Cheering Generations Toward Education

by Lauryn Cantrell

CEO of local nonprofit to be recognized for her efforts in college completion among young parents. 

Nicole Lynn Lewis. (All photos courtesy of Generation Hope)

Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder and CEO of Generation Hope, is the grand prize recipient of The Roslyn S. Jaffe Awards for her work with women and children. Nationally recognized for their unique mission, Lewis and Generation Hope will receive a $100,000 grant to go toward enhancing services provided to young parents, such as offering on-staff mental health support, formalizing career-readiness services for Scholars and piloting early childhood development programs.

“I’m so honored to be a part of Mrs. Jaffe’s legacy and excited about what this will mean for our scholars and their children,” says Lewis. She will be recognized on Wednesday, October 17 in New York City.

When Lewis was a student at The College of William and Mary, rather than returning to her dorm room, she went home to care for her daughter. As she earned her degree, she felt she was not supported due to the stigma of being a young mom. Her daughter served as inspiration, motivating Lewis toward graduation and continually cheering her on as she forged a career for herself.

“I wanted her to have the best that life could offer, and the resources to be successful in whatever path she chose. As a young mother with virtually no money, that sometimes seemed impossible, but I knew to earn my college degree was the best chance we had. My parents always instilled in me the importance of education and pursuing my dreams. So, I put that into action and pushed through all of the challenges for her,” says Lewis.

Wanting to provide what she did not have when she was a student mom, in 2010 Lewis founded Generation Hope. By emotionally and financially investing in families, Generation Hope fosters an empathetic culture, optimizing the success of young parents and the children who inspire them. Based in Washington, D.C., the community-oriented nonprofit provides one-on-one mentoring and resources and services, encouraging young parent’s ability in reaching their educational goals.

Washington, D.C. has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. In 2015, the District of Columbia’s health department reported 31.7 pregnancies per thousand girls between 15 to 19 years old. According to the statistical note taken for 2017, the district has steadily witnessed a downward trend in the teenage pregnancy rate.

Less than two percent of teen mothers earn a college degree before 30. More than 80 percent of Generation Hope alumni are employed, graduate students and living above the poverty line within six months of graduating. Many Scholars find themselves living in low-income and temporary living arrangements. Lewis sympathizes with such situations after working in youth and poverty nonprofits. She too overcame homeless and poverty.

“The young parents that people have given up on – that’s who I want us to reach each day. I want to change the way we think about teen parents. There is so much untapped potential out there. Sometimes it just takes someone believing in you for you to take the first step. That’s what we do at Generation Hope.”

Within eight years, Generation Hope has supported 170 teen parents in college, providing more than $500,000 in tuition assistance through their Scholars Program. 51 alumni have earned their degree going on to work as teachers, computer engineers, nonprofit specialists and more. An additional 32 are expected to graduate in May 2019, their sons and daughters cheering them as they walk across the stage.

Over the summer, Generation Hope introduced their Next Generation Academy providing children’s programming to scholar’s little ones as they prepare for kindergarten.

“I did not have access to these cognitive and family supports when I was in school.  Things like home visiting, providing age-appropriate books in the home, access to high-quality childcare, parenting support and more.  This is a model that helps both a parent and their child thrive through education at the same time,” says Lewis.

In taking a holistic approach to managing parent-children learning curves, Generation Hope believes in the potential of young families by providing resources for beneficiaries to grow together. Children of Scholars see their parents succeed academically, thus encouraging a healthy learning environment. “This is a two-generation solution to poverty, and it’s exciting to see it taking shape.”

Lewis and her team of board members, donors, volunteers and staff encourage Scholars to achieve their academic goals while maintaining a home, education and work-life balance. They assure it is possible to be a parent and a scholar. Through hard work, says Lewis, success is inevitable.

“Don’t give up. Ever. It’s so hard, I know, but the short-term sacrifice is worth the long-term gain. Always have your priorities straight, don’t beat yourself up, and be intentional about your day. Your hard work will pay off, believe me!”

For more information about Generation Hope and how to get involved,


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