Beyond Borders

  • Senta Amos-Greene and Stephanie Hopkinson graduated from CSUN.

    Senta Amos-Greene (left) and Stephanie Hopkinson met as CSUN students and now they work together through an organization called Full Circle that helps children.

Since their senior year together, California State University, Northridge alumni Stephanie Hopkinson ’94 (Child Development) and Senta Amos-Greene ’94, ’96 (B.A., Child Development; M.A., Early Childhood Special Education) have remained supportive of each other as friends, students and colleagues. 

Hopkinson and Amos-Greene met in their senior seminar at CSUN. Their bond began with late-night studies and endured through developing separate master’s theses. It continued into their professional lives and led them on international journeys to support all children.

“‘Look to the left of you, look to the right of you — these are the people you will be collaborating and working with after graduation,’” Hopkinson recalled her mentor, child development professor Carrie Rothstein-Fisch, saying the first day of her senior seminar. Flash forward 20 years: Hopkinson is working with Greene, a fellow student in that seminar.

The spark between them developed quickly, as chats turned into hours-long discussions.

“There was an evening in our semester together when Stephanie came to my house for guidance on going into preschool teaching,” Amos-Greene said. “I had brought out a bunch of children’s books for us to skim through, and when we finally realized the time after our discussion, it had been six hours! It was in that moment of realizing that both of us had a passion for working with children that we became friends.”

“We were looking at Being with You this Way, a children’s book, and there was just a spark for collaboration,” Hopkinson said, echoing her friend’s sentiments. “The book was about connections of friends, and Senta and I clearly had that connection.”

However, their path was rather unexpected post-graduation. As each continued their respective educations — Hopkinson moved her studies to Pacific Oaks College — they remained close. They made appointments to sit in a quiet place side-by-side, writing, then swapping seats and editing each other’s thesis.

Later, Hopkinson became a child life specialist with various hospitals, working with families and children facing life-threatening situations. Amos-Greene dove into the world of education as an early childhood special education trainer with various organizations, including CSUN, leading to the start of Full Circle Consulting Systems, Inc. 

Still friends, it took the realization of Greene’s dream of a consulting firm to push the duo to collaborate as colleagues, as they had in their school days.  

“I was on the 405 freeway heading home from San Diego from an intense meeting for work, and knew I had to make a greater impact with more capacity and creativity,” Amos-Greene said of the evolution of Full Circle. 

The organization was born in October 2003. A phone call to Hopkinson, who was living across the country, made the journey easier. 

“When Senta asked me to be a part of Full Circle, to help make a profound impact in the lives of children and families, the decision was easy: yes,” Hopkinson said.

Since its inception, Full Circle has served in more than 150 programs nationwide to train, model and coach staff on high-quality inclusion experiences for children. The work Hopkinson and Amos-Greene have done together in the workplace has transcended national boundaries, extending into Amos-Greene’s international endeavors and supplementing Hopkinson’s international reach.

Hopkinson began her work abroad after graduate school. As a child life specialist in grad school, she encountered many opportunities to meet volunteers from around the world. When she learned about Operation Smile, she responded, “I so need to do that!”

“I waited to gain experience, and when I applied, I was told I should be doing the training because of my background,” Hopkinson said, laughing. “I know children in developing countries lack access to the health care we have [in America], and I have been compelled to use my knowledge to help patients and their families cope with the surgery process.”

She has served on three missions in Kenya, the Philippines and Malawi to prepare children to go into surgery for cleft lip and cleft palate, as well as to help the children and their families — primarily mothers — cope with recovery. Hopkinson noted that her work helps relieve patients of the overwhelming emotions associated with the life change. She said she hopes to expand her work in health care to the Middle East.

Amos-Greene’s interests also have taken her overseas. In 2007, Christine Ebanks, the mother of a son with cerebral palsy in Jamaica, visited the U.S. seeking medical treatment for her son, Nathan. Ebanks requested help from U.S. education specialists to achieve equal education in her home nation. She was directed to Amos-Greene by CSUN special education professor Deborah Chen. Shortly thereafter, the Nathan Ebanks Foundation was established as a Jamaican nonprofit working toward inclusion, participation, empowerment and equal opportunities for children and youths with disabilities.

Amos-Greene’s work has allowed her to “transcend boundaries by bringing [clients’] best ideas to life, cultivating their potential and actualizing a greater world for the good of others in whatever they undertake.

“The opportunity to open the doors for children with disabilities that were once closed — it does what Full Circle is meant to do,” she said. “Our firm’s motto is, ‘To touch the heart of a child is to touch the soul of a nation.’ Nathan’s story shows the ability to do just that — open doors for children and inspire nations.”

Amos-Greene continues to design, deliver and evaluate training for teachers, legislators and administrators on the needs of inclusive education for children in all grades, including preschool, for the foundation. Her work led her to invite Hopkinson on a trip in March to the island nation, to provide additional training to 35 of Jamaica’s top leaders in the Ministry of Education.

“We had a real, true, authentic presence and [unique] dynamic in our presentation,” Amos-Greene said. “We weren’t just sharing technical language. Our interactions [beyond Full Circle] helped create a pathway through our teamwork and profound respect for one another. It symbolized the importance of our work through our connection to the content of our work.”

The duo also has given several keynote addresses, including a 2008 invitation to the International Federation of Educative Communities congress from CSUN mentor Carol Kelly, a professor emeritus for child and adolescent development and the U.S. delegate to the congress. 

“It was clear that both [Amos-Greene and Hopkinson] would make significant contributions to their chosen profession because they followed their passion, used their expertise and were always learning and growing as professionals as they balanced other realms of their lives,” Kelly said. “Their significant professional contributions at the local through international levels are a superb model and bring pride to CSUN.”

Amos-Greene has been recognized for her endeavors by Sonoma State University (1997), the San Fernando Valley Business Journal (2004) and her alma mater as a Notable Alumni (1996). She also has been recognized for her contributions to CSUN as an alumni-turned-professor in the child and adolescent development department with the Distinguished Teaching Award (2005) and testifying before the United States Congress.

“Senta is phenomenal,” Hopkinson said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to walk along with someone who is an incredible leader. … Just like we did back in the very beginning, we sit and have conversations, think out loud and support each other. Sharing a mutual goal to make a significant impact, it’s really important to have somebody walking beside you.”

Hopkinson, who earned an honorable mention for the Humanism Award twice (2002 and 2004) and employee awards with Kaiser Permanente (2005 and 2013), was nominated by Amos-Greene for the Mary Barkey Clinical Excellence Award from the Child Life Council. Amos-Greene presented Hopkinson with the award at a conference in 2013.

“I’ve had the opportunity to watch Stephanie in action for close to 20 years, and her ability to work so effectively with children in life-threatening situations is astounding,” Greene said. “Not just anyone can do that work. I’m amazed personally and professionally by the way she is able to do that. Her dedication meant she deserved to be acknowledged.”

Their friendship and mutual respect reflects the goals of their work, particularly with Full Circle. Amos-Greene’s firm aims to create understanding of and equality between all people. Her inspiration: CSUN’s CHIME Institute. The institute is a national leader in developing and implementing model educational programs, dynamic research and training environments, to disseminate best practices in inclusive education.

“CHIME was the genesis of my work,” she reflected. “I was mentored and nurtured there. As far as being an advocate, that is where some of the greatest and best minds helped me, and I’ve carried that throughout my travels.”

Hopkinson and Amos-Greene never truly left campus after graduation. Their relationships with former professors grew into friendships, and their work became sources of pride for their mentors. 

“Over the two decades since they graduated, my relationship with them has changed from professor-student to friends and colleagues,” Rothstein-Fisch said. “Stephanie continues to be a regular guest speaker in my class, and Senta and I serve as consultants to a statewide program. We are bonded to each other through our mutual respect, knowing at our core that everything is based on relationships.”