Student takes the wheel

Gustavo Lopez

Determined, engaged and focused is how English Professor Jack Swanson described administration of justice major Steven Tataje.

An “A” student from Cypress, California, he is always looking for ways to better himself and others.

He was also a motivational speaker at his church.

Tataje, the oldest among his siblings, takes pride in being the good influence to his sibings.

That however, wasn’t always the case.

After two years of drifting through life after high school, he returned to school with newfound determination. He started off slow, by taking one class, but he did so with fierce ambition, which earned him an “A.”

“Before I used to be a slacker, procrastinated a lot,” he said.

Tataje added that he knew his materials, but didn’t ask questions.

“I felt like if I didn’t need to try, why bother,” he added.

He felt that despite his understanding of his class materials, he couldn’t reach that potential.

Now at 22 years old, “I’m always upfront, asking questions if there’s something I don’t know.”

Things weren’t easy for Tataje.

After a year of Cypress College, he lost motivation and began to flunk out of his classes and even as a motivational speaker he personally didn’t feel motivated himself.

Tataje quit motivational speaking even as he dropped out of school.

“I fell in a great depression, I felt worthless. I didn’t value my life anymore,” he said.

Tataje got into a couple of car accidents, including one with a police car.

He started taking more risks and engaging in bad habits.

“I destroyed almost every part of myself during those two years off. I was antisocial, I forgot everything I learned in school,” he said about returning to school.

“Luckily, I’m still alive,” he said. Tataje added that during his year off, he watched motivational cartoons, movies and clips. This eventually led him to come out of his slump.

One of these inspirations came in with a cowl and a dark disposition.

“I was never a Batman fan, so I watched it and I was inspired by him. He (Batman) aspired to be the best he could be and that inspired me,” Tataje said.

“I was too scared to take that leap,” he said.

But he did, slow at first and then came back with a vengeance.

Kari Pike, speech professor here on campus said, “The truth of the matter is I was no different with Steven than I am with anyone else,”

She added that most students start off strong like Tataje but burn out by the end of the semester.

Pike said, “I care and encourage them to give me whatever their best is. Steven simply took the tools I offered in class and used them.”

Tataje hopes to become a peer counselor here or at another college, and achieve the President’s list at Cypress College, since he’s already on the list here at Cerritos.

He said, “One thing I can tell people is to always keep an open mind, because if you keep yourself closed then what’s the point?”