‘Family’ of community support key in helping create pipeline to success
By Alison McGaughey, United Way Communications & Events Project Manager
When Ty Lewis was considering his options for pursuing a bachelor’s degree, he was concerned about facing the prospect of taking out loans and how he’d repay them. So, he was “speechless,” he says, to learn that he’d been selected for a fully paid scholarship to St. Ambrose University, as well as a guaranteed internship at Quad Cities Bank & Trust, as part of a new program offered by the bank’s CEO and United Way Quad Cities board member, John Anderson.
But just as he was embarking on his college career at St. Ambrose, his father passed away unexpectedly.
As he has faced this hardship, Lewis has benefited from community support that Anderson wanted to include in the scholarship program, which is a partnership with UWQC’s African American Leadership Society. As part of the program, Lewis has regular meetings with Rev. Dwight Ford, as well as Ryan Saddler, (who, with Randy Moore, make up the AALS tri-chairs, as opportunities to receive guidance and mentorship.
This element of built-in community support was personally important to Anderson, who shared with Lewis that he lost his own father when he was 13 years old, and then his mother very shortly afterward.
“That was part of my impetus for doing this program,” Anderson says. “The community in this town stepped forward to help me. So, I’ve always said, ‘If I’m in a position to help someone in an area of need…’ And now I’m in that position, and I hope that this will help create change.”
Even though Lewis is still in process of completing the program, “This is a blessing that has changed my life and my family’s life, and I couldn’t be more grateful to John,” he says. “The effects it’s had on my life have been unbelievable. I’m thankful to be able to be in the Quad Cities and still feel like I have family here, a strong community, thanks to all of the people looking out for me, it has just blessed my life.”
The opportunity has given him “a huge confidence boost” at school, he says.
Since enrolling at St. Ambrose, Lewis has taken on roles such as treasurer for the St. Ambrose Black Student Union and Student Government Association senator. As a member of the St. Ambrose Sales Club, he won first place in the 2020 National Shore Speed Selling Competition, beating out more than 100 competitors from across the country by presenting the best elevator pitch and other competitive presentations. He’s also begun teaching friends about credit and how to set up a bank account. He recently began serving as a member of United Way Quad Cities’ board of directors, the youngest member among the group of volunteers who govern the organization.
“This whole experience has made me more confident being out in the world, realizing I have this opportunity and I have to make the most of it,” he says.
The partnership has also allowed him to focus on these growth experiences rather than on the financial burden of paying for an education.
“I didn’t know my dad was going to pass. So, it’s amazing knowing that both he and my mom knew they wouldn’t have to worry about whether I was going to be OK, about how I’m going to make it,” Lewis says. “John made this investment and it’s going to change many lives, because of me, and because of the lives I’m going to change by someday being in a position of power. Things like this can change somebody’s life forever. And the only thing John asks of me is that I do the same thing for somebody else.”
Local leaders, businesses owners and others interested in creating a similar pathway to opportunity are encouraged to contact AALS Manager, Kayla Babers, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 563.344.0322. To get involved AALS – at any level, from interested CEO to mentor or volunteer, visit the AALS webpage. You can also give to AALS via our convenient Mobile Cause app.
“John Anderson and fellow community members are putting in the work to dismantle systemic inequities that affect Black Quad Citizens every day. Closing these opportunity gaps and breaking down known barriers will only create a more inclusive community for everyone,” Babers says.
Anderson hopes the partnership can not only extend to future students, but with Lewis himself serving as a source of support to the next participant.
“Hopefully that creates a mentorship,” Anderson says, “and that would be a beautiful thing.”