PHOTOS BY JOE MARINO
Rochester Woman Online is proud to welcome new writer Jessica Lewis not only to our team, but also to our cover this month.
Impressive, intelligent, successful these are just a few words that come to mind when describing Jessica Lewis. Her public relations firm, LaLew Public Relations is one of the fastest growing public relations firms in Rochester. Jessica is also the ROC the Future Communications Specialist at The Children’s Agenda. She was nominated to the Athena Awards, young professional category (2018) and was named a “Woman to Watch” by Rochester’s newspaper, The Democrat and Chronicle. Recently, she was featured by Rochester Business Journal in the “Small Business Feature”. If that wasn’t enough, she hosts a television show focusing on Black-owned businesses called Ujamaa Rising.
As a student at Buffalo State (Bachelors; Social Studies 7-12) and U of R (Master’s Teaching and Curriculum) Jessica spent time engaging in activities such as serving as the president of Black Active Minds and other activities, where she raised awareness in the collegiate community around issues such as race, equality and social justice. She continues being involved in her community by being a member of the Rochester Association of Black Journalists, the Democrat and Chronicle’s Young Professional Advisory Council and Theta Omega Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.
ROC the Future is an interesting community initiative, serving resources to improve the achievement of students at the Rochester City School District. ROC the Future indicates Monroe County has a poverty rate of 22 % (1). This among other factors contributes to whether the students are successful. In 2017, there was an 83% graduation rate but the RCSD rate was 52% (1) (2). Data the organization was founded on, indicates African-American and Latino students languish at the bottom. The focus of the organization’s efforts is to address factors which contribute to racial inequalities and block access to opportunity. The organization’s work directly benefits the students by using a data informed, evidence-based approach to determine the best practices to improve educational outcomes.
Jessica enjoys her career and loves that the organization uses a unique approach in what they do. She especially is proud they can engage a broad array of community voices through building awareness and information sharing, involving and mobilizing the community towards improvement and co-developing solutions and strategies while using data to inform their work. Annually, the organization hosts “the State of our Children” which discusses the challenges and opportunities in their data-based report card and action plan for moving key indicators of children’s success.
Jessica feels there are many moving parts when trying to define why schools are failing. There are systemic drivers attributing to low performance and compounding issues such as a low rate of teacher diversity, parent engagement challenges, and school-to-prison pipeline etc. among other factors. RSCD is trying to work on improving these things with a key focus on equity. They’ve started to implement restorative practice teams and launched My Brother’s Keeper, a program which involves initiatives to work with parents, adjust curriculums and incorporate implicit bias training for staff.
Jessica in her own business works with entrepreneurs seeking their success.
Lewis says, “Always stay the course. Entrepreneurship is hard, but very rewarding. I would encourage young entrepreneurs step out on faith and be unafraid to make mistakes. It is through mistakes, we learn and grow. Don’t let fear or doubt get in your way. You are an achiever and victory is an arms reach away. Don’t compare yourself to others, as each business owner has his/her own journey. In the face of adversity, never compromise your integrity”.
Jessica relies on her relationship with Jesus to keep her grounded. She accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior at 16-years-old. Every day she spends time cultivating her relationship with him. She reads and learns his word, so that she can apply it to her life. As a little girl, Jessica always admired strong, beautiful women.
She looked to those women for inspiration because she was always motivated to be the best person she can be. As she grew and matured, she knew how important it was for other girls to see someone who could be an example to them. She made it a priority to pay it forward to other young women coming behind her. Jessica always prided herself on living a life that could be an example for others.
She tells RWO, “I want girls to know that you can love yourself, be confident, strong, and in charge of your life and make decisions that make you happy and feel fulfilled. So, I commit myself to be a mentor to help groom young ladies into the best versions of themselves”.
Jessica also finds inspiration in being involved in her community. She strives to learn the best ways to combat racial disparities in the educational system and the community at large. She will sit on the Race Equity Planning team at Strive Together (a national N-F-P working to bring communities together using data-based decision making with the goal of improving results for kids). This is also the umbrella organization for ROC the Future.
Make sure to stay tuned for Jessica’s column. It will focus on current events, entrepreneurship, natural hair and self-love.
ACT Rochester (2018). Annual Report Card 2017, Future Inidcators and Reports, Retrieved January 30, 2019 from www.actrochester.org
Spector. Joseph (2018). RCSD June Graduation Rate Increases to 51.9 Percent; Still Worst Among Big 5, Democrat and Chronicle, Retrieved January 30, 2019 from www.democratandchronicle.com