August 2, 2021
The following story initially appeared in as an on the internet exclusive for the W&M Alumni Magazine. – Ed.
As a younger dad or mum attending William & Mary, Nicole Lynn Lewis ’03 felt like she was the only individual having difficulties to attend undergraduate classes and comprehensive assignments whilst shifting diapers, searching for trustworthy little one treatment and worrying about how to pay out for food items and housing.
By way of Era Hope, the Washington, D.C.-centered nonprofit she started in 2010, Lewis connects learners in identical circumstances with friends, mentors and economical and psychological guidance to assist them get to their greater education and learning goals. The nonprofit’s two-generation programming also aids to put together the students’ young children for elementary school.
Now, Lewis is widening the get to of Generation Hope further than the D.C. area by doing work with policymakers and educational establishments to superior accommodate parenting learners and boost graduation premiums.
“It is a real time of growth and searching to see how we can make an affect both of those within just the D.C. metro place but also outside of it,” Lewis states.
Her attempts gained a considerable strengthen throughout the previous year from two higher-profile grants and as a result of response to her autobiographical book “Pregnant Lady: A Tale of Teenager Motherhood, College or university, and Building a Much better Foreseeable future for Young Families,” unveiled on Might 4.
The initially grant was from the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund, developed in the wake of national unrest in reaction to the law enforcement killings of George Floyd and other Black Us citizens. The fund supports leaders who are addressing systemic racism by working to reverse disparities in instruction, health treatment, work, criminal justice, voting accessibility and other parts.
Lewis was among 31 leaders from 15 states and the District of Columbia who received inaugural awards last September. Organizers proven the fund with an initial $2 million expenditure and a goal of boosting more than $10 million.
Emmy-successful producer and actress Kerry Washington, co-chair of Black Voices for Black Justice together with bestselling writer and Robin Hood Foundation CEO Wes Moore, says in saying the fund that supporting Lewis and the other recipients “is crucial as we strive towards fairness and racial justice in this state.”
For Lewis, instructional possibility is inextricably connected to racial justice. By telling her own story and these of other youthful moms and dads, she hopes to shine a gentle on the underlying concerns that lead to teen parenting and dispel stereotypes that are inclined to hinder successful help.
She suggests she is motivated by data this sort of as these: Less than 2% of teenager moms receive a faculty degree prior to age 30, in accordance to the group Electric power to Decide (initially known as The Countrywide Campaign to Stop Teenager Pregnancy). One in 5 undergraduate learners across the region is a guardian. Nearly 50 % of Black feminine undergraduates are moms. Even though pupils who are mom and dad ordinarily have a increased grade level common than these who are not moms and dads, they are 10 moments much less probable to graduate, Lewis suggests, citing figures from the Institute for Women’s Policy Investigation.
“Student-mothers and fathers are an invisible inhabitants in better ed,” she says in a May 17 “W&M Writers of Washington” virtual communicate. “They’re a lot more likely to be low profits, they’re extra likely to be students of shade, they are extra very likely to be 1st-era higher education students.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic took maintain, numerous ended up previously in crisis, Lewis claims, introducing that practically 70% of parenting college or university college students experienced faced housing insecurity inside the last calendar year.
“When you receive a university diploma, it places you in a unique placement economically. It puts you in a distinctive position from a social money standpoint,” she states for the duration of the discussion, which was moderated by former Technology Hope intern Mariana Eraña Salmerón ’21 and Chon Glover M.Ed. ’99, Ed.D. ’06, W&M main diversity officer.
“The included bonus is that the little one is then established up for good results in a different way than they would be if their mum or dad experienced not acquired a post-secondary credential,” Lewis states. “When a little one is 8 yrs old, their parents’ academic degree predicts their have educational and job good results 40 yrs in the upcoming.”
Generation Hope been given $50,000 from Black Voices for Black Justice, and Lewis says contributors in the nonprofit’s plans will aid make your mind up how to distribute the grant in an hard work to aid pupil-moms and dads and assistance faculties and universities better provide them.
In April, Era Hope was also awarded $1 million from The 1954 Project’s Luminary Awards, a philanthropic initiative released by the Chicago-centered Cleveland Avenue Basis for Instruction to help Black leaders of schooling-targeted nonprofits. The award named Lewis a “Luminary in Economic Mobility” and cited the usefulness of Generation Hope’s two-era programming as nicely as its engagement of institutional and coverage partners.
“In just 10 several years, Lewis has designed a certainly exclusive and thriving corporation that is gaining national notice for its complete-family members method to dismantling poverty,” the announcement states.
“I was blown away by both of those honors and pretty excited to have the cash to be capable to creatively handle what we see as crucial troubles,” Lewis suggests.
Generation Hope at present operates with about 125 college students in the Washington, D.C., metro location, and before long will get started exploring other cities and locations with the intention of growing its companies past the D.C. location by 2024. In addition, the nonprofit is helping greater education and learning officers in Tennessee and Maryland with improving upon companies for scholar-mom and dad.
The business that Lewis started by herself now has 20 employees, with typical support from interns like Salmerón by way of the William & Mary Washington Center’s D.C. Summer season Institutes.
This summertime, Technology Hope is launching a FamilyU system with a two-calendar year cohort possibility for chosen two-year and 4-calendar year-establishments to work together to remodel their campuses to much better provide parenting pupils.
While William & Mary is not part of that cohort, Lewis suggests she is happy to see her alma mater having measures these kinds of as adding a lactation room and diaper-altering stations at Swem Library, as Tami Again, director of communications and strategic setting up for W&M Libraries, describes in an job interview with The Hechinger Report.
“That has been, like lots of establishments, sluggish in coming, but I believe that those people are encouraging things to see,” Lewis states.
Generation Hope’s Next Generation Academy assists to prepare the students’ small children for kindergarten by conducting developmental screenings and assessments through home visits and by doing the job on cognitive, social and psychological techniques.
“There’s this kind of a strong symbiotic partnership among the mom and dad and their children’s academic achievement,” Lewis suggests. “In a faculty classroom, it can be hard to focus when you don’t know if your child is obtaining the tutorial aid that they want, or if you even have food stuff on the table that night.”
In May, Lewis and her spouse, Donté Lewis ’03, celebrated the start of their fifth child — a boy named Devin. That thirty day period also marked the launch of “Pregnant Female,” which traces her journey from teenage mom and William & Mary college student to nonprofit founder and CEO. She has talked about her private knowledge and the hurdles Generation Hope is operating to handle for the duration of new interviews with NPR and the Chronicle of Bigger Schooling, between other individuals, and she has created pieces for Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. W&M Alumni Magazine released a profile of Lewis, titled “Raising Hope,” in 2013.
Nerissa, the toddler woman who accompanied Lewis to William & Mary, turned 22 in May possibly. Now, she is in the remaining stretch of finishing a bachelor’s degree at Towson College and strategies to pursue a vocation in business.
“She talked about that in her faculty in her software essays — that she invested the first 4 many years of her lifestyle on a school campus, and so she normally understood that school was in her upcoming and that it was vital,” Lewis says. “I talked to her a lot about why I was working so hard to get my degree. I think that just displays the generational positive aspects of aiding youthful mother and father and parenting learners.”