DeAngelo Thompson wants you to stay in school. He wants you to put forth the effort and fight for what you want out of life. He wishes he had done the same, though fortunately, he’s got a few more chances. I say, “hindsight is 20/20,” and DeAngelo chuckles, then shrugs. I met DeAngelo as a student in one of the Together We Can Foundation’s Smart Transitions Life Work Portfolio Course. He was a good student and he impressed me, so I followed up with him. He and I sat down in the dining room of Union Mission Ministers (UMM) in Norfolk, discussing how and why he got there, and most importantly, what’s next.
For DeAngelo of Deep Creek, Chesapeake, the story seems all too familiar. He fell in with the wrong crowd in school and started misbehaving. The behavior eventually got him expelled from high school, his biggest regret. His parents grew frustrated and eventually kicked him out of the house. He describes a painful moment when he showed back up and his mom told him that the best she could offer was her front porch for the night. There were a few months of bouncing around to other family member’s homes, but it was a tough time and there didn’t appear to be a lot of options. Finally, his grandparents suggested a program they were familiar with at Union Mission Ministries called the David Program. It recruited young men (DeAngelo is to date the youngest David,) into the shelter where they would be part of a group expected to live respectfully in the shelter, work in the shelter- and/or at employment they could find, deposit percentages of their money into a savings account monitored by the program’s director, Eric Metcalf, and eventually earn their way out of the shelter and into private housing where their first month’s rent and security deposits would be matched by UMM. This program has steep expectations and requires the gentlemen to earn what they want most- security, respect, stability. And nothing comes without effort and commitment.
The Together We Can Foundation partners with UMM to provide our Smart Transitions Life-Work Portfolio Class. As Program Director and instructor, I have the opportunity to work with The Davids for roughly one month of workshops where we discuss and research both their long-term and short-term goals. We try to figure out the best ways to achieve them and make sure there’s a solid reason behind the desire. Sometimes a career choice is simply a stepping stone to something bigger and sometimes it’s a true life’s passion. There’s never really a wrong answer, but knowing which this is by encouraging introspection and evaluation of the choices everyone’s made to get where they are in life can be really useful. Throughout these workshops and discussions the men get to know one another even better, and I get to know them well enough to help them put together a final, culminating professional presentation portfolio. It includes their resumes, certificates of achievements, personal letters of recommendation, and a headshot that makes most of these men feel a new sense of pride at how professional they can look. As our photographer often reminds them when they have put forth the effort to wear a tie and look good: “There you go, you look like management now.”
DeAngelo feels confident about his portfolio. He is currently working at a temp agency but he sees more on the horizon. With this portfolio in hand, he believes he will be taken more seriously during interviews. Though he was expelled from school, he hasn’t let it get him down and he is currently taking classes for the GED and expects to have it under his belt by the end of the year, and then, he hopes that college will be an option. He likes the idea of psychology and learning how the mind works. Hindsight may be 20/20, but for DeAngelo, the future looks pretty sharp too.