Sykeem Lewis was spending spring break of his senior year on a beautiful island. There were palm trees and beaches. But he wasn’t there for a vacation.
Lewis and 20 other students from Catholic University were in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2014 as part of a mission trip sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry. He recalls a particularly memorable day spent visiting with local children.
“They were surrounded by garbage and the area they were in was really impoverished,” Lewis explains. “But the children were so upbeat, so energetic, and so loving.”
A couple of months later, as Commencement approached, Lewis reflected on his years at Catholic University. He thought about the service opportunities in which he had participated, including the mission trip, weekly homeless food runs, and trips to shelters and soup kitchens.
As a Christian who was not raised Catholic, Lewis found comfort and a welcoming spirit at Catholic University. He found his natural desire to help others was deepened by the values that embodied the University’s Catholic identity and by a community that actively lived out their faith.
“Catholic University’s mission is very service-oriented,” he explains. “Today it’s something I try to make part of my day-to-day activity.”
He currently works as a graduate admission coordinator in the School of Arts and Sciences while also leading his own nonprofit: Yahweh’s Youth Against Bullying. As founder of the Baltimore-based organization, he goes to libraries, schools, and churches to engage children in presentations aimed at eradicating bullying and develop their spiritual lives and educational skills.
Lewis feels that helping young students develop a personal relationship with God can help them build the strength they need to overcome bullying.
As a student, Lewis says he was challenged to explore and deepen his own faith.
“I think Catholic University is the perfect place to share your own spiritual background,” he says. “I was asked so many questions about being nondenominational and how that affected me as a student here at a Catholic institution. Those questions helped me understand why I believe what I believe and how I can carry out those beliefs.”