Cherise Beynon once dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player. When circumstances forced her to reconsider her vocation, she discovered that life’s challenges can lead to new opportunities. Disciplined, empathetic, and a natural leader, she’s an ideal candidate to become a top basketball coach. Now, pursuing a master’s degree in educational studies at LMU School of Education (SOE), Beynon has discovered a surprising route to achieving her goals.
By the time she gathers with fellow students for the first class of the day, Beynon has already been hard at work for several hours – at the gym or on the courts at Gersten Pavilion, where she’s directly applying her classwork to her role as a graduate assistant for the LMU women’s basketball team. The assistantship ensures partial financial support, and Beynon is the recipient of the Ouriz Kouyoumjian Memorial Scholarship in SOE. “If I hadn’t received scholarships from LMU, I wouldn’t be able to make it through graduate school,” Beynon explained. “I’m here because people have believed in me. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood, and the high school I attended was not the greatest – but the basketball coach saw my potential and she invested in my skills and personal growth. I’ve been lucky to know many coaches and mentors who have guided me in the right direction.”
Beynon’s education in basketball started on the Las Vegas streets where she grew up, and it’s taken her to cities throughout Europe and North America. She loved learning about the different perspectives and customs of the countries she visited on tour, and her role as an athlete became central to her sense of identity. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Basketball hoops throughout the nation were removed to prevent players from gathering, and international travel was brought to a halt. Beynon had time to reflect – and she realized that she no longer wanted to play professionally. “It was a big transition to figure out who I really am, beyond my role as a basketball player,” said Beynon. “I tried so many different things, but none of them stuck. Then, I got a call from my former assistant coach, Aarika Hughes, current head coach of LMU women’s basketball. I suddenly realized that I didn’t need to be a professional player to get back in the game.”
When she discovered she could study for a master’s degree at LMU while training as a coach for a rising team, Beynon leapt at the chance. The prospect of long hours and intense mental and physical exertion didn’t intimidate her – as the daughter of a working single mother, she’s schooled in the art of facing adversity. “Growing up, I learned that it was up to me to change my circumstances. Nobody was going to do that for me. I’m just trying to provide a better life – for myself, my mom, and my sisters. We’re not all granted the same resources, so you have to choose if you’re going to make that change.”
Naturally competitive, Beynon admits that she can be hard on herself. “As an athlete, you’re pushed to your limit again and again. When you constantly strive for success, you find that life doesn’t get any easier – that’s why it’s been so important to me to achieve these scholarships. They’ve given me the degree of stability I need to persist, to consistently do my very best work. My educational experience at LMU has been phenomenal so far, and I’m determined to make the most of this opportunity.”
While it’s true that we’re not all granted the same resources, philanthropy is a way of leveling the playing field – or, in this instance, the basketball court. Scholarships provide talented, intelligent, and motivated individuals like Beynon with the financial backing they need to thrive. These are the students who seize opportunity, and develop a natural instinct for paying it forward. As a talented player and now an aspiring coach, Beynon’s story is a case in point. “When I made the decision to go to LMU, I didn’t know what direction my life would take,” she said. “All I knew was that it would take me to wherever I need to be.”