North Texas Daily

More than a friendly face: UNT student makes helpful impact on campus

More than a friendly face: UNT student makes helpful impact on campus

More than a friendly face: UNT student makes helpful impact on campus
October 18
00:52 2018

Some people know him as the friendly cashier in the Campus Chat who always has a smile on his face. Some know him as the president of the Student Veterans Association. Others know him simply as their friend.

Allen Stahla is all these things and more.

At 52 years old he is a nontraditional student: He is a veteran with a disability. And he is also an outspoken conservative. These social groups represent different parts of him but at his core, Stahla is defined by his desire to help others.

“It’s been instilled in my psyche that I should always treat people better than I treat myself,” Stahla said.

From being a voice for student veterans on campus to working as a cashier, Stahla lives focused on treating others with respect and dignity.  Stahla said the trials he has faced in the past have helped him realize how important it is to lift others up.

The road to recovering purpose

Stahla was 17 years old when he decided to join the army. The military life was one he watched his dad live during his childhood growing up in Northern Colorado. And now, it was his turn.

“My dad was in the Marine Corps starting in 1958,” Stahla said. “He was one of the first couple of thousand men in Vietnam back in ‘58. I saw his love of brotherhood [and] love of country all through my life.”

He served in the army for three years. After he left in 1987, he spent the next 10 years doing different jobs around the states and other parts of the world. From working in an oil field to a flex crew for a fracking company, he traveled and experienced hard labor.

In 1996 he went through the loss of his newborn son, which led to a dark, difficult time in his life. He coped by working and drinking a lot, which led to him having an aortic aneurysm rupture in 2010.

He spent four weeks in a coma, six weeks total in the hospital. He returned a month later with an infection and lost his left leg in the process. The next 10 months were spent in a nursing home with gangrene.

After that ordeal, it took three years to recover from the physical impact of his health and other personal issues going on in his home life.

“After I recuperated enough to gain back my strength, I realized I’m not the type of person that could willingly sit back and watch ‘Oprah’ and collect a disability check for the rest of my life,” Stahla said. “That’s not who I am. I was put on this earth to produce, to make things better for other people.”

So, at 48 years old, he decided to get back to work by going to school. He earned his associate’s degree from Polkstate College in Winter Haven, Florida, where he was living at the time.

In spring 2016, he moved to Denton so he could pursue a bachelor’s degree in risk management and be closer to his family. He came to UNT with a new sense of determination to help others any way he could.

One way he does that is by being a voice for student veterans on campus as the president of the Student Veterans Association. He was elected to the position in May 2018, and it is a role he is very passionate about.

“We don’t have a lot of people that talk for us, so if I can be that one person, I’ll be that one person,” Stahla said.

He has also used his presence on campus to be a voice for conservatives. Through his involvement with the political student organization Hard Conversations he has shared his conservative stance on various topics.

“I really do feel that he could be a really great liaison of what it truly looks like to be someone who has a different political view than someone but [can] still be respectful,” said Teresita Hurtado-Ramos, assistant director of diversity and inclusion.

Stahla also represents nontraditional students, disabled students and student workers through his presence on campus. Just by living intentionally and bringing awareness to issues that surround these social groups, his life is connected to many different people.

“People always say, ‘Don’t judge the book by its cover,’ and I would definitely say that about him,” Hurtado-Ramos said. “He is an onion — [there are] so many layers to him that you have to unpeel to see the beautiful package that’s within.”

An impact from behind the counter and beyond

On a typical day, you can find Stahla sitting at one of the Campus Chat cash registers helping students checkout before rushing off to class.

In his green and black food service uniform, he has become a familiar face. And his regular customers know he will always add a compliment and smile with each transaction he makes.

“I think our customers look forward a lot to seeing him whenever they come through the line because he knows how to put a smile on everybody’s face,” Stahla’s coworker Jasmine Casillas said.

Stahla has been working at the Campus Chat in the Union for the past year. He enjoys getting to interact with the students he sees each day and helping others by lifting them up.

“He’s really funny, he’s very kind and he’s very outgoing,” Casillas said. “Whenever I go and he sees me he’s like, ‘Hey Jasmine!’ And he calls me beautiful, and that makes my day feel a lot better.”

Stahla wants to help people — it’s his goal in all he does, whether it is at his job or as being the president of Student Veterans Association.

The difficulties of his life and the experiences he has had have shaped him into who he is and the social identities he has.

“Considering what has happened in my life, I was enlightened that there are a lot of people worse off than I am,” Stahla said. “If I can help one person and enrich their life by doing that, then it’s worth it.”

Featured Image: Allen Stahla lounges by the Union with his service dog. His service dog has helped him for 12 years after the loss of his leg. Trevor Seibert

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Rachel Linch

Rachel Linch

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