Javoughn Brown-Lewis, a first-generation graduate, says a village of family, friends and mentors gave him the support he needed to achieve his goals. Brown-Lewis, who plans to become a mental health clinician, has completed the Master of Science in Social Work and Master of Science in Couple and Family Therapy dual degree program from the Kent School. We caught up with this May 2022 graduate to discuss his educational journey at UofL and hear more about his future plans.
UofL News: How does it feel to be a first-generation graduate?
Brown-Lewis: It feels both humbling and an honor! I have been afforded many privileges in my life despite having many other shortcomings. I was fortunate to have a village made up of family, friends and mentors that aided in my success over the years. Yes, I am a first-generation graduate, but this success speaks more to my family’s ability to love me through this journey. It’s been an honor to represent my family in these spaces and chart the path to being a good ancestor.
UofL News: What were the biggest challenges you overcame during your educational journey?
Brown-Lewis: The biggest challenge I had along this journey was losing my grandparents in April 2021 and October 2021. My grandparents raised me while my mother worked during my childhood and early adolescence. Losing them was so hard because they had a ninth and 11th-grade education and sacrificed everything. They wanted to raise a family and I am the fruit of their labor. They won’t get to see what they produced and that to me is heartbreaking. My grandmother said to me during the summer of 2019 when I was living with her as she was going through chemo, “I never dreamed I graduated high school, but I did dream I graduated college.” I am her wildest dream.
UofL News: What drove you to complete your degree?
Brown-Lewis: I have a duty to see these degrees through because of all the hard work and sacrifice of my village, especially my mother. I wanted to ensure the seeds they planted in me did not die because the journey was too rough. I was driven by my family and Brielle, my cousin-niece, because she must see that achieving great things is possible and that nothing can stop her except herself. It has been hard, but I, too, must sacrifice as my grandparents did to plant the seed in the next person to go and be as great as they imagine.
UofL News: Why did you choose UofL?
Brown-Lewis: The Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work and Family Science was always a dream of mine. Being a social worker and a licensed therapist was always my dream, and when I came out of UK, I knew exactly where I wanted to go and what I wanted to study – social work at the Kent School.
UofL News: You have a passion for youth and are engaged in some amazing work in the city. Tell us about that.
Brown-Lewis: I am the youth engagement specialist for the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods in the mayor’s Office of Innovation. I engage with the mayor’s youth implementation team which teaches youth social-emotional and political development through the application of social justice youth development. The youth engage in this type of development to work toward creating policy resolutions. One of these policy resolutions is then taken to the National Conference of Mayors. I also work with other youth-serving organizations to coordinate services for youth across Louisville.
UofL News: What is next for you?
Brown-Lewis: Continuing work in youth development and the macro applications of policy work and social justice youth development. I will be starting my career as a therapist and work diligently to fuse both the macro work and micro work. Next for me is rest! The last seven years of schooling has been a challenging journey and I have reached the end. One day I will pursue a higher degree in public health or family sciences.
UofL News: What advice do you have for other social work students?
Brown-Lewis: Follow your dreams despite naysayers. Find the gap in services and fill it, be creative, don’t do something unless you love it. Intentionally invest in your personal and professional life, and get a therapist!