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. 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.
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 is now expanding 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 10 years, Nicole has created a truly unique and thriving organization that is gaining national attention for its whole-family approach to dismantling poverty. Most recently, she was honored as a 2021 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, Ms. 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. Nicole also serves as an Ascend National Advisor with the Aspen Institute and on the Advisory Board for the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University.
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. She is a nationally-known speaker on topics such as teen pregnancy and parenting, youth development, higher ed, and leadership. Nicole is also an author with her critically-acclaimed book, Pregnant Girl, released by Beacon Press in the spring of 2021.
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.