuing environmental work and excited to continue his education in ecology. He hopes his work at Oakton can make a lasting difference on campus.

“It would be pretty nice to leave my mark on Oakton in some way. Not for people to remember me but a legacy I can reflect on and be proud of after I transfer. I really felt the impact of my work when I rescued some monarch butterflies and released them on campus. I was so happy that I cried. I started to think about the offspring and possibilities of future generations that could come from those 10 butterflies. In many ways, my work is like a ‘thank you’ to this planet that has created me and everything I’ve ever loved. I’m happy to assist this planet in restoring itself.”