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DCCCD Student Faces Adversity, Overcomes Hardship, Earns Scholarship and Honors

photo of Dylan Lewis

For immediate release — May 21, 2007

(DALLAS) — Dylan Lewis might have mistaken his father’s abuse as tough love when he was a child; the youngster often was battered when his dad had been drinking. And although his grades were good in school, his poor conduct reflected the abuse he was experiencing at home.

When the young boy’s conduct didn’t change, Dylan’s parents looked for answers. He was diagnosed with ADD and began to take medication that prompted even more unruly behavior. No one, including his mother, could understand why he was always in trouble at school. Over the years, his problems worsened: illegal drugs — first alcohol and marijuana, then cocaine — became part of his life; he was kicked out of high school; and robbery (to support his habit) landed him in jail.

Adversity was Dylan’s constant companion, but he says a year in jail helped him reconsider his path and turn his life around. The Eastfield College student’s struggles and, most importantly, successes will be recognized when he receives the 2007 Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship Award during a special program on Thursday, June 14, at a local Dallas restaurant. The event will be hosted by the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation’s board of directors and the Dallas County Community College District Foundation.

The scholarship will help Lewis, a resident of Mesquite, reach for his dreams with financial support provided by the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Scholarship Award, which covers full tuition and books for up to four semesters. Lewis, who is pursuing studies in business administration, plans eventually to become a financial advisor so that he can help others plan for their futures. He currently has earned a 4.0 grade point average.

Dylan says, “Adversity, overall, has not harmed me; it is the major building block of who I have become. Perseverance nurtured me to happiness … and I believe I can serve as a positive example for children who have grown up living in fear and who have suffered the betrayal of abuse. I have learned through my life experiences, and I believe I am a strong man because of them.”

The scholarship recipient’s courage and perseverance in the face of adversity are traits exhibited by the person for whom the award is named. Erin Tierney Kramp, who fought breast cancer from 1994 to 1998, created a videotaped legacy on “life lessons” for her young daughter that would convey Erin’s views and advice to Peyton as the young girl grew up, following her mother’s death. Erin touched many lives and inspired countless strangers when she co-authored “Living with the End in Mind” (with her husband and a family friend) and through appearances on programs like “20/20” and the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” Her legacy lives on through the Kramp Foundation, the DCCCD scholarship program and the lives of all recipients.

“The Erin Tierney Kramp program awards scholarships to students based on their courage and perseverance in the face of adversity,” said Michael Brown, president of the Erin Tierney Kramp Foundation. “We see these qualities in Dylan, who bravely survived his own challenges and who plans to help others by going to college and preparing for a career that will serve others. His story exemplifies what our past recipients have demonstrated repeatedly through Erin’s legacy. When individuals face adversity, the struggles that they endure will either make them stronger or defeat them. Winning that battle requires courage and perseverance. Obviously, Dylan Lewis has proven he has both traits, and he truly deserves this honor.” 

Lewis, who plans to attend Southern Methodist University after he finishes his associate degree at Eastfield College, says, “I will be the first person in my family to earn a college degree. I want to earn a position that allows me to help people with their finances and future goals. I also plan to have a family and raise my children in a home where love and encouragement prevail over the darkness of fear.”

That darkness began as a toddler and continued through Dylan’s elementary school years. At age 5, his father’s alcoholism meant that the youngster learned early to be quiet and avoid creating problems that meant a blow to the head or a kick while his mother was at work. Dylan, angry and confused, acted out his frustration at school, and his parents took him to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder and placed the youngster on medication. “I was a 10-year-old boy who had no concept of the world. I was convinced that I was defective and that I needed medication in order to be ‘normal’ like other kids,” Lewis recalls.

Dylan’s medication had a reverse effect, and he became more irritable and anxious, creating yet more problems in school. He tried alcohol and marijuana at age 12; got into more fights; accelerated his drug use in high school; and began to experiment with cocaine during his junior year to try to find happiness that others had. As an addict, he became homeless and stole to support his habit. After experimenting with LSD, Dylan went through a rehabilitation program, enrolled in a new high school, began to fight again and was arrested at school. He eventually earned his GED and entered a cycle of drugs, theft and probation until he spent a year in a Texas state correctional facility.

Lewis says, “This [time in a correctional facility] was the best thing that ever happened to me. I spent one year sober and detained, which gave me the opportunity to evaluate my life. I was 21 at the time and in prison with 40- and 50-year-old men with families who were spending their third and fourth time in [jail]. I decided that, if I didn’t want to be in the same situation, I needed to change myself — so I did. I spent my time dealing with the anger that had seemed to rule my life for many years. I dealt with each situation that presented itself and focused on changing the things about me that would not serve me well in life. I was successfully released in 2004 with a chance to have a new life.”

Today, Dylan Lewis is involved in many activities at Eastfield College and continues to build a new life. Since his 2004 release, he has completed a two-year probation, has held a job for three years (with two promotions) and began to attend college. He is a full-time student and serves as vice president of leadership for Phi Theta Kappa, an academic honorary for two-year colleges. He also is a member of the EFC Communication Club, the Business and Information Systems Club, the Fashion Club and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Last year, he served as vice president of fellowship for PTK; in that capacity, he implemented a new annual Honors Study Topic Art Show.

He also has volunteered in the community with Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, as a member of the SMU committee, team captain for Mesquite Relay for Life and a member of the event’s accounting committee.    

“I enjoy volunteer work, and I feel the most satisfaction when I feel I have truly helped someone else,” says Dylan. “I will continue to surround myself with positive and encouraging people, and I will persevere over all of life’s challenges.”

For more information, contact Kathye Hammontree, director of administration for the DCCCD Foundation, at (214) 860-2455.

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Press contact:
Kathye Hammontree, DCCCD Foundation, 214-860-2455
Ann Hatch, DCCCD Marketing/Media Relations, 214-860-2478