Jerome Thompson entered the University of Akron in 1996, fresh out of high school. He dropped out within a year, saying in retrospect that he lacked the maturity and discipline to continue his studies. “It was, Should I go to class that day, or am I gonna hang out?” he says. “OK, I’m gonna hang out.”

He didn’t give up on academe, however. He returned to the university in 2001 and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work, although it took him eight more years.

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