The Advance-Titan

Former homeless youth turned actor speaks at UWO

Allison Prusha

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Monti Washington, a former homeless youth turned successful actor, activist and motivational speaker spoke on Tuesday evening in Reeve Memorial Union as a part of the University Speaker Series.

Washington explained how he bolstered his confidence to get where he is today.

Speaker Series committee member Matilda Cretens said it’s a long process to decide who gets to come and speak at the University.

“Once we found out who our speaker was, we had to create a marketing plan to figure out what groups we wanted to target,” Cretens said.

There was a lot of crowd participation and storytelling as Washington aimed to empower students to “take it from the streets of their minds to the stage of their dreams.”

Also a spoken word artist, Washington began the evening with a free-verse poem that reflected our society today, and our obsession with social media.

After discussing his poetry, Washington delved into his past.

Washington said he was homeless by the age of 12, scouring trash bins outside fast food places with his brothers in hopes of coming up with their next meal of the day.

Once off the streets, he was placed in a group home and various foster homes where he endured both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his guardians.

Washington said it was during his time that his self-esteem took a hard hit, and he attempted suicide twice.

“I was called stupid so many times I thought it was my name,” Washington said.

Self-esteem remained a focal point of his talk as well as how our personal stories, while they may seem so different, are actually more alike than anything else Washington said.

“We do not look like our stories,” Washington said.

After sharing his history, the talk became more interactive. Washington picked six random students from the audience to stand on stage.

He had a roll of toilet paper in his hand and explained how in order to get through his struggles, he changed the words “you’re shit,” a name he was constantly called by his foster parents, into “you’re the shit.”

Senior Christine Juhas said what resonated with her most was the idea Washington conveyed about self-love.

“The ultimate thing you can do for you is love yourself and have faith in yourself,” Juhas said.

Washington said he started to realize his potential through his struggles while raising his confidence.

“I’ve learned to communicate and adapt to my situation, not really judge people,” Washington said.

Leave a Comment
Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Former homeless youth turned actor speaks at UWO