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Life After LEAD: Jamie Thompson, ’18, MA’20

We catch up with one of our former LEAD Scholars.
By Jamie Thompson, ’18, MA’20

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I WAS NERVOUS TO EMBARK ON MY JOURNEY AT U-M. I attended the same small school since kindergarten and, although I knew of the immense opportunities the University would provide me, the thought of attending a large public institution was scary. Before stepping foot on campus, I researched the various academic and social communities that I wanted to join to ensure that I could make a big university feel more like home.

The LEAD Scholars program made my college transition easier than I could have imagined. The LEAD community was not only my first opportunity to build friendships with peers from various places and within diverse academic fields, but also my introduction to celebrating racial diversity and understanding issues related to equity and inclusion. Throughout my first year at U-M, I found myself in conversations, classes, and spaces where I was made to feel like I did not belong. That feeling — which I initially feared as a first-generation college student — ended up serving as a catalyst for my journey at U-M and the work that I do today.

As a sophomore, I took the class Psychology of Women and Gender. We discussed the ways in which women, transgender people, and people of color experience discrimination as well as the negative implications that racism, sexism, and classism have on people’s mental and physical health. I saw these factors play out firsthand in the increased tension around campus, and across the nation, during the 2016 presidential election. During that time, I co-founded Students4Justice, a social justice student organization to protest the rise in hate crimes and hate speech, ensuring that students of all backgrounds felt safe and respected. My senior year, I was elected to serve on the Central Student Government, which strengthened my interest in pursuing a career in politics and public service.

Following graduation, I returned to my hometown of Detroit to teach kindergarten in the Detroit Public Schools. While working full time, I returned to U-M to earn my teaching certificate and a master’s degree in education policy. In 2020, I worked on U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s reelection campaign, registering voters in Detroit while delivering absentee ballots and personal protective equipment, and assisting families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, I am a legislative assistant for U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens in Washington, D.C., focusing on education and issues related to women, children, and families, such as early childcare and college affordability. I attend congressional briefings and hearings, take meetings with organizations and constituents from our district, conduct research on current events and policy, and provide input on legislation that Rep. Stevens should support.

Each day, when I walk the halls of the U.S. Capitol, I am filled with pride. As we find ourselves navigating a life-altering pandemic and the heightened awareness of racial inequity in our nation, I believe that the LEAD Scholars program was pivotal for my understanding these challenges, building the confidence necessary to pursue leadership opportunities, and shaping a path that has allowed me to create change.


The LEAD Scholars Program provides scholarships to Black, Latino, and Native American students who have been accepted into U-M. Visit umalumni.com/LEAD to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.

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