We had the good fortune of connecting with Semaj Thompson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Semaj, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, but I was mostly raised in the Atlanta area. My entire family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina during my first week of the first grade. I have no idea how many different schools I attended as we transitioned from New Orleans to Texas and then later to Georgia. Once we were uprooted initially, it’s like we never permanently settled. I lived in a different city almost every year. High school was the first and only time that I stayed at a school for four years straight.

Up until that point, I’d always soared academically. But in high school, the gaps in my education became evident. Every time I changed schools, I missed out on learning something important. The school I switched to had already covered that unit at a different point in the year or on a different grade level. We had no idea that I’d missed so many important foundational principles and skills until I finally started to struggle. I could complete extremely complicated math problems, but I’d mess up on the easy parts, simply because I’d never learned those few steps, and I had no idea what I was missing.

I’d known what I wanted to be since early elementary school, but during my freshman year of high school, I decided I had to completely change my career path in order to avoid taking any challenging math classes in college. I stuck with this and was accepted into many colleges to study English. I ended up not going to college right away, and instead chose to serve with an Americorps organization called City Year. I received placement with my top choice, City Year Milwaukee. During my service, I was a tutor and mentor, and came across so many students who had gaps in their education, much like myself.

I spent so much time not just working with my students academically, but also building their confidence. Both were essential for success. One of them asked me when I was going to go to college, and at that moment, I realized that I couldn’t just talk to them about all that they could become. I had to show them, and I was finally ready to do that. In working with them, I had realigned with my purpose. I was passionate about how our brains work and how we learn and formulate connections as well as the psychology behind all of it. That’s when I found neuroscience, and I enrolled in college. Using my knowledge of how the brain works, I’ve been able to work backward in solidifying my understanding of complicated math and sciences. I thrive, academically.

When I finished my service with City Year, I kept in contact with my former students and their parents, and I began to tutor kids in the community. Eventually, I started Everyone Can Learn Tutoring and Coaching Services as a way to give back by providing an affordable, supplemental education for anyone who needs it. When I’m working with my students, I see my younger self. On the harder days, I tell them that I had gaps in my understanding too. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Success is possible if you believe in yourself and work hard enough. My rocky academic path put me in a position to help others with theirs.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As a tutor and learning coach, I work with students of all ages. I have kindergarteners, and I have nontraditional students in their fifties, finishing up their college degrees. I think my tutoring style is pretty unique, especially with younger students. Everyone has a tailored experience because, in the end, my goal is to do whatever I need to in order to give them the help that they need. So maybe we make up a song or a game. Maybe we take a walk and I teach them through a story. We find a way to make it stick.

Starting my tutoring business was a lot of work, but not necessarily difficult. I already had several families that I babysat and nannied for, so I had a good list of potential tutoring clients from the beginning, and as soon as I expressed interest in a tutoring business, my former coworkers and students as well as some friends offered their support. I quickly created my brand and put together some advertisements, and lots of people were willing to share my information.

The most challenging part of all of this is that I am still in college. Next year, I’ll finish with degrees in neuroscience-biology and neuroscience-psychology. Trying to balance completing and studying such difficult course material while also maintaining my business is a challenge, but I’m invested, and always so excited to try a new learning strategy with my students when I learn something new about the brain.

I want the world to know that the challenges we face in life make sense, in the grand scheme of things. When I first began to struggle academically, I gave up on myself so quickly, but my potential was there all along. I just needed to keep pushing myself, and now I get to help others on their journey!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I think the best days start with brunch, so we’d for sure check out Sprig or Pea Ridge. Activities would include a walk and meditation session in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and then maybe some rides at six flags. For dinner, we’d have to check out The Optimist.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shoutout is dedicated to my entire support system, but specifically to Danielle Stewart. Since the start of my business, she has been my biggest supporter. She has referred clients, helped me make my ideas a reality, and provided me with a platform to reach more people in a multitude of ways. Thanks to her and the workshops she has allowed me to co-facilitate, I’ve gotten back so much of the confidence that I’d lost during the isolation that COVID caused. I wouldn’t be answering these questions if it wasn’t thanks to her.

Website: http://www.everyonecanlearntutoring.com

Instagram: @everyonecanlearntutoring

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/everyonecanlearntutoringservices/

Other: Tiktok: eclcoaching

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