Langston Stephens starts many mornings on the Davidson College track.
The 22-year-old does the triple jump.
But his busy days of practice, volunteer work and classes are coming to an end. The senior is preparing for a big trip.
“This will probably be the coolest thing I ever do in my life,” Stephens says.
He will embark on a worldwide adventure to Brazil, South Africa, Singapore and France.
They aren’t handpicked vacation spots. Instead, he’s chosen them as places to research affordable housing. It’s an issue he plans to devote his life to.
“We preach that things are a lot better here [United States] but we have a homeless population of half a million people in our country. I don’t think we fully recognize that as a problem,” Stephens says.
As a kid Stephens’ step-dad worked for the state department, so Stephens spent years living overseas. He saw the role housing played in people’s lives.
On his trip he will study how to help people who are evicted from their homes.
“If I limit my mind to just thinking about housing from a United States point-of-view, I won’t be able to have the impact I truly want to make,” Stephens says.
He was awarded $36,000 for his trip. The Thomas J. Watson Foundation recently named him a 2021 fellow. The stipend will allow him to spend a year researching and developing ideas for the U.S. He’ll document what he learns throughout his trip.
“There’s not going to be one perfect fit all solution, but there needs to be a lot of different types … ultimately I want to go abroad and learn different methods for tackling this issue and take that knowledge and bring it back,” Stephens added
Stephens next jump won’t be on the track, but it will likely be his biggest as he runs toward an ambitious future.
“Hopefully, I’ll be a developer with a successful program that’s getting recently evicted households back on their feet,” he says.
Stephens is the 88th Davidson student awarded the fellowship, which was started more than five decades ago.
Due to the pandemic his trip is tentatively scheduled for this summer or for the summer of 2022.