A young father is demonstrating what it means to provide for his family, achieve his goals, and improve his life by earning a college degree to forge a path as a coach and teacher.
Demilio Lester, 22, transferred to the University of Mississippi seeking his bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in social history. Lester is a Chicago native who aspires to be a basketball coach and history teacher. While studying and working, he also recently began coaching a youth basketball team at Friars Pointe Elementary in Coahoma County, Mississippi.
When Lester was young, he was told: “Be patient… When you move fast in life, you sometimes forget the steps you have to take to be great.” Lester has overcome many adversities, but continues to move forward.
In addition to being a full-time UM student, he is also a full-time father and part-time Walmart employee. He works from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Walmart, then begins his classes at 11 a.m. “I have to do what I have to do to provide for me and my family,” he said. “It’s a bit of a challenge, but I can’t give up.”
Demilio Lester. Photo by Malia Carothers.
If Lester could teach his younger self or other people something, he said it would be: “Watch your company. I was kicked out of school freshman year at a community college because I was with the wrong crowd at the wrong time, and I played basketball, so I lost everything. Watch your company. One mistake can mess up your whole life.”
While Lester owns the mistakes he has made, he remains respectful of others because of earlier life experiences. “I respect women so much,” he said. “A lot people don’t understand why I am so sensitive to them, but it’s because my mother was in a domestic violence relationship.”
Lester’s childhood influenced his parenting skills today. He said his mother did not have a lot of extra money when he was growing up, so Lester shared clothes with his brother. He said he makes sure his son will not have that problem.
- Demilio Lester story. Photo by Malia Carothers.
Lester’s friend Lakayla Orr said he is full of life. The two met during a UM physics class.
“You would think that he thinks that he is above everybody by the way he dresses, but he’s pretty humble,” said Orr, a UM sophomore and part-time Subway worker, who is seeking a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She aspires to be a professional singer, but wants to be a teacher.
“I haven’t known him for a long period of time, but the short period of time that I have known him, he has been very respectful, and you don’t meet too many young men that are like that nowadays.”
Lester said if he had superpowers, he would spread knowledge to youth and tell them they can be whatever they want to be. “Continue to grow and make changes,” he said. “Make sure you help generations under you come up.”