Award-winning advocate for student parents in higher ed; founder Generation Hope
“Nicole Lynn Lewis has had it rough. Her journey through college as a teen mom is authentic and moving. Reading Pregnant Girl, you will learn something important about race, poverty, and gender and how they play a role in teen pregnancy. And you will learn something about how hope can win over adversity.” —Soledad O’Brien
Nicole Lynn Lewis serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Generation Hope, an organization which she founded in March 2010. As CEO, Nicole oversees all aspects of Generation Hope’s operations. To ensure all student parents have the opportunities to succeed and experience economic mobility, Generation Hope engages education and policy partners to drive systemic change and provides direct support to teen parents in college as well as their children through holistic, two-generation programming. She is a nationally-known speaker on topics such as teen pregnancy and parenting, youth development, higher ed, and leadership. Nicole is also the critically acclaimed author of Pregnant Girl: A Story of Teen Motherhood, College, and Creating a Better Future for Young Families, named one of the best books of 2021 by NPR.
Nicole became pregnant during her senior year in high school. She had just been accepted into numerous colleges, yet her friends and family told her that college was no longer a reality—a negative outlook often unfairly presented to teen mothers. Nicole left home, nearly failed to graduate from high school because of excessive absences, and experienced periods of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. In spite of these obstacles, she graduated high school and pursued her goal of going to college. She enrolled as a full-time freshman at the College of William & Mary and brought along her three-month old daughter. Four years later, she graduated with high honors and a Bachelor of Arts degree, and in 2006 she earned a Master of Public Policy degree from George Mason University. There was very little support for Nicole when she attended college, and each day, she is working to change that for today’s student parents. Generation Hope rallies around teen parents to help them earn college degrees and forge a path to economic opportunity and has expanded its work nationally by sharing its best practices to help colleges and universities across the country better meet the needs of the nearly 4 million parenting students who are working toward their degrees and by formalizing a policy and advocacy agenda driven by student parents to address the systemic barriers to their success.
In just 13 years, Nicole has created a truly unique and thriving organization that is gaining national attention for its whole-family approach to dismantling poverty. In 2021, she was honored as a Luminary in Economic Mobility by The 1954 Project alongside four other innovative Black leaders in educational equity. As a testament to her work, Nicole has also been named a CNN Hero, an inaugural recipient of the Black Voices for Black Justice Award, which “recognizes incredible leaders who have been on the frontlines working to dismantle the deep-rooted, racist systems that have plagued our country for centuries,” a Boulder Fund Award honoree through Education Leaders of Color, which “supports the innovations of leaders of color in education,” a “Woman who Means Business” by the Washington Business Journal, a “Top 40 Under 40” by Washingtonian Magazine, a PBS “Stories of Champions” honoree, one of the Top 50 “Exemplar” Alumni of George Mason University, and a Minority Business Leader by the Washington Business Journal. In October 2018, Nicole was also named the national grand prize winner of the Roslyn S. Jaffe Award among nearly 3,000 nominees, which recognizes everyday heroes who are making the world a better place for women and/or children, specifically in the areas of health, education, social reform, esteem, and leadership development. Nicole has been featured on major news outlets, including “Good Morning America,” CNN, “NBC Nightly News,” and The Washington Post.
In January 2019, Nicole received an honorary doctorate from Trinity Washington University for her impactful and innovative work with young families, and she is now a member of their Board of Trustees. Nicole also serves as an Ascend National Advisor with the Aspen Institute and was named a 2022 SOAR Fellow by the Aspen Institute for her work to advance equity for women and girls.
Prior to founding Generation Hope, Nicole worked for five years with other nonprofit organizations dedicated to youth and/or poverty, providing expertise in the areas of strategic planning, fundraising, and marketing/public relations. Before her nonprofit work, Nicole was a communications and public relations professional for two years with companies in the Washington DC area, including GEICO.
Nicole holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Communication from George Mason University and a Bachelor’s degree in English from the College of William & Mary. Nicole and her husband, Donté Lewis, live in Maryland with their five children.
Praise for Nicole’s Talks
“Nicole is truly inspiring! Many of the young women who listened to Nicole’s presentation became enthusiastic about attending college, ending abusive relationships, and planning for their futures. Because of Nicole, they want to make positive changes in their lives.”
—Kenya Wiggins, Youth Professional Development
“Nicole presented at Project Opportunity’s Ninth Annual Networking Conference and because of her shared knowledge, information and expertise, we are able to be more resourceful to our young mothers. Her dedication and enthusiasm are truly recognized!”
—Elizabeth Link, Project Opportunity
“I appreciate the time and effort Nicole put into making both her keynote and workshop session so very valuable for our conference attendees. As a conference planner working with many speakers for several conferences, I appreciate her attention to detail, her timely communications, and the time she took to really understand our audience. It was a pleasure to work with Nicole.”
—Michele Dickinson, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension
“Nicole’s presentation was such an inspiration to me both on a personal and professional level. Thank you!”
—Dimitri Warren, ALIVE!, Inc.
Praise for Pregnant Girl
“Lewis proves that teen mom stories are never simple arcs but constellations of inequities of racism and class that catalyze the chemicals in that pregnancy test. Her prose [in Pregnant Girl] has the power to undo deep-set cultural biases about poverty and parenthood. It should be required reading for every lawmaker who will vote on whether to make the current child tax credit permanent policy.”
—New York Times
“Nicole Lynn Lewis has had it rough. Her journey through college as a teen mom is authentic and moving. Reading Pregnant Girl, you will learn something important about race, poverty, and gender and how they play a role in teen pregnancy. And you will learn something about how hope can win over adversity.”
“Makes a compelling case for the multifaceted approach that is necessary to ensure that all young people—particularly our youth of color and young parents—are able to make the choice to pursue a college education, earn a degree, and lead thriving lives. . . . It is an approach that is deeply rooted in the belief and call to action that is core to this book—that all young people are worthy of an education, worthy of resources and opportunity, and worthy of our every effort to help them reach their potential and soar.”
—Dr. John King, 10th US secretary of education under President Obama
“A frank, thoroughly contextualized portrayal of Black teen motherhood.”
“Told with empathy and nuance, Pregnant Girl is a remarkable and heart-wrenching memoir from an inspiring leader.”
“Pregnant Girl is not just a powerful memoir; it’s an empowering guide for all of us. Nicole Lynn Lewis shows us that all our journeys matter, and the beauty of those journeys is not just the destination but the lessons of the path. I would highly recommend this book to all.”
—Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood