Meet Tyeisha: The LEAP Fellow Transforming Rooms for Youth in Foster Care

Posted June 6, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Tyeisha Thompson decorating a room

Tyeisha Thompson

In her first year at Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka-Lin­coln, Tyeisha Thomp­son found her­self at a crossroads.

I real­ly found my voice and start­ed to feel more con­fi­dent,” says Thomp­son, who had entered fos­ter care at age 13, fol­low­ing her grandmother’s passing.

As a new col­lege stu­dent, Thomp­son became involved in Learn and Earn to Achieve Poten­tial (LEAP)™. This ini­tia­tive, host­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, aims to boost employ­ment and edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced home­less­ness, fos­ter care or involve­ment in the crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

Thomp­son soon found her­self immersed in the LEAP Youth Fel­low­ship pro­gram — a paid one-year lead­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ty that brings togeth­er 10 young peo­ple from across the coun­try. Dur­ing the Fel­low­ship, par­tic­i­pants attend work­shops and oth­er skill-build­ing events as they sup­port local LEAP youth engage­ment and lead­er­ship efforts.

Tak­ing a LEAP of Faith

As part of the LEAP Youth Fel­low­ship pro­gram, par­tic­i­pants can also apply for grant fund­ing to sup­port a unique pas­sion project. Thomp­son took on this chal­lenge, with pro­gram peers and men­tors help­ing her refine a 15-minute pitch pre­sen­ta­tion that out­lined her idea.

For her pre­sen­ta­tion, Thomp­son described her time in fos­ter care and how the expe­ri­ence inspired her to help chil­dren and young adults who lack the resources to dec­o­rate their liv­ing spaces. The idea took hold when Thomp­son was asked to help revamp her nieces’ bed­rooms. I just had an over­whelm­ing feel­ing that this was what I want­ed to do with my life — help­ing to cre­ate rooms for peo­ple that reflect their per­son­al­i­ty and inter­ests,” she recalls.

Thanks to men­tor­ship and guid­ance from the fel­low­ship, Thomp­son now works direct­ly with young peo­ple in fos­ter care to trans­form their rooms into nur­tur­ing and inspir­ing retreats.

When I dec­o­rate a space, my goal is to inspire cre­ativ­i­ty, peace and hap­pi­ness in the per­son who uses it,” says Thomp­son. For some­one who likes to draw, for exam­ple, I might bring in a desk where they can work. When I approach a new project, I always ask myself how I can make the space super inten­tion­al, func­tion­al and inviting.”

After receiv­ing $500 from the Nation­al Youth Employ­ment Coali­tion, Thomp­son also entered and won one of two $2,500 stu­dent entre­pre­neur schol­ar­ships from the Husker Hus­tle Schol­ar­ship Com­pe­ti­tion, which is offered by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Cen­ter for Entre­pre­neur­ship.

Rooms With a View

Today, Thomp­son is prepar­ing to grad­u­ate from UNL’s Col­lege of Busi­ness and hopes to scale her pas­sion project into a non­prof­it busi­ness — Cre­ative Spaces Inspire Youth — that will enable her to con­tin­ue work­ing with youth in fos­ter care. The LEAP Youth Fel­low­ship gave me a con­fi­dence boost at a time when I need­ed it most and con­nect­ed me with oppor­tu­ni­ties I couldn’t have imag­ined,” says Thomp­son. By help­ing a young per­son deter­mine the look and feel of their per­son­al space, I want to empow­er them the way LEAP empow­ered me.”

Learn how LEAP is help­ing young peo­ple reach their potential

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