KOKOMO, Ind. — Ciara Thompson seems to have it all.
As Miss Black Teen US Ambassador, she makes speaking appearances nationwide, encouraging other young women to reach for their dreams — while wearing a glittery crown.
She was a high school achiever, as a cheerleader, soccer player, and show choir performer. The daughter of an IU football legend turned preacher, and a doctor; she enrolled at IU for her freshman year in August with high hopes.
Two months later Thompson, from Bloomington, found she was disconnected from her family, missing classes, and making poor choices, as she struggled to make the transition to college.
After some prayer and soul searching, she pulled herself back on track, abandoning negative influences and replacing them with people who encourage her to do her best.
Friday (March 27), she related her story to more than 100 people at Indiana University Kokomo, including visiting female students from Kokomo High School.
“The people you associate with reflect the person you are,” she said. “If you are around people who influence you negatively, you will get off track. Everyone isn’t your friend. Real situations expose fake people. Pick and choose your friends wisely.”
Thompson told the high school students that starting college can be difficult, and that’s OK.
“The transition to college isn’t something to take lightly,” she said. “You need a support system. You need to find someone to help you.”
The reward of persevering is worth the effort.
“Higher education is creating a better future for you, and for the generations after you,” she said. “It is an opportunity to expand your horizons.”
Thompson learned she doesn’t balance an active social life well with academics, and chooses to focus on her studies for now. She plans to major in psychology at IU Bloomington, and later go to medical school, to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a doctor.
She called her mother her greatest role model, not only professionally, but also as a person.
“She lives her life as a humble, compassionate person,” Thompson said. “You can be beautiful on the outside, but if you are ugly on the inside, do you know what that makes you? Pretty ugly.”
IU Kokomo senior Sofia Stout, Lafayette, wished she could have heard Thompson’s talk as a high school senior.
“Everyone needs to hear that starting college can be hard, and it’s OK, to encourage them to keep going,” she said. “Nobody talks about how hard it is to make that transition successfully, and I am glad these students are hearing it.”
Kokomo High School senior Jaez Jones found Thompson’s talk emotionally moving, as she thinks about starting college in the fall.
“We just have to be true to ourselves and not rely on others to make our decisions for us,” she said.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke said it was appropriate to have Thompson, as well as the Kokomo High School students, on campus during women’s history month. While women have come a long way, there is work left to do, and women must mentor and support one another, she added.
“We are phenomenal people as women,” she said. “We’re special when we come together. Our country now knows that for our country to succeed, women have to succeed. I encourage you to support each other. You’re going to need that support as women.”
IU Kokomo’s Cougar Advocates for Diversity sponsored the event.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.