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Angelo Tinsley has followed a singular thread since he graduated from Lakeland with a bachelor's degree in public policy administration in 1994. That thread has been to help young people in whatever way he can. Tinsley says that he always had a keen passion for being involved in social issues. When he was in college, he thought he would go into politics. He soon realized, however, that his heart was more in working directly with people—especially youth—who were "stuck in the system," trying to help them negotiate through it. Rather than trying to implement change as a politician, he vowed he would do it as a social worker.
Tinsley was recruited to come to Lakeland to play football. Thinking back on his college days, he fondly remembers good times in BSO, his involvement in the Student Union, and just enjoying time with his friends, like Shawn Pipes `92. But there was much more than sports and socializing. Tinsley recalls, "Lakeland taught me how to deal with life experiences." He especially remembers how Dr. Keith Striggow influenced his thinking; encouraging him to look outside the box and to look from the other person's perspective. Tinsley says of Striggow, "he taught me to be a well-rounded person. I was kind of a young radical. I had my Black power issues…Professor Striggow taught me to think more globally. To think about the other." That meant, if you were Christian, you would learn about Muslims, if you were of one race, you would learn about someone not of your race; if you were male, you would learn about what it's like to be female.
In one particularly memorable class assignment, Professor Striggow had the students debating the Rodney King trial. Tinsley had to take the side of defending the police. It was odd he says, and not easy to do, but feels it taught him to look for the bottom line of what is right; to divorce that bottom line from race, religion, or gender, and to look with integrity at the circumstances impacting each player in any given situation.
This particular bit of wisdom served Tinsley well at his first job in social work after graduation. He was working at the Center for Comprehensive Services in Carbondale, IL, where 70 percent of his clients were white. Were it not for his Lakeland experience—getting to know many different people and perspectives—he feels he would have had a very hard time at this particular job.
Next, Tinsley worked for three years with Chicago State University's Violence Prevention Program. With a staff of three he would go into schools throughout the Chicago area and provide after-school opportunities for students ages eight to 17, teaching them how to avoid violence, stay away from gangs and drugs, and promote the positive in their lives.
Tinsley continues to live in his hometown of Chicago with his lifetime soulmate, Salome, and their two daughters, ages eight and 16. Currently, he oversees the operation of two residential homes for young people at risk; kids who for one reason or another cannot live with their families. Between the New Direction Outreach home and the Daniel J. Nellums home, Tinsley is responsible for the well-being of approximately twenty-two young people ranging in age from 13 to 20. Tinsley's role is to make sure that each resident's weekly plan runs smoothly: from therapeutic treatment to meeting with a case worker to getting homework done; Tinsley is the traffic controller and support supervisor for the comings and goings of each resident youth.
Tinsley notes that Lakeland taught him to be passionate, but also to be neutral; to find the commonalities between people even when it seems at first unlikely. This ability has served him well. He says "Lakeland prepared me for the universe. I can go to China, I can go to Russia. I am comfortable with anyone I'm with, because I know that people have the same problems everywhere."