“The community rallied around me. When they found out that I had applied for the job, the principal [at Latin] was flooded with emails,” said Lewis. One particular email that stood out to Lewis was sent by his customer and friend, Pamela. She wrote, “[Lewis] is very well-spoken and… he has a strong desire to create a better life for himself. In my opinion, [he has] the character and integrity to do whatever it takes. I know Lewis would be a dedicated and loyal employee for Latin School.”
When asked how this job opportunity came to be, Lewis credits fate. He was struggling to solidify a new living situation after being evicted from his apartment due to a building foreclosure. He decided to go out and sell StreetWise in order to lift his spirits. “[That day], the principal from Latin came by and a voice [in my head] just told me, ‘Ask him for a job.’ When you’re down and out, that’s when you have to do it [and] step up to the plate,” explained Lewis. “So I asked him for a job and I must have said something [right], because two days later, the director of operations came and asked me if I had time for an interview. And I said, ‘Sure, right now!’ I was on my A-game.”
In his position with Latin, his responsibilities namely include traffic maintenance, ensuring that all children, parents and staff members are safe. He must also keep a close eye on the campus. He’s also acquired many new job skills to help fortify his career in the long-term. “I received my CPR certificate [in late November] and it’s good for two years. Next, I’m going to receive security training and I hope to work to become full-time,” said Lewis.
Plus, Lewis gets along great with the kids because of his gentle demeanor. “Oh, I love kids,” he jovially proclaimed, with a big grin.
Although Lewis has joined the staff at the Latin School as a part-time employee, he still maintains his job as a StreetWise vendor. Because of his dual employment, he works hard to put in longer than average days, waking up at 4:20 a.m. to travel from his home in the South Side to his job at Latin, which starts at 6:45 a.m. After his morning shift at Latin, he vends StreetWise from about 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then returns to Latin for his afternoon shift from 2 to 6 p.m.
In addition to the perk of extra income, selling StreetWise allows him to keep a close eye on and protect the community that means so much to him. For instance, a short while back, Lewis witnessed a woman get struck by a taxi. He was able to ensure that she was alright, keep her calm and retrieve a first aid kit from the Latin School until an ambulance arrived. She also coincidentally happened to be a Latin employee. “It’s important for [StreetWise] vendors to be in the neighborhood. You know, we’re not just standing there, selling magazines. There are other things that we do out here. So they were very appreciative of me being out there to help,” said Lewis.
Lewis began his position in May and has been with the Latin School for about seven months now. Director of Operations Joan Guzman is his supervisor and he can only speak highly of Lewis’s character and work ethic. “Lewis is always willing to help, always willing to come in. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. He comes ready to work every day. And he understands that part of this job is to make sure that we are being good neighbors, that we’re making sure the folks around the school are safe, that our students, our faculty and our staff arrive and leave the campus safely,” said Guzman. “He’s really, really, truly just a pleasure to work with every day. He’s a good heart and a good soul. I’m really happy to have him.”
“This is one of the biggest things that have ever happened to me in my life,” said Lewis. “I’m very thankful for their support [at Latin] and understanding of me and giving me the opportunity to work. And I’m just looking forward to growing my relationships with everyone there.”