Cortney Stever

Associate of Applied Science in Business Management

Cortney Stever was born in Panama City, Panama into a military family. Her dad retired from the U.S. Army when she was a toddler but moving remained a regular part of Stever’s childhood. Despite the frequent moves, her family kept finding themselves on the westside of Washington state. Stever graduated from Central Kitsap High School in 2002 and a few years later settled in Ellensburg. Working in the retail industry, she always had the goal of returning to school.

“I always knew I wanted to be a licensed massage therapist but put off school because I was so entrenched in work,” Stever said. “It was easy to overlook the passing of time when I was busy getting promotions and raises, all the while not feeling personally fulfilled.”

She enrolled in Bluestone Academy of Massage in 2012, and graduated as valedictorian of her class. Following graduation, she began teaching at the school and started working in the field as soon as she received her license.

In 2020, amidst the disruption brought on by a global pandemic, Stever took time to reflect and realized she was ready to take on an additional challenge.

“I love my job so much but it is incredibly hard on my body, I know I can’t work in this exact capacity until retirement and I hadn’t, until that point, taken steps toward developing my backup plan,” she said.

With the future goal of running a small business, Stever enrolled at Yakima Valley College in the spring of 2021 to pursue her associate of applied science degree in business management.

“Having this background [in business management] will give me more confidence in doing that. I’ve liked learning about the things that can help me in running a small business,” she said.

While returning to school was a big decision, it’s a step Stever is happy she took.

“I put school off for so long because it can be really difficult to volunteer to spend the money, to spend the time, to increase your stress and decrease your free time,” she said. “I was never really talked to about higher education in my family so I didn’t prioritize it when I was younger.

“Now that I’m a non-traditional student at 37 it’s been really fulfilling to show myself what a good student I am. I always felt ‘less than’ for not pursuing a degree in my younger years and it’s so personally rewarding to show up for myself now.”

Stever is still considering what type of small business she wants to run, but aims to establish a venture that she can sustain for the long-term. She plans to stay in Ellensburg to be near family and with yearly trips abroad.