This May, the class of 2016 will be commemorating the end of a journey. But there’s one family that will be celebrating a household full of 2016 graduates.
Kenny and Vickie Lewis and their children, Kendra and Amias, are all graduating from various levels of education this spring. It’s a rarity that their graduation years would line up, but it’s no coincidence that they’ve reached this point. The Lewis family has worked hard to get where they are.
Kenny Lewis has worked for the Clinton Police Department for 11 years and is now a criminal investigator for the Hinds County DA office, as well as president of the Clinton Public School Board. He graduated from Clinton High School in 1989 and earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Delta State University in 1993. This May he is earning his master’s in theology from New Foundation Theological Seminary.
His wife Vickie is a guide for hearing impaired students at several local colleges, as well as an interpreter for events. She graduated from Pearl High School in 1990 and got an associate’s degree from Hinds Community College in sign language interpreting in 1995. She received her bachelor’s in theology from New Foundational Theological Seminary in 2014, where she is also earning her master’s in Christian counseling.
Kenny and Vickie are both associate ministers at Emmanuel Tabernacle Church in Christ and own a daycare and a t-shirt business. To them, continuing their education was the obvious next step in pursuing more of their goals. With 4.0 GPAs and a strong work ethic, they not only encourage each other, but also inspire their children to succeed. “What better way to set an example for them than to go back to school ourselves?” said Kenny.
Their daughter, Kendra, 22, is a 2012 Clinton High School graduate who is earning a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship from Jackson State University, where she received a full athletic scholarship to run track. Kendra was also “Miss Clinton 2013.” Their son, Amias, 18, is graduating from Clinton High School this year, where he participates in choir and plays point guard on the basketball team.
They call themselves the “Lew Crew,” not just because they are a family of athletes, but because they work as a team. Whether it’s huddled around the dinner table discussing their day or encouraging each other in the stands, they “key in on quality time” and focus on support. “That’s the basis of our family—support,” said Kenny.
“I can’t put into words the support and love that they’ve shown me,” Kendra said. “To look up into the stands and see my parents always means a lot.” For Amias, having his parents earn a degree while he’s also in school has brought them closer together. “My parents understand where I’m coming from with school,” he said. “They can relate and help me when I need it.”
They are a family that is proud of each other, and their home reflects it. Accomplishments are showcased through scrapbooks, framed photos, and newspaper clippings. “Trophies are our home décor,” said Kendra. Kenny is essentially the record keeper and publicist of the family, while Vickie captures the moments on camera. Kenny loves to send out mass texts of his son or daughter at a game or receiving an award. “He is the proudest father,” said Vickie. “It’s a poor duck that won’t praise its own pond,” Kenny added. But he also stresses to his kids the importance of being servant leaders and bringing others up with you. “We don’t want the purpose to get distorted,” added Vickie. “And we don’t want to act below or above anyone.”
But like the teammates that they are, the Lewis family is not afraid to push each other to excel. Vickie said they encourage their children to be authentic, but also “to go beyond the norm and not settle.” Kenny said that he “want[s] to be the best [he] can be for them,” and he and his wife’s decision to continue their education has been a motivator for their children to do the same. “My mom showed me that you can push yourself and provide for your family,” Kendra said. “And my dad is the backbone and gives us the structure we need.”
They are a family that not only values education, but values the Lord above it all. Having God in their lives and applying biblical teachings to how they live every day is what’s most important to them, and they credit their success to Christ. “Follow Him and everything else will work out,” said Kenny. Their priorities have always been Christ first, then family, academics, and extracurricular. “Sports are rewards for doing well in school,” they agree. Amias added, “My mom always says, if you don’t pass, you don’t play.” Looking back, Kendra said she’s very thankful for her family’s Christian foundation and how it has shaped and prepared her.
To celebrate their graduations, the Lew Crew plans to go on an “epic” vacation, preferably a cruise. But seeing what they’ve accomplished as a family brings them the most joy. “I still can’t believe it,” said Amias. “For my whole family to be graduating is pretty awesome. I’m enjoying it and making the most of it, and I’m proud of my entire family.” “I’m so happy that we get to finish this journey together,” added Kendra.
But this is just the beginning for them. Kenny and Vickie’s goal is to use their degrees to give back through a community development center that’s in the works. Since Kenny has held positions in both criminal and educational fields, he realizes that “there is a direct correlation between being uneducated and prison.” Their goal is to provide the resources that people need to succeed. “I’m super excited to get the credentials I need to make this happen,” Kenny said. “We are getting more than a degree that we can put up on a wall. We’re pursuing degrees so that we can help others.”
And that desire for education and “going beyond” has been passed down to their kids. Kendra plans to pursue a MBA at JSU. Amias, though his plans aren’t certain, knows he wants to play basketball and “keep the family tradition going” by pursuing higher education.
Reaching this point has not only been a team effort, it’s been a “joyful journey” as Vickie calls it. “It looks like it should’ve been harder than it was,” she said. “But keeping our eyes on the goal made it less of a struggle and so worth it. We’ve been carried by love.”