Generation Hope $100,000.00 Grand Prize Recipient

Generation Hope
Generation Hope
Nicole Lynn Lewis
Generation Hope
Washington , DC

About Generation Hope

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela knew that there is nothing more powerful, in terms of transformative change, than education. Nicole Lynn Lewis would come to see this in her own life, beginning on the day that her college career was jeopardized by two pink lines on a pregnancy test during her senior year of high school. Although she was an honor roll student on track to college, the fact that she was now a teen mother painted a bleak future for her and her daughter. A future she could not accept.

Nicole began her freshman year at the College of William & Mary when her daughter, Nerissa, was nearly three months old, despite the doubts of those around her and the statistics that say that less than 2% of teen mothers earn a degree before age 30. She had to balance a full-time course load as a young mother – not sure where her tuition or book money would come from. Four years later, she graduated with High Honors while Nerissa held onto her robe. It was an amazing moment that would change both of their lives in many ways. Two years later, Nicole earned her Master’s degree from George Mason University. The vast majority (more than 98%) of teen mothers across the U.S. are struggling to provide for their children because they cannot access a college education, and if they do begin college, they lack the resources and support to make it graduation. In D.C., nearly half of all homeless youth are parents under the age of 24, living on the streets with their children, in large part because of a lack of education. When a young parent gets their four-year degree, they will earn $1M more over their lifetime than their counterparts without a degree, and their child’s outcomes immediately skyrocket. To Mandela’s point, education changes everything.

Nicole knew deep down that everything she had been through as a young mother was preparing her for something. Going without heat in the winter, not having enough food to eat, late nights studying while holding her teething daughter, her journey was not just an experience to reflect on, it was a training. She knew that other teen parents could achieve the same success if they just had the resources and the support to get there. Her vision for an organization that would help teen parents across the D.C. metro region earn their college degrees through mentoring, tuition assistance, and crisis support began to take shape, and she founded Generation Hope in 2010. The first application they received came from a young woman who became pregnant at just 12 years old. Eight years later, Generation Hope has supported 170 teen parents in college, provided more than $500,000 in tuition assistance, celebrated 51 college graduates (with 32 more Scholars slated to earn degrees in May 2019), and presented college-readiness workshops to more than 1,000 expecting and parenting high school students across the D.C. region. Nearly 60% of Generation Hope Scholars finish college within six years, compared with less than 2% of teen mothers who earn a degree before age 30 and only 33% of student parents of any age who earn a degree/certificate within six years. Nearly 90% are employed full time and/or enrolled in graduate school and report an income above the federal poverty line within six months after graduation. Seventy percent earn a 2.5 GPA or greater each semester, and 90% stay in college from year to year. Nicole always envisioned Generation Hope would expand its work to also provide early childhood supports for Scholars’ children to ensure they have the best chance at their own academic success. In the summer of 2018, Generation Hope launched a new program, Next Generation Academy, which provides cognitive and family supports as well as access to high-quality childcare for Scholars’ children through age 5. This two-generation solution to poverty is truly game changing for young people who far too often fall through the cracks.

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