Biruk Stephens making his mark for ACP football - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Biruk Stephens making his mark for ACP football

July 20th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Biruk Stephens making his mark for ACP football
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By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

Biruk Stephens was just 5 years old when he was uprooted from Ethiopia, his home country.

Wanting a better life than what she could provide, his birth mother made the decision to give him up for adoption. That’s when John and Jeanette Stephens stepped in and brought him to Arizona.

The Arizona College Prep senior didn’t understand any English for about the first year he was in the United States. He was quiet, reserved and confused when he initially was adopted by the Stephens family. But it soon felt like home, and he’s thrived ever since.

“It was kind of hard at first because I was settled in Ethiopia. I kind of understood what was going on,” Biruk said. “Getting uprooted and moved to America was difficult. For the first year it was hard to communicate with everybody. But once I got the hang of it, I was able to learn and being homeschooled helped introduce me to everything.”

Biruk was homeschooled the first few years he was in the United States. He began to show his intelligence level early on and it carried over when he enrolled in public school.

He also began to thrive in sports. He gravitated toward football, which was common in the family. John played football and Jeanette’s family was always involved with the game and other sports.

Biruk’s older brother, Andrew, just finished his high school career at Arizona College Prep and committed to Bethel University. He will join their cousin, Jordan Diaz, who was the first player from ACP to move on to the next level.

Now a senior, Biruk is ready to for a breakout season. Head coach Myron Blueford said he was expecting it to come last year before he was sidelined with nagging injuries. But Biruk’s progression in the weight room and on the field has Blueford and the rest of the coaching staff excited for his senior campaign.

“He’s done everything this off-season to give us the confidence that he is going to have that breakout year I thought I would see,” Blueford said. “He’s right back on path with that and we are really excited for him.

Biruk’s goals for himself extend well-beyond the football field. While he weighs the opportunities he currently has to play at the next level, he has already come up with another plan if football isn’t part of his future.

He has become interested in attending a university that offers a criminology program that is designed for those interested in becoming an agent for the FBI. He became enamored with the thought of being an FBI agent a few years ago when he toured the headquarters in Washington D.C.

Biruk had already been considering a career working for the government, military or in some law enforcement role. He took an aptitude test that said he would be a good fit as a special agent. His parents agreed.

“Biruk has always had this sense of justice, he’s always had this sense of right and wrong,” said John, who also adopted their youngest daughter from China with Jeanette before Biruk. “I’ve always felt he would be well-suited for some kind of career in law enforcement, something along those lines. Now, he may get into college and decide this isn’t for him and that’s ok. It’s really a matter of what he thinks will be the best for him long term.”

Biruk’s passion to be a good person is arguably one of his most impressive traits. Jeanette said she and John never had to push him to accomplish his goals. He set them himself and has ever since sought after the best route to accomplish them.

His drive to take advantage of the opportunities given to him since his adoption is mesmerizing to the family.

“We knew his whole birth family had really wanted him to have opportunities that weren’t available to him over there,” Jeanette said. “I think it’s just in his nature to be driven. I am more proud of the man he is becoming. It’s super special he has accomplished exactly what his birth family had hoped for.”

Biruk remains thankful for Jeanette, John and his three siblings. He is thankful for the opportunities they have given him and for making him feel at home right away. He’s thankful to Blueford and ACP for challenging him in his honors classes and on the field to make him a better student-athlete.

Most importantly, he is thankful for his birth mother making a selfless decision that she knew would ultimately benefit him. He still has some communication with her and has a desire to build a relationship with her after he is finished with high school.

But in the meantime, he wants to make her and everyone else proud. And he will do what it takes to make that happen.

“When I look back into it, Ethiopia is still a third-world country without many opportunities so I don’t know where I would be,” Biruk said. “It was frustrating at first because I wanted to be with my mom, but I also had to understand what she was going for. I think the best way to remember her is to live up to what she wanted me to do and what she wanted me to pursue.

“Being blessed with all of these opportunities, it just makes me happy.”

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