Mom of Four and Local Non-Profit Leader Nicole Lynn Lewis on “Being the Village” for Young Parents in College


The phrase “it takes a village” is one that deeply resonates with most moms. We know that being a mother can be one of the most joyful experiences in the world, but at times, it can also be incredibly hard. We can’t do it alone. Hopefully, we can all think of a time when our village helped keep us going. For me, that phrase has an even deeper meaning.

I became pregnant with my first daughter at 18 years old. When I walked onto the College of William & Mary’s campus to start my freshman year of college, she was just three months old. At that time, I didn’t have much of a village, mostly due to being a teen mother and the stigma that followed. I struggled to find affordable, high-quality childcare, faced housing insecurity, and worried about putting food on the table. I kept going and walked across the graduation stage four years later, holding my daughter’s hand.

Today, my daughter is a junior in college herself, and I’m the mama of four beautiful children. I’m also the Founder & CEO of Generation Hope, a nonprofit that works with tenacious teen parents in college. Generation Hope offers academic, emotional, financial, mental health supports, and coaches to work with them as they navigate a college system that wasn’t designed with parenting students in mind. The data shows that fewer than 2% of teen mothers who have a baby by age 18 earn a college degree by the time they are 30. We need to be the village that supports young parents who are dreaming and striving for a bright future for their families.

Young Parents Face Many Challenges

Every day, I work with young moms and dads who are incredibly driven. They just need the resources and encouragement that we all need or to make it across the finish line. Like many of us, these parents are juggling major responsibilities. They are working, parenting, going to classes, and staying up late to study or complete assignments. Many are doing this while dealing with issues like domestic violence, housing instability, and food insecurity. Generation Hope’s mission is to “be the village” for young parents who have the potential to do great things. We believe that they just need true support and people who believe in them.

What can moms do to “be a village” for other parents who are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges? We can mentor—individually or in groups. We can donate tangible items like highchairs and gas cards to families in need—not just around the holidays but throughout the year, when young parents often feel invisible. And we can open our networks to families who may not have the same social capital and resources that we have. In all of this, we can and should be honest about the struggles that we face in our own parenting and journeys. Young mothers need to know that all moms face challenges — from potty training to tantrums to self-doubt. Feeling that connection can remind them that they are, in fact, doing a great job.


Be the Village

As moms, we know we can’t go it alone. There is such power when we come together to lift one another up. And that is what drives me every day as I parent my own children and support young moms and dads in changing their families’ futures at Generation Hope. Let’s “be the village.”

P.S. If you’re moved to join us, we have opportunities for whole families or groups to volunteer together and mentor a Scholar family, put together snack bags for Scholar kiddos, and provide child care at events. We also have individual opportunities such as tutoring, one-on-one mentoring, and more. Learn more at or email me at [email protected].

About the Author:

Nicole Lynn Lewis is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Generation Hope, a nonprofit organization that surrounds 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. A former teen mother herself who put herself through the College of William & Mary with her three-month old daughter in tow, Nicole now works every day to change the statistic that less than 2% of teen mothers will earn their degrees before age 30. Generation Hope rallies around teen parents to help them earn college degrees and forge a path to economic opportunity. Now they are 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. Nicole has received various awards, including being honored as a CNN Hero and the national grand prize winner of the Roslyn S. Jaffe Award, and has been featured on major news outlets including “Good Morning America,” CNN, “NBC Nightly News,” and The Washington Post.  She is also a nationally known author and speaker with her next, highly-anticipated book, DUE, to be released 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 four children.