I’m inspired by life, love, family, art. I’m inspired by those who refuse to back down in the face of adversity. I’m inspired by those who push forward, shattering the myths that others have of them. I’m inspired by Nicole Lynn Lewis. She’s a mother, a wife, public speaker, business woman, and seasoned author. She is the Founder and CEO of Generation Hope, a nonprofit that reduces the number of families living in poverty by providing direct sponsorships and support to teen parents who are attending college, and proud mother to two beautiful daughters. And she is also a former Massachusetts resident! Looking at her, you probably wouldn’t realize she is a former teen parent. At the age of 19 she gave birth to her beautiful daughter Nerissa.
I had the pleasure of reading Nicole’s first book Glori: A Different Story recently, and the book gave me chills. Often as teen and young parents we feel alone and isolated in our experiences. Positive that no one else will ever understand the experiences we’ve had. Positive no one will understand the hurt and the pain. There is such power when we open ourselves up and share our stories. Glori takes a personal look at Nicole’s journey through love, loss, struggle, and motherhood as a teen. Her story is raw, honest, and courageous. She shares with her readers the real side of parenting young, of pursuing your goals, and the true rewards of hard work and sacrifice. Glori is a must read for teen parents. She shows, through her intimate experiences, what can happen when you believe in yourself and refuse to back down. Her spirit is electrifying and refreshing.
Through her words I find comfort. Through her experiences I find hope. Through her I see an unbreakable spirit, an unshakable core. She is an inspiration to women and teen parents everywhere.
You were so lucky to have such wonderful supportive angels guiding you and loving you and Nerissa. Do you think you could be where you are without them?
I had some very special people around me, but they were often in and out of my life, and that made things very difficult at times. My parents, for instance, were there for me toward the end of my pregnancy and when Nerissa was born, but even then, the relationship was strained, and there was no financial support really. Mama D [family friend] was wonderful in terms of emotional support, but when she became sick, it was hard for her to be there for me – our roles kind of reversed, and I needed to be there for her. Kenya [sister] wouldn’t talk to me for a long time because of my pregnancy. We became close later on. Acacia, Kaity, and Jen were good friends who came into the picture after I was pretty far along in my pregnancy. So for the majority of my pregnancy, I felt very alone. My relationship with God was really strengthened at this time because I felt like He was the only real constant in my life.
When I gave birth to Nerissa and started college, I had a lot of emotional support from the people you mention. They were definitely cheering me on, and that really encouraged me when things got tough. My experience would have been very different without them. It might have taken me longer to complete college. I would have had a more difficult time handling everything emotionally. You need people around you who believe in you when you’re trying to achieve something big.
If you don’t have a support system, it’s important to be your own cheerleader. I tell people that all the time, especially teen parents because the support system is often the first thing that they lose when they tell people that they’re pregnant. It’s not easy to be your own cheerleader, but you have to push yourself, and once you start cheering yourself on, it can be fun.
Whatever your story is, turn it into your testimony. I couldn’t agree more. Our stories have such strength and the ability to unite us and open new doorways. How does one turn their story into their testimony?
I think you have to turn setbacks into challenges. Don’t let them stop you in your tracks. Look at the problem and try to think of a solution. You can either accept your situation or you can decide that you want more for yourself and work your way out of it. It’s going to be difficult and embarrassing at times and people are going to doubt you, but if you are able to turn your story into a testimony, the rewards are great. Not only do you change the course of your life, but you inspire others, and that’s an amazing feeling. It’s special.
If you could go back in time and talk to your previous self at the following ages, can you in one sentence give yourself advice or guidance?
Age 16 – Everything is going to be okay.
Age 19 – You and Nerissa deserve BETTER.
Age 22 – Enjoy and savor every moment of this magical time in your life.
How do you keep on going when you want to quit? When everyone around you expects you to fail, when the government wants you to fail, when it would be so much easier to fail? How do you keep going?
Know that the rewards will come. I promise you. I was exhausted when I graduated from college, emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. But to go from sleeping on people’s floors to making $40,000/year was an awesome feeling. Immediately, I felt the rewards of working my butt off. I could really provide for my daughter. I proved everyone wrong. I could take care of myself. It was awesome. So be motivated by the rewards that will come. That’s what kept me going, and I still fight every day, but now it’s for different things. I fight for close relationships with my husband and daughters. I fight to get Glori picked up by a major publisher. I fight to get Generation Hope up and running and for people to pay attention to the needs of pregnant and parenting teens. I fight, I fight, I fight. So if you’re pursuing worthwhile things, there will always be a fight. Take care of yourself. Invest in yourself. Don’t forget to laugh. And stay focused on the rewards.
Looking back, what in your life did you previously consider impossible? Anything that you deem impossible now?
Sometimes I felt like applying to college and graduating from college was impossible. I definitely had those moments in the thick of things. The odds were stacked against me in so many ways that I wondered if I was really crazy for pursuing a college degree.
I also used to think falling in love again was impossible – and definitely with a good guy. Considering my past and the fact that I had a child, I just didn’t think it was in the cards for me. I was so emotionally scarred that I didn’t believe it would happen.
Buying a house on my own also seemed impossible. I was so happy just to have my own apartment! I didn’t think I’d be able to afford a home or qualify for one.
Because of my experience, there aren’t too many things that seem impossible for me these days, which is a blessing. I call it bull-headedness! If there is something I really want to do, I pray about it, and if it’s right, I move forward. For instance, I didn’t know a darn thing about starting a nonprofit organization, but I felt it was something I needed to do. And here I am, one year later, and we’re hosting Generation Hope’s kick-off event!
What does success mean to you? If you could define it, what would your definition be? Is that definition the same before you had children compared to now?
Success is achieving those things that make you feel like you’ve truly accomplished something and that in some way, you’ve made the world a better place. Before I had children, I would have defined success by how much money I was making and what kind of car I was driving! But when I had Nerissa, and I would watch her run around and laugh on the playground, just knowing that she was healthy and happy was success. As a teen mom, that is the most important accomplishment in the world. I feel the same way now. If I can make the world a better place through raising healthy, happy children, inspiring people, and touching people’s lives, then I’ve succeeded.