Merced man making most of new life

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comDecember 9, 2012 

Stephen Maxey went from being out on the streets to being a member of the honor society at Merced College.

The 47-year-old first came to Merced County from Marlin, Texas, in 2007 to be closer to one of his sons. After some issues emerged between Maxey and the mother of his son, he ended up at the Merced County Rescue Mission.

Maxey was only supposed to stay at the mission for two days. He even got a bus ticket to go back to Texas, but he kept telling himself he would only stay one more day.

"I never left," he said.

The mission became his home at night -- for two years. Maxey, like other men staying at the mission, was required to leave during the day.

While he was out wandering the streets of Merced during the daytime, he made some bad decisions. Maxey had been a drug user and found himself falling back into that habit.

But he wanted to find something that would keep him out of trouble, and Merced College turned out to be the haven he was seeking. "It turned into something absolutely fabulous," he said.

Maxey enrolled in classes there in 2010. Even though he started one of his classes a month after the semester began, he still earned an A.

He will graduate next semester with three AA degrees: one in psychology, another one in sociology and social sciences, and a third in international studies.

Maxey was the November student of the month at Merced College and earned a certificate along with $50. He holds a 3.28 grade-point average and is part of the college's Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society.

Not only has he turned his life around but he's now eager to give back to the community.

Maxey applied to UC Merced and California State University, Stanislaus, for fall 2013. But he would like to get into UC Merced and major in public health to help improve the community.

He recently also held a clothing drive and dropped off the items he collected at the rescue mission -- his former home.

"It made me feel good to be able to give back," he said. "I got so much from them, I can never repay."

Jeanie Clifford, a psychology professor at Merced College, said she has known Maxey for two years.

"He just really worked incredibly hard to overcome obstacles he faced," she said of Maxey, who took three of her psychology classes.

Besides his willingness to work hard in class, Clifford also praised Maxey for his kindness and interest in helping others. She recalled one occasion when Maxey brought another student who was having problems into her office to get assistance.

"He's always willing to go the extra mile to help someone in need," she said.

Clifford nominated Maxey to be the November student of the month.

"He deserved it tremendously," she said. "He's made a positive impact on the entire campus. Everybody knows him and everybody appreciates him. He just stands out because he is so kind and considerate."

Maxey's son, Stephen, 23, said his father has great people around him in Merced.

"He's completely turned all the way around," he said. "Now he's in a better spot than I (am) in school."

The Modesto Junior College student said he knew his father would get out of the streets, but he didn't expect for him to go back to school.

"He's putting in a 100 percent effort," he said.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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