Nicole Lynn Lewis

Award-winning advocate for student parents in higher ed; founder Generation Hope

Nicole Lynn Lewis serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Generation Hope, an organization which she founded in March 2010 and author of the forthcoming memoir, Pregnant Girl (Beacon Press). Generation Hope’s mission is to surround motivated teen parents and their children with the mentors, emotional support, and financial resources that they need to thrive in college and kindergarten, thereby driving a two-generation solution to poverty. Lewis was named a CNN Hero, a 2017 Minority Business Leader 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 is the national grand prize winner of the 2018 Roslyn S. Jaffe Award which recognizes everyday heroes who are making the world a better place for women and/or children. She has been featured on major news outlets including Good Morning America, CNN, NBC Nightly News, and The Washington Post. A sought-after speaker about teen pregnancy and parenting, youth development, student parents, college completion for marginalized populations, goal achievement, and self-empowerment, she has given two TEDx talks and speaks at schools, colleges, and youth and teen support organizations across the country.

Lewis 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. Lewis 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 Lewis when she attended college, and each day, she is working to change that. Generation Hope rallies around teen parents to help them earn college degrees and forge a path to economic opportunity. Generation Hope is now expanding its work with young parents beyond the D.C. region 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. In just 10 years, Lewis has created a unique and thriving organization that is gaining national attention for its whole-family approach to dismantling poverty.

In January 2019, Nicole Lynn Lewis 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. She also serves as an Ascend National Advisor with the Aspen Institute. Lewis 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. She and her husband, Donté Lewis, live in Maryland with their four 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.