From foster youth to a college educated man, Demontea Thompson is doing it all and giving back to his community. Thompson, raised by his great uncle and great aunt in Compton, California was exposed to a gang infested environment. Despite the circumstances, he along with his twin brother, Demontray Thompson, were able to maneuver through these obstacles and seek success.
Thompson recalls a time when he and his brother were approached by gang members in the area. After that experience, he realized his potential and went beyond the expectations his neighbors and community members had for him.
“A lot of cousins and what not would have these low expectations for us as kids. They would say stuff like, ‘you are going to end up like your dad or you are going to end up like so and so’. I felt like I had to prove myself but every time I spoke up, they would say only speak when you are spoken to,” said Thompson.
During his early years, Thompson began searching for a way to express himself. It wasn’t until high school that he began using the art of slam poetry and writing to better articulate his emotions.
The twins decided to attend California State University Northridge. While there, Thompson published an autobiography at the age of 19 titled, “Raised from Scratch,” an open letter about growing up in the foster care system, and how those experiences have shaped his mindset and his search for love. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
In 2015, Thompson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management while his brother graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business finance.
Looking back on his undergraduate studies, Thompson has two regrets: 1) not asking for help when he needed it and 2) being unable to find a sense of belonging on campus.
“I wish that I knew it was okay to ask for help and I wish that I knew that there were resources on campus that could assist us to succeeding and that’s the reason why I went into student affairs,” he said.
Thompson had the opportunity to re-do his college experience by taking advantage of the resources around him when he attended University of Southern California for graduate school. In May of 2017, Thompson graduated with a master’s of education in postsecondary administration and student affairs.
His academic accomplishments don’t end there; he plans to further his education by seeking a doctorate degree to help make a difference and change the country’s ideology on first generation college students and foster youth.
As far as advice is concerned, Thompson encourages foster youth to find something they are good at and to put all of their energy into that. He goes on to express the importance of having a plan a, b, c, and d just in case the first and second options don’t work out. Also, Thompson urges first generation college students to ask for help when they need it and to surround themselves with other first generation students.
“People need to hear, its okay for you to go through certain circumstances and bounce back. It’s okay for you to be in a family that is not going to support you, but these are the things you can do to support yourself and these are the decisions you can make,” he said.
Thompson’s future plans include working at a school with first generation students, drafting content for his second book, and developing a closer relationship with his parents. This year he will visit Washington D.C. to help reform the child welfare system, as part of a ten-week congressional internship. While there, he will be able to write policy recommendations on extending the age of the Chaffee Grant for foster youth.
Thompson will also continue giving back to his community with the help of “Break the Boxes,” an after school organization he founded for at-risk high school students.
More information can be found at www.breaktheboxes.org/