XASS: All right, Myles. Welcome! Thank you for joining us. Start by telling us a little bit about yourself. What are you studying? And where’d you grow up?
Myles: Yeah sure, so my name is Myles. I am a first year master’s student studying electrical engineering, and I am from northern Virginia. About 10 min from DC. People call it the DMV. It’s the DC-Maryland-Virginia area.
XASS: Are your parents in government service somehow or contractors or something like that?
Myles: So yes, I’m a military brat. Both of my parents are retired Air Force veterans, my dad of 25 years and mom got out a little bit earlier before she had me.
XASS: Did you consider a military career yourself?
Myles: No. But my dad for the longest time really encouraged and pushed the military for me just because of the opportunities that they granted him. And he kinda always kept that option open for me, saying, “Hey, you should look into this if you’re unsure of where you want to go.” But once I chose engineering, I think he was okay, because he was glad that I found myself in a STEM field that I would be well off in.
XASS: Very good. So now you’re a grad student. You did your undergrad somewhere else. Tell us about that. What did you major in? What college were you at?
Myles: Back in May of 2023 I completed my undergraduate at Hampton University, based in Hampton, Virginia. And I studied electrical engineering, minoring in mathematics, which is why I am pursuing my masters now in electrical engineering.
XASS: So why Stanford? You went from coast to coast. What drew you over here?
Myles: The summer going into my junior year, I had an opportunity, along with a few of my Hampton friends through the engineering department, we were selected to go down to a 2 week research program at Stanford dealing with AI and machine learning. And so I got exposed to the campus and the people. So I would say that opportunity, really. And also my professor at the time really encouraged me that I should consider Stanford as a grad school, and that’s when I decided, “I’m gonna apply to Stanford.” Just go for it and see what happens.
XASS: Amazing. Obviously, engineering is your thing. What are you into that is not academic? What are your hobbies? What are your passions?
Myles: I’m really into music. I’m a drummer. I’m a percussionist and I’ve been playing since I was 4, so I’ve been doing it for a very long time. My parents made both the fortunate decision and mistake of giving me a small drum set when I was 4 years old. My parents told me that every morning I would wake up and I would go down to start playing on the drum set every morning, and just wake them up.
Myles: And then I just kept on going from there to drum set lessons when I was in first or second grade – around that time. I learned to play by ear first, so essentially without reading music. I would just kind of play along with the songs breaking down the composition and structure by ear. I would be able to figure out “Oh, this song is in this time signature 4/4, 7/8. So I can play along with this type of meter structure and kind of internalize the flow of the song.” On the flip side I eventually did learn how to read drum set music and continued from there. Throughout elementary and middle school I did concert band, but I also got into jazz band and marching band. So the marching arts is what I kind of focused on in high school. I did drumline, I marched bass, I marched snare, pretty much every instrument you could think of minus a few.
Marching band is actually what partially financed my undergraduate tenure at Hampton University. I was a part of the Hampton University Marching Force for 3 years. My senior year, I did not march. I made the decision because I wanted to focus on my academics and other responsibilities that I had at the time.
XASS: So you were scholarshiped?
Myles: Yes, even though it was mainly an academic scholarship I briefly had a band scholarship.
XASS: Boss. That’s very cool. So you arrived at Stanford and somehow you got involved with Chi Alpha. How did you find our community?
Myles: So it’s very random. I was walking with my parents, my grandmother and my aunt, at the time we were going to the bookstore, and I remember I saw this booth out by the bookstore and it said Chi Alpha on it. And my parents said, “Oh, it’s colorful. What’s that?” I’m like, “Good question, I don’t know.” And then I saw that it was a Christian fellowship and I thought to myself, “Okay, I’m gonna check that out.”
I never went to the booth, cause we didn’t have time. One day, I was walking back to my room after a class. This is after all my family had gone back home. I saw a Chi Alpha flyer. It had the QR code to join the Slack and I decided to join the Slack to see what Chi Alpha was all about.
And shortly after Bella reached out to me through email and invited me to go to one of the grad life groups Tuesday at 6:30pm. And I’ve been going to that ever since, and met Andrew also. I’ve been going to Grace Presbyterian with him every Sunday, and got more involved in Chi Alpha large group on the worship team, because Laura overheard me on the cajon one day and was like, “Oh, my gosh! Are you a drummer? Would you be interested in joining the worship team? I’ve been praying for a drummer for the past 2 years.” And then the rest is history.
XASS: That’s amazing. So it sounds like you were raised in some sort of Christian environment. What kind of background do you have in that regard?
Myles: Yes. So I grew up primarily in the Baptist environment. My dad grew up Pentecostal, so I have exposure to both, but as far as the church that me and my family go to it was primarily Baptist. It was a church in Maryland called First Baptist Church of Glenarden.
XASS: Alright. So obviously, you’re just in your first quarter at Stanford. But how has it been for you? Spiritually has it been a positive experience, a neutral experience for a negative experience?
Myles: I would say extremely positive. I think I’ve made a lot of strides. I know I shared a testimony one Wednesday and I had mentioned that I got baptized in the Holy Spirit, and that was a major milestone for me, just because a lot of things that I’ve had on my mind – a lot of worries, a lot of stress – I’d been harboring and couldn’t really let go. Essentially fighting a deep depression that I had been fighting for a while. And then it was gone! I didn’t feel it. I felt so much lighter as if my mind had recentered. And I feel like I’ve gained as well as given a lot more insight and wisdom as to how to navigate life and as to how God works through us, and how God is always there. He continues to be there, even if we don’t think He’s there, or seems like He’s not there, cause it’s real easy to get in our own heads. Especially those of us who are over-thinkers. I am an extreme over-thinker, and so I always tend to get in my own head. I’m constantly pondering about different possibilities. And it’s very easy to get trapped mentally. So I’ll say for me, that was a big – not revelation, but a very strong reminder – that He’s never left. He was always there.
XASS: Alright. Do you have a favorite Bible verse or passage?
Myles: John 3:16. It kind of sounds cheesy, but it has always been a Bible verse that kinda stuck with me as a kid. The fact that He loves us so much that he would give up his own son to take that sacrifice for us. The weight of His love for us holds so much weight, especially now reading this verse from a matured lens and everything else that the Bible really touches upon, and shows that verse to be true, like everything that He went through for us.
XASS: Very cool! Is there something that maybe I don’t know you well enough to know to ask about? Like if I knew you better is there something where I’d be like, “Tell us about this.”
Myles: Yeah, I would actually ask about the story of my birth and those circumstances.
XASS: Tell us about your birth, Myles.
Myles: Yeah. So a lot of people don’t know, and I know my parents tell this a lot to other people, because I’m essentially considered, one may call it a miracle child, both me and my little sister, because yes I have a younger sister. She just turned 17 back in October. Pretty much, I was born premature. I was born 2 months early meaning I was supposed to be born in July. Instead, I was born in May. While my mom was pregnant with me, the doctors were expressing their “concern” about my health status. One of the issues in particular consisted of me receiving little to no amniotic fluid (serves as a cushion for the growing fetus and facilitates the exchange of nutrients between mother and fetus). Basically, I wasn’t getting any nutrients needed for proper development. They did everything from questioning her decision to go on fighting for my life in a way to pressuring my mom to have an abortion ‘cause you know, they were like: “Hey it’s not looking too bright for your kid, It’s very unlikely that he is going to survive at birth.” They were saying: “If he does survive, he’s gonna be lacking in mental development, and he’s gonna have to deal with all these issues X, Y and Z,” giving a list of cognitive and functional based problems. And my mom pretty much said: “Don’t tell me what I should do with my child. This is my decision to make,” and was adamant saying “I’m not aborting my kid”, you know, and then so flash forward she has me. I weighed a pound and fourteen ounces. So I was super tiny and my sister ended up being a pound and seven ounces. So through the grace of God me and my sister are both still here.
We are alive and well, and we have both made strides and continue to make strides. And my parents always tell me that I overcame a lot as a kid in terms of just breaking through the hurdle of that lack of development in my brain and just my body in general, because I was a tiny kid.
So I had to overcome a lot along with that hurdle and this struggling initially in my speech and development. Even just being able to talk. I stuttered. I don’t stutter as much now, but it was pretty bad when I was younger, just stuttering, and I had what they call expressive language disorder where I would just have trouble expressing my thoughts in a clear and concise way. And so I would, you know, have to go through speech and therapy lessons, which I didn’t get to go to for too long. But they did end up helping a little bit.
And then on top of that, just having to always work twice as hard in school, just because nothing ever really came easy to me as a result of that. So I think it was both a blessing, because on top of my mom, you know, drilling it to me like, “I gotta put in the work. It’s important to not be lazy. You gotta work through adversity and problems.” ”Knowledge is power.” It taught me to always work hard for your goals, in everything that you do. Give a hundred and ten percent in everything that you do. Install that work ethic. That’ll take you a long way. So it was a blessing, in a sense.
XASS: That’s an amazing story, Myles. Thank you. And now here you are doing your graduate work at Stanford University. Praise the living God! Now for our final questions. This is a classic spotlight series tradition started from the very first interview by a student years ago. We ask it of everyone. Myles, are you in a romantic relationship? And then a follow up question to that: if not, is that a source of contentment for you or are you hoping for a change in status?
Myles: Oh no I’m not in a romantic relationship right now, that’s a source of contentment for me. I’m not really pressed about not having a girlfriend at the moment. It would be nice, you know. I wouldn’t complain. But it’s not something that’s like a priority in my mind right now.
XASS: Myles, thank you for your time. Tremendous! God bless.