Interview by Derek Grosso
Name: Stephanie Cedeño
Profession: Manager of Volunteer Engagement at Besa
Neighborhood: South Side
Education: Masters of Public Health, The Ohio State University; B.A – International Studies, The Ohio State University
Personal Quotes: “Let’s figure it out” and “It’s our divine duty to take care of one another”
Connect: LinkedIn | Instagram
“Columbus is the city that raised me and made me,” proclaims Stephanie Cedeño. She graduated from a Columbus City School and received a Morrill Scholarship to study at The Ohio State University. After graduating with a B.A in International Studies, she took a year of service as an AmeriCorps Member with Children’s Hunger Alliance. That time was instrumental in pivoting her focus from international service work to serving the community. “I partnered with local programs to administer anti-hunger and health initiatives,” she said. This opened her eyes to Columbus’ diverse communities and the health inequities they faced. After her service year, Stephanie received her Master in Public Health from The Ohio State University and spent the beginning of her professional career continuing in the anti-hunger sphere. It was during that time that she also started volunteering with Besa. “After several years, I was ready to approach community impact work in a different way,” she said, “and the stars aligned when an opening at Besa became available.” As Besa’s Manager of Volunteer Engagement, Stephanie works with a dynamic team that connects people and companies to impactful give-back opportunities that uplift communities in Columbus.
What gets you up each morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
As soon as I wake up, I make a beeline to my coffee machine. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was about 5 (thanks to my Colombian mother) and I’m not a functioning human without it. What gets me through my work week is knowing how many good people we have in our community. Any time I question humanity’s goodness, my work quickly reminds me how much people want to help. For every negative story in the news, I see hundreds of people being kind. My work keeps me hopeful, and knowing that I am a catalyst for goodness pushes me forward.
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
Letting someone know that you believe in them is one of the fundamental acts of kindness. My mother, high school guidance counselor Mrs. Thompson, college mentor Angelette Anthony, and supervisor Matthew Goldstein believed in me when I doubted myself. They taught me the value of knowing my value, which gave me the confidence to commit to my own greatness and honor what I bring to the table. I was extremely lucky to have Regan Walsh introduced to me early in my professional development. Regan taught me how to set healthy boundaries, identify my life priorities, and use my values to guide my purpose. My father always said, “As long as you have friends, you’ll never go broke”. He taught me the importance of nourishing friendships and the many ways people can enrich our life.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
Most evenings I decompress by burning a sweat at Orange Theory and watching Jimmy Fallon.
What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus/central Ohio?
There’s a very special vibe at the Upper Cup on Parsons Ave. They have the BEST coffee in the city, and it’s always buzzing with dope conversations and music. I love going to the movie theater and Gateway Film Center shows fantastic films. Their team does a great job at curating an eclectic mixture of mainstream and independent films and they also have fun programs throughout the year. The sunsets in the fall at the Scioto Mile reminds me how beautiful our city is.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an ambassador so that I could travel the world. I still get to travel the world.
What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
I’ve spent the last year reading books from Latinx authors. I recently finished Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin #DignidadLiteraria
What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
Being chosen for Next Up Columbus is bigger than me. This award is a reflection of all the people in my life that have encouraged me, supported me, collaborated with me, advocated on my behalf, and gave me a chance – I share this award with them. It is the people in my life and the communities that I work with that ground me, they are my north star, and sharing this award with them affirms that I am living my purpose.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
The pulse of Columbus are our non-profits. They keep our city alive. They represent our communities, our challenges, areas of priority for our city, and where resources and being invested.
The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. The Columbus Young Professionals Club would like to offer special thanks to our 2021 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Future Possibilities and Zipline Logistics for their support of this awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2021” »