Edmund Lewis, Jr. had been an athlete during his high school years, but his mentor, who also happened to be his barber, was the man who encouraged him to focus on his grades, stay away from bad influences and get into college.
“He gave me the right amount of tough love, and he had high expectations of me…I didn’t want to let him down.”
A first generation college graduate, he earned his undergraduate degree in social work from North Carolina Central University in 2008.
“It was exciting and humbling, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the love and support of my mentor who taught me the importance of servant leadership…doing the work without feeling the need to be recognized.”
And he certainly made his friends and family proud!
“During my undergrad years, I worked with black males in Durham to help them get into college. So much of my work was built on relationship building and I was inspired to help other young men the same way I had been helped.”
I want to create a sense of hope.
Edmund had decided that in order for him to have a real impact, he needed to pursue an MSW. He was courted by universities throughout the country and he was flattered by the interest several Ivy League schools took in him.
“I looked at several schools, but after I talked with Tim Colenback, assistant dean for student services, I knew there wasn’t anything I couldn’t get at U -M… this was the school for me!”
Within one year, he graduated with an MSW from the University of Michigan School of Social Work with a practice method concentration in Social Policy and Evaluation. Not only did Edmund embrace his studies and his field placement, but he also was the president of the Association for Black Students in Social Work.
“There are so many great things happening on campus and I wanted to do as much as I could!”
During his MSW, Edmund’s field placement was with the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, which is dedicated to providing service to others and creating opportunities for those who lack them.
“This field placement cultivated my experience with philanthropy and from there, I made my way into my first job as a community support specialist with Brightmoor Alliance in northwest Detroit,” Edmund said. My field placement gave me another look at how to empower individuals in self-sufficiency. I had firsthand experience with an amazing mentor in high school, and my field placement helped define the aspirations I had to create my own program.”
It isn’t surprising that Edmund is already fine-tuning his program, Minority Males for Higher Education, which is based in the metropolitan Detroit area. He’s learning that not everything moves as fast as he’d like it to, but he has had several success stories among the students he’s been mentoring for the past two years at Detroit Community High School.
“Only four percent of black males are college students, and I’m proud to say that I have five students attending four-year universities,”Edmund explained. “It takes time to build relationships with the students, with the principals and visiting colleges and universities.”
Edmund exposes high school students to what they can do by encouraging them to attend college visits. He even provides haircuts and established a clothing closet, which supplies the young men with professional attire for mock interviews, college visits and career day.
“It’s my job to help eliminate those barriers that stop many young males from attending college, from lack of motivation to financial support for the ACT test. While small, these obstacles can be the determining factor between defining your dreams and never achieving your dreams,” said Edmund. “If they haven’t thought about college, I find out why. I want to create a sense of hope.”
The Minority Males for Higher Education is well on its way to becoming a full-fledged non-profit. A diverse board of directors has been cultivated, 501(c) (3) status has been submitted, partnerships with universities are in the making, and the program outreach is going beyond city limits into the metropolitan suburbs.
“My inspiration came from my hometown in Thomasville, North Carolina, and my knowledge came from the University of Michigan…now the rest is up to me.”