Thompson Helps Others Reach Their Full Potential
In coordination with the Recognition and Rewards Committee of the ECU Staff Senate, the Pieces of Eight series honoring exceptional ECU staff recognizes Lola Thompson.
By Judy Currin
Lola Thompson regards herself as an ordinary woman with an extraordinary determination to transform lives by helping others “see what they’ve got and to get what they see.”
In 2003 Thompson created True Connections Women With a Purpose, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help individuals connect to reach their full potential and make valuable contributions to society.
“We transform lives through education, motivation and mentoring,” said Thompson, who provides administrative support in East Carolina University’s Office of Academic Programs.
The organization’s birth stemmed from the challenges Thompson faced in the early 1970s as a member of J.H. Rose High School’s first racially integrated class.
“That experience affected me deeply then and even much later in my life,” she said.
“I lost the valuable support system I had in my old school and with my friends. Facing cultural differences and feeling threatened on a daily basis caused me to lose sight of my goals and ultimately my identity.”
Today Lola Thompson has “God’s business in her spirit and His people in her heart.” Reconnecting with strong family values, her Creator and self now allow Thompson to share with others image enhancement tools in self-esteem, manners, etiquette, life skill development, leadership and service engagement that encompass the vision of True Connections.
“We’ve formed partnerships with local churches, businesses, schools and higher education institutions to help raise the standard and quality of life for our members in our society,” Thompson said.
Thompson also leads a youth program called STARS (Students Taking Advantage of the Rewards of Self-Worth) that brings girls in fourth through 12th grades to ECU for six Saturdays.
The six-week leadership and service program allows students to explore the arts by attending a series of structured activities on and off campus including art, theatre and dance, music, communication, hospitality management, etiquette and pageantry.
“This program,” Thompson said, “is intended to help prepare young adults to reach their full potential, make sound judgments and meaningful contributions to society.”
Thompson said the program helps students achieve and take responsibility for their own success. Participants should leave the six-week sessions with a better understanding of the importance of giving back to society and an enhanced awareness of their own talents and skills that can be used to do that.
ECU presenters in the STARS program included Marilyn Ogara (Aramark), Jeffrey Phipps, Jeni Parker and Patricia Clark (Theatre and Dance); Alice Arnold (Art); Jeffrey Ward and Barbara Memory (Music); Margie Gallagher (Human Ecology); Hunt McKinnon (Interior Design); along with students from the School of Music and the School of Interior Design.
Last year’s program attracted 28 girls, mostly from Greenville. Thompson hopes to launch another session, called SON (Save Our Neighborhood) for boys in the same age group.
Lola has been married to Bobby Thompson for 36 years. She is the mother of three sons, Bershuam, Alki and Bobby Jerrod.
During ECU’S Centennial Celebration on March 27, Thompson was inducted into the Servire Society, which recognizes those who have performed 100 or more hours of volunteer service.
“You can give back to society when you have confidence in yourself,” Thompson said.