Kareema Fletcher Lewis knows just how powerful the kindness of strangers
Back in 2012, Lewis—then a single mother with four children, including two
with special needs—was facing challenges that would have broken the spirit
of someone less resilient.
Lewis had completed her associate’s degree when her oldest son was in
eighth grade, and she was determined to earn her bachelor’s degree in
psychology before he graduated high school. When she enrolled at Argosy
University in Atlanta to study psychology two years earlier, she was the
first in her family ever to attend college. But with one daughter in
remission from leukemia and a newborn with Down’s Syndrome, the obstacles
“It became more than I could handle,” remembers Lewis, now 35. “I had four
kids under the age of 12, including one daughter with serious medical
issues and another with special needs. I failed one of my classes because I
had no time to study, and I was under incredible financial pressure. Even
though I was only eight classes away from graduation, something had to
give—and that something was my education.”
While she knew she made the right decision under the circumstances, it was
one Lewis often regretted. Three years later, in 2015, she was feeling
frustrated and defeated. She was working at a community services center
that provided second chances to people recovering from addiction, but she
felt like her own life and career had come to a standstill.
“I was passed up for jobs because I didn’t have the educational background
they required,” she explains. “I knew I needed to complete my degree in
order to create the career and life I wanted for my children, but I just
couldn’t see how I could make it work.”
Lewis decided it was time to try creating a second chance for herself. She
picked up the phone and made a call that would change her life.
“I decided to call Argosy University Online, explain my situation, and see
if anyone could or would help me,” she recalls. “I connected with an
admissions representative named Richard Gerhardt. After I explained my
situation, he said he’d call me back in an hour—and he did! He went so far
above and beyond what he needed to do. He found a scholarship I was
eligible for. He showed me how to utilize prior learning assessment in some
of my classes. He connected me with John Barley, a finance counselor at
Argosy who helped me apply for student loans and created a payment plan
that I could manage. The encouragement and kindness Richard and John showed
me gave me hope at a time when hope was hard to find.”
Her decision to return to college reaped immediate rewards. Soon after
showing her employer proof that she had returned to college, she received a
promotion. Eight classes later—on December 3, 2016—Lewis graduated with her
Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, with a concentration in Criminal
Justice. It was also a big day for two other reasons. Earlier that day, she
spoke by phone with her father, whom she’d never met. Later that night, her
boyfriend proposed marriage.
With all of the good things happening in her busy life, Lewis was ready to
exhale and slow down. But when Richard Gerhardt encouraged her to consider
pursuing her master’s degree, she listened.
“At first, I just laughed,” Lewis recalls. “I had already accomplished more
than I imagined was possible. But the more we talked, the more seriously I
considered it. He pointed out that I’d already developed a routine, a
structure and study habits that worked for me. When he showed me how I
could earn my master’s degree in 13 months, I decided to go for it.”
Now just four classes away from her completing her Master of Science in
Human Services, Lewis is on track to graduate in December.
“It’s amazing how the kindness of strangers can change a person’s life
forever,” says Lewis, who recently started a new job as a Child Protective
Officer with the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services.
“When I called Argosy, I never expected that the person who answered would
become such a powerful influence in my life. Even though I’ve never met
Richard in person, I feel like he’s a friend. Every step of the way,
Richard, John and so many others at Argosy have been there for me. I did
the work, but they helped me believe. I’m hoping I can meet them one day to
give them a hug and to say thank you in person.”
Lewis is certain that without their support, her life would have been very
“It hasn’t always been easy,” she says, “but it’s absolutely been worth it.
The process of earning my two degrees has allowed me to be a role model to
my children, to show them anything is possible. That means the world to me.
I love knowing that my kids are as proud of me as I am of myself.” ###