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