Destrehan High senior juggles school, sports and a successful design business

At the age of just 13 years old, St. Rose native Alaija Thomas made the decision to start her own creative business called TopPressure, offering creative, graphic design and photography-related services.

“I started to love to design stuff; I’d watch people older than me, and I always wanted to be ‘that person,’” Thomas, now 17 and a high school senior, said of her initial entry into the design field. “I never wanted to be a follower; I always wanted to be a leader, the person that somebody looks up to.”

Thomas works with various groups and sports teams including the Destrehan High football team, spending most Fridays capturing football individual and team photos she later integrates into promotional flyer designs.

With her business now entering its fifth year, the high school senior said she has learned a lot by on her own just by researching, viewing instructional video material, designing, and experimenting with various design applications.

“It took a really long time for me to get where I am,” Thomas said of her current skill set, having to overcome an initial learning curve when she first began and then later working hard to keep up with ever-changing graphic design applications and new design trends. “Over time technology changed, graphic design changed.”

Thomas was recently recognized by the St. Charles Parish Council for her efforts as a young entrepreneur and for her logo design work assisting a new local area nonprofit called Hope St. Rose.

Still a high school senior, the busy teenager somehow has found time to juggle her regular school workload, extracurricular activities like volleyball, a separate part-time job as well as run her own creative business.

“It’s kind of hard to manage it, but I manage to get through it – I’ve been doing it since last school year,” Thomas said of her current mix of school and after school activities. “I’m independent, so I just keep it intact, and I try to put the most important thing first with school, since I’m a senior.”

The 17-year-old said the death of her two-year-old brother Semaj Batiste, who passed away following a tragic domestic violence incident in 2014, has over time helped her to refocus her energy, motivating her to succeed.

“He was my closest sibling,” Thomas commented. “I just think about the positive things when he was here; I kind of use that as a motivation to keep me going.”

The Destrehan High senior said she has her immediate career plans after high school already mapped out. She is looking forward to graduation, after which she plans to begin working, saving and plowing more of her time and capital into the expansion of her creative marketing enterprise.

Thomas commented the relevant instruction and education she was receiving in high school from her teachers at Destrehan High and via the Satellite Center has been invaluable, instruction that has included real-world applications like interactive media education.

“It doesn’t matter how far I get – I will always look back to where I came from [and appreciate the] opportunities I had; everyone that attends school in St. Charles Parish is very blessed,” Thomas mentioned. “Most schools, most parishes don’t get the same [resources] that we get.”


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