Lamar Anthony Thorpe was born in a women’s correction facility in Los Angeles.
At the ripe age of 2 days old, Thorpe was adopted by people he came to know as his parents, two Mexican immigrants who did not speak English.
From being born in a prison to learning English in elementary school, joining the U.S. Navy and meeting his biological parents for the first time, Thorpe has been tough from day one – but you won’t hear that from him.
“My history, my family I’ve truly been blessed,” said Thorpe, who is running for Student Association president this week in a runoff against junior Morgan Corr.
Thorpe grew up in Los Angeles with his six brothers and sisters, a mother who cleaned for a living and a father who worked at a factory. The Spanish-speaking family drove around in their 1993 green Ford Aerostar and went on family vacations to San Francisco and to national parks. It was a normal family, except that it was a foster family.
“I remember one day I saw on the news that a baby had been found in a trash can downtown,” Thorpe said. “The next day the baby was at my house, and my parents were taking care of her.”
Because of his limited English proficiency at an early age, Thorpe was placed in a special education class. Despite his frustrations over his classes, he tried to keep a normal life. He was on the chess team, on the debate team, he played right field for his junior high baseball team and in high school he joined student government, where he was elected vice president.
Upon graduating high school, Thorpe decided to join the Navy after he realized he was not academically prepared enough for college.
“Boot camp was hell,” Thorpe said. He worked a variety of jobs – religious petty officer, dental yeoman, food service attendant and then he was assigned abroad and got to choose a new line of work.
“I decided to go with seaman apprentice, which sounded good but basically stood for mediocre jobs,” he said of his boat-bottom painting and deck scrubbing, which he learned how to do on the Navy’s training ship, the U.S.S. Never Sail.
“Then they sent me to Guam,” Thorpe recalled. “I said, ‘Where is Guam?'”
“I liked Guam. I had my car, and for the first time I was truly exposed to black people, which was good because they taught me how to take care of my hair,” said Thorpe, who now sports an afro.
“I learned everything I would have learned in high school in the Navy,” he said.
At age 21 Thorpe was relocated to Rhode Island to work as a Navy paralegal. “I was ready to go back to normal life,” he said.
Shortly after arriving back in the United States, Thorpe got a call from his sister in California, who told him someone very important was looking for him. Thorpe’s biological sister, after more than a decade of searching, had tracked down Thorpe’s family in California. Thorpe learned that his biological father, sister and numerous cousins lived in Pittsburgh.
Thrope reunited with his biological mother at a prison.
“She gave me a big hug,” he said. “I had been waiting for that my whole life.”