Jesse DeMers, 36, was born in San Diego, California. He’s lived an action-packed life, filled with climaxes and plot twists. Although he hasn’t always gotten the picture-perfect movie ending, he’s learned a lot in his life, and he believes that one of its most important values is kindness – even to those who appear to be beneath you. Additionally, he encourages everyone to have the courage not to worry about society’s opinion of them.
Jesse was born to a Jewish mother and a black father, who left when he was two years old. His best childhood memories took place during his 5th grade summer. “The whole summer, my friends and I rode BMX bikes, built trails, and stayed up all night smoking cigarettes. It was an innocent time and I cherished it.” His worst memories include virtually everything else about his childhood. He hated school because he never felt like he fit in and was always in trouble. DeMers recalls the rap music of the 90’s and early 2000’s, crediting it as his biggest influence. “It was a lot more violent and angry back then and I resonated with it.” He was also influenced by many of the older kids in his neighborhood, who stole, sold drugs, and ultimately just made reckless decisions. Growing up, Jesse was an angry kid. He felt like an outcast no matter where he turned. Eventually, he started getting put in juvenile detention centers pretty frequently. “To me getting locked up was a way to escape society, and I would purposefully put myself in those situations.”
Throughout his high school experience, Jesse had been kicked out more times than he can even remember. But he does recall when a couple of significant people used their influence to spread positivity, making an impact on Jesse that still affects him today. At 17, he was sentenced to 6-9 months in a Juvenile Center, but the judge graciously gave him a furlough to earn the remainder of his high school credits. He spent a month at an adult education center and came out still needing 3 credits to graduate. At the very last second, his teacher pulled him aside and told him not to worry about the last 3 credits. He wanted to see Jesse succeed. “He gave me a genuine pep talk, and, on that day, I graduated. I don’t know what he did with those last 3 credits, but I graduated.”
At 19, Jesse DeMers was arrested for home invasion, armed robbery, and kidnapping. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and, in that moment, he decided to go on a deep personal journey of self-development to become a better person. “I immediately quit smoking, doing drugs, and drinking. I literally quit everything that I was and started building a new Jesse. I remember telling myself over and over in my head, ‘This is your military, Jesse. This is your university.’ And that’s exactly how I treated it.” While in prison, Jesse forced himself to navigate and learn from everyone who he decided had value. “Learning kept my mind strong, so that I wouldn’t be institutionalized. Prison was my university and I had some of the best professors in the world.”
After 13 years, Jesse was released from prison. Even though he was grateful for his newfound freedom, things still weren’t easy for him. “Everyone thought I was done. Everyone forgot about me, and I had to accept it. I had to learn to be accountable for my actions and to learn from them. I told myself that I wasn’t going to be a statistic, and I fought hard to keep my sanity… it took everything that I had. No one patted me on the back, and no one acknowledged my struggles. I had a dream of being a positive pillar and [an asset] to society, not knowing if society would accept me. Now I am a positive pillar in the community and the community has accepted me, but it’s only because I didn’t give up…. Learning to turn your biggest failure into your strongest foundation is the greatest lesson I could’ve ever learned.”
Today, DeMers works with D.A.R.E. officers and volunteers to go to Juvenile Centers through his own nonprofit called the “Bamboo Foundation”. In the future, he’d like to help others build healthy habits through fitness, nutrition, and coaching and instill in them a burning desire to be the best and healthiest versions of themselves. Personally, he’d like to see his future self-traveling the world with his Bamboo Foundation, helping outcasts and felons find a little peace in this world.
“Champions don’t make excuses. They make adjustments.” That is Jesse DeMers’s mantra. “This is what I tell myself every time things fall apart, which is every day.” He is committed to sharing his knowledge and experience with the world, enlightening others on the gravity of the consequences that come with reckless mistakes. Although he hasn’t always made the best nor the smartest decisions, Jesse has a good heart. A heart that he wants to use to pour love and warmth into those who need it most, because he’s familiar with the feeling of lacking it. Ultimately, he believes that the most important lesson that he has learned and can share is to be accountable for everything that happens in your life. “I know my dreams, and I know my faults. If I hold other people responsible for what needs to be done, or for what is done to me, then my dreams will never come true.”