Stroman a cornerstone in leadership

Chris Chard

Medanos College corner back Demoin Stroman is heading to Phoenix this month to represent the college at the Men of Color Leadership Institute. The long-time defensive football player was selected through the Umoja Scholar’s Program to tell his story of perseverance from a troubled life and his success story here at LMC. The 22-year-old Stroman was not a model student. He did not come to LMC with a high GPA or even from a comfortable background.

“Coming from high school, I really wasn’t good as far as academics,” Stroman said. “I came from having a troubled life to joining Umoja and getting involved with the football program and just coming to LMC and being able to be successful.”
His background is a touching story. Toward the end of high school, Stroman lost his grandmother to an illness. While on dialysis, she developed an infection that would eventually take her life. Shortly after, a close friend was shot and killed only moments after Stroman had seen him. As a result of the stress and grieving, he found himself spiraling out of control.

“I ended up hanging out with the wrong type of crowd, gang activity,” Stroman recalls. “I started living a life that really didn’t reflect the person who I was. I was living the life that I had seen growing up.”

Stroman continued on a self-destructive path with no real guidance to help him through some tough decisions. He was so lost, in fact, that he found himself arrested and jailed for firing a weapon within city limits and displaying a complete disregard for the people around him. This moment became an eye opener for the young student.

“I ended up getting locked up for six months or so,” Stroman said. “During that time I ended up getting in touch with my spiritual side and really got the chance to sit down and re-evaluate my life and ask myself what I wanted to do. I told myself that I couldn’t do this anymore. I have athletic ability I could be trying to use. I didn’t want to become one of those people roaming around town saying, ‘I used to be able to do this’.”

Professor A’Kilah Moore played a huge role in assisting the young player in finding himself. Moore and Stroman attended a panel with the Umoja and Puente programs during which he discussed his background and rough teenage life.

“At some point Stroman told his story and had the entire panel in tears,” Moore said. Stroman had spent a few semesters in Umoja, a program that helps ethnic students get the required classes needed to transfer to a university, and was the ideal student for the panel. He had shown his struggles in the past and had little direction when he first arrived at LMC. His goal was centered around football and not much else. After joining up with Moore and Umoja, a shift occurred.

“Once he was in the program, he really showed motivation as far as wanting to do something more,” said Moore. “I saw a shift in him, being solely about football, to also having confidence in his ability to create for himself academic goals and to reach them.”

His success came almost out of nowhere. Moore had been assigned to visit a continuation school in the Brentwood area and had decided to take one of her students with her. Stroman volunteered. During her presentation, Moore said that the students seemed uninterested and distant, but as soon as Stroman began to speak, she recalled, the students became focused.

“His ability to express himself, share his story, and motivate students to want to do something more I noticed from that event,” Moore said. “He was so excited after that, he called himself the Umjoa ‘Chosen One.”
This trip led both Moore and Stroman to the panel, where his speech won over Helen Benjamin, chancellor of the Contra Costa Community College District.

“He really touched the chancellor’s heart,” Moore said. After the panel, Benjamin approached Moore and said she wanted Stroman to attend the Men of Color Leadership Institute, so much that she was willing to cover the entire cost of the trip, including hotel and airfare.

“In Spring 2012, we held an event at DVC on efforts by our colleges to close the achievement gap. Demoin was one of the student speakers,” Benjamin said. “He shared his experiences as a college student, which is typical of many students throughout the nation. All in attendance were moved by his story in that his positive experiences at LMC have changed his life for the better.”

Even just sitting in his chair during the interview, Stroman exudes confidence. The world
is there for his taking and he knows it. While on the football field he talks up his players, focuses his energy on winning the game, and never lets anything set him back. The Stangs’ corner back can typically be found rallying the defense on the sidelines, cheering for his teammates, or making a play on the field.
“He’s one of the hardest working guys on defense,” said defensive coordinator Darren Foreman. “He’s got a big heart and he cares a lot. I like that about him.”

Off the field, he can almost always be found wearing a big smile, working with his friends and teammates, or preparing for the next big game. Stroman is a hardworking student who is an inspiration of what hard work and never giving up can do.
“I think he over achieves, but I think it’s because he’s older,” Foreman said. “He’s gone through the adversity of life and some of these guys haven’t and I think he realizes he has to work hard because things don’t come easy.”

On or off the field, Stroman shows that no matter how hard life can get or what you are handed, there is always a way to make things better and make life whatever you want it to be.

And all Stroman wants now is to make his mother proud and not become “a statistic.” “My mom always told me that ‘in order to receive the glory you have to go through the struggle’,” Stroman said. “Going through my life hasn’t been easy, I’ve been to the rock bottom and now I’m on my way to an all-time high. As long as you believe in yourself and have perseverance, you will have great success. There is no quitting in my dictionary.”