Jackson State University alum Thomas “Snacks” Lee approaches the podium, about to dress the auditorium of Jackson Public High School seniors on Jackson State’s campus the morning of April 22. The historically Black college is hosting High School Day, inviting high-school seniors from the seven high schools in the Jackson area to visit campus and learn why Jackson State should be their college choice.

The energy in the room is a little stagnant compared to the intense energy from earlier when each high school fought for dominance to determine who could be the crunkest and loudest, so to bring the energy up, Lee places a bet.

“Everybody likes Cash App, right?” Lee asks the students.

“I need five people to walk to the front. If you can guess what high school I went to, you get a Cash App (prize),” he encourages.

The room erupts in a cacophony of sound, some students power-walking to the front of the stage for a chance at some money. Lee walks to the edge asking students one by one to guess which Jackson Public School he attended. A winner is crowned soon, a young woman from Lanier High School guessing the correct answer.

“I went to Provine,” Lee confirms after returning to the podium.

At Jackson State University’s High School Day on Monday, April 22, volunteers for Chosen Studios, who produced the documentary titled “The Underdog: The Story of Thomas ‘Snacks’ Lee,” passed out fliers with QR codes for high-school seniors to scan for free tickets to the May 3, 2024, screening at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, Miss. Photo by Malcolm Morrow

He graduated from the school in 2015 and then began college at Jackson State University, graduating in 2020. Lee always wanted to be a part of a team, though he never played sports his entire life.

During his senior year at Jackson State, as the basketball team manager, he was allowed to check into the game. A video of Lee hitting a three pointer against University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff right after entering the game went viral, accumulating millions of views and providing a multitude of opportunities for Snacks.

“I started with 2,000 followers, and with that moment, it helped me accumulate 20,000 followers. I had an appearance on the Today Show, and I was an ESPY Award winner for the ‘Can’t Stop Watching Moment of the Year,’” Lee listed.

All of Lee’s experiences have been bottled up into the Chosen Studios executive produced documentary titled “The Underdog: The Story of Thomas ‘Snacks’ Lee.” The documentary will have a premiere screening at Thalia Mara Hall on Friday, May 3. In conjunction with JSU Recruitment, Snacks announced on the podium that the college pledged to sponsor a limited number of free tickets for JPS seniors to attend the premiere.

“The documentary will be about when you believe in yourself, when you bet on yourself, good things can happen. It’s very motivating. I think that my story alone can motivate and inspire everyone that’s here,” Lee said.

“Snacks” Lee takes a photo with a Jackson State University Tiger Team member inside the Athletes and Assembly Center at JSU High School Day on Monday, April 22, 2024. Photo by Malcolm Morrow

All JPS seniors have to do is scan the QR code and they’ll receive their free ticket to the premiere where community leaders, professional entertainers and businesses will be in attendance.

“We’re extending this invitation to high-school students throughout Mississippi, offering them a chance to be part of this momentous occasion and celebrate the spirit of our city and Jackson State University!” the college said in a written statement.

Jackson State University President Marcus Thompson said the majority of the college’s populace is made up of Mississippi students, particularly Jacksonians. With more than 50 majors of their choosing, the president, who also graduated from JSU, encouraged students to choose the institution for its strong brand, affordability, education, opportunities and because he believes JSU helps students become who they are meant to be.

“Choose Jackson State because there’s no place like home. We know being a part of this community, there’s no other place like Jackson, Mississippi, no other place like Jackson State University. Many of our current students tell me that they picked JSU because it felt right and it felt like family,” Thompson said.

Thomas “Snacks” Lee said attending Jackson State University was the best decision he ever made.

“Of course, a lot of people bash JPS schools, and they don’t believe greatness comes from JPS, (but) I’m a testament to when you believe in yourself and work hard and you dream, anything is possible,” Lee said.

“The Underdog: The Story of Thomas ‘Snacks’ Lee” will premiere on Friday, May 3, at Thalia Mara Hall. The red-carpet event begins at 6 p.m. Doors will open for general admission at 7 p.m, and the film begins at 8 p.m. Purchase tickets to the premiere here. Mississippi high-school students may redeem their free ticket to the premiere by scanning this QR code.

Jackson, Miss., native Aliyah Veal is a proud alumna of Spelman College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 2017. Afterward, she attended the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in New York, gaining a master’s degree in journalism in 2018. After moving back home in 2019, she interned at the Jackson Free Press, covering city council and Jackson neighborhoods before moving up to culture writer. Her interests include tattoos, music and food, really, really good food. She now writes about culture, music and the arts for the Crirec.