Lessons Between The Lines


College-bound student receives full-ride scholarship, and how it all began with Dragon Ball Z.


It’s amazing that Jermon Humphrey’s secret has carried thus far.

Announced on Sunday, the 18-year-old received the Sandie La Charite Education Scholarship at the Andy Street Community Association Gala in Los Altos. The award is in honor of David La Charite’s sister’s life who died earlier this year to cancer.

“I just got invited. I’m supposed to be getting something, I’m not too sure what it is,” Humphrey politely mentions, clad in a casual polo and headphones around his neck.

It includes funding for books and tuition for four years of college. Otherwise known as a “full-ride.”

But I can’t ask him anything about it.

Luckily he has been busy. It’s evident in his mile-a-minute monologues, saturated in avidity and verve.

He happens to be the “make your own destiny” type, not waiting around for help. From what it sounds like, help has had a pattern of presenting itself to him when it’s most needed.

Before he was 2 years old, death loitered outside his trauma room as Humphrey rolled into the emergency wing at an Arkansas hospital. Under the supervision of a babysitter, the eager, curious walker had reached up to a panhandle on the stove, showering himself in hot grease.

During recovery, he would talk with a woman who worked in the wing who had personally contacted a doctor to be flown in for his surgery.

“I’m so grateful. I wish I remembered her name,” Humphrey says.

Of all the superficial burns that healed with time and therapy, the incident contributed to a learning disability Humphrey has been hurdling. When he got to the fifth grade,  he stumbled upon his first manga from his school’s lost and found.

“It was Dragon Ball Z, Vol. 11. The Goku and Freeza showdown,” he recalls, his face beaming. “Brings back really good memories. I gotta refurbish it. It’s all taped up right now.”

Humphrey came home with the graphic novel, asking his fellow manga-fan stepfather to read it to him. He had something else in mind.

“He told me no, he wouldn’t read it to me, “ Humphrey says. “He told me, ‘If you want to read it, you got to learn how to read it yourself.’”

The previously disenchanted student accepted the challenge, and was cover-to-cover in just a week.

“Most people expected me to drop it cause I hated school,” he says.  “But when I learned how to read that manga, it made me realize that I would be missing out on opportunities without this ability. I would miss out on things in my future and whatever was to come down the road. So I just opened my mind a little and started paying more attention in school.”

The majority of Humphrey’s schooling was spent enrolled in special-education courses. As his reading abilities improved, he set a personal goal to break out of the program into “regular” classes and reached it by high school, having some assistance from tutors to smoothen the transition.

Like the big-hearted and pure novice of Konohagakure, Humphrey parallels himself to the protagonist of Naruto, a Japanese anime and manga.

Trade in Naruto’s gritty, abrasive vocals for Humphrey’s excited parley as well as the internalized fox-demon for a near-fatal burn accident, and there’s a similar backstory of being marked at a young age only to spend the larger part of adolescence overcoming the effects of their respective happenings.

“In school, [Naruto] couldn’t do many things. We both have those difficulties — my skills at reading [and] he struggled too because he didn’t have control of his chakras,” Humphrey explains. “We’re both not good at something that has held us back in life, but no matter what, he wants to be the greatest Hokage of his village and I want to be the CEO of my own business.”

The recent Jordan High School graduate is working on 13 units in his first year at California State University, Dominguez Hills, the alma mater of Vice Mayor Rex Richardson. Humphrey is majoring in computer science, hoping to eventually declare a minor in animation to intermix his passions.

“My dad said that if I get on his reading level, he would write a story with me, “ he says. “So that’s the next goal.”

His affinity for manga, animation, video games and written word mortar the path to Dream Inc., a corporation dreamt up by Humphrey and four friends during a business-related project through ASCA in which teams sold a business plan to a panel of professional entrepreneurs.

“We didn’t win the project,” he says. “But one of the judges was so impressed with our presentation that he personally gave us $500 to start the business.”

They proposed to produce video games to aid literacy and other facets of the learning experience. In fact, post-gala plans include the first business conference between the group to settle plans on moving forward.

“I also always thought it would be cool to start a business and all my coworkers are my best friends,” he adds. “That’s also a dream.”

Side-ops of Humphrey’s ultimate conquest include committing his action-adventure novel to paper, revisiting poetry and helping the homeless. In the meantime, he lends a helping hand through programs such as ASCA, CSULB-LBUSD Math Collaborative, Christians on Campus, Male Success Alliance, Peace Club, and, once he gets the chance to sign up, the Resident Student Association.

“I have a pretty good life. My life could have been a lot different [and knowing that] is one of the things that pushes me forward. When I feel like quitting or giving up, I just look at that and people around me,” Humphrey says. “I’m just blessed for all the people who have helped me. It would be a wasted effort if I gave up on my dreams. Not to mention myself.”


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