First-generation Grad Nitty Thomas Secures Spot in Louisiana State University’s Master of Social Work Program

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Meet Nitty Dupree Thomas. He’s a dancer, former track athlete and aspiring public servant. He received a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in professionalism on Friday, Dec. 10.

Recent graduate Nitty Thomas will continue his education at Louisiana State University.

Thomas’ journey to commencement hasn’t been a crystal stair. As a product of a Filipino mother and an African-American father from Mississippi, Thomas grew up in San Francisco, California, during the 1980s. As a biracial child, he describes the Golden Gate city as a “melting pot.” 

Raised by his mother’s sister, he believes the foster care system failed him from birth. “My aunt saved us from foster care,” Thomas recalls. “She was 26 and recently married. She stopped her life to take care of my two siblings and I. Somewhere in that transition, the system failed to properly prepare her for what she was actually getting into.”

Speaking with great disappointment, he continued, “There was a lot of stress in our home, and whenever our case worker came they never offered us much. They would take notes and leave.” Luckily, the lack of demonstrated concern with in the social welfare system birthed a new purpose for Thomas. That purpose is social work. He aspires to give foster children more than just notes. He wants to make a difference and ensure children don’t feel the failure he felt many years ago.

At age 39, Thomas is considered a non-traditional student. As a child, he remembers embracing his biracial roots. “I love my Asian side as well as my African American side. Somehow, I got lost while trying to make everyone else happy. I forgot about my own happiness.”

When he was 32 he decided to live out loud. “I decided to go back to college and this time an HBCU. I finished my program in just one year, and the experience I’ve had at Jackson State has been remarkable.” 

After completing the MSW program at LSU, he wants to tackle his passion. “I definitely will strive to be a director of an adoption agency. By doing so, I can mentor children who are living in foster care, and ensure they have a different outcome.”

Thomas wants aspiring college students to find their purpose. He advises them to “Figure out what you want to be in life. That’s the first step. Most importantly, make sure you know how your life’s purpose will affect your mental health. The perception of others should be forgotten because everyone will perceive you differently. Focus on being mentally healthy and fulfilling your purpose.”