Lewis, the student personnel officer at Charleston Job Corps Center, said support for her position is difficult to come by. It's one that is often seen as a male role, but Lewis said she is finding ways to transcend those ideas about her work.
"In certain circles, there's still that shadow that believe women cannot be as powerful and strong," Lewis said. "I just be me."
Deb Weinstein, executive director of the YWCA of Charleston, said stepping out of comfort zones is part of being a community leader.
"This world is full of injustice," Weinstein said. "But as long as we just live in this world and not engage in this world, then nothing will change."
West Virginia University Professor Connie Park Rice, who specializes in African American and women's history, spoke of the compassion women had during the Civil War. Rice said that is what sets women apart from men.
"These women talk about their view of war and the things that they remember and how they feel about these soldiers," Rice said about Civil War letters that she has studied. "These women shared a commonality among themselves and what were their experiences regardless of what side they were on, and you can do that, too."
Lewis made a similar statement, saying empathy is a key characteristic in her position.
"Women disciplinarians are more sociable and try to see the root of the problem instead of trying to change the behavior," Lewis said of working with youth. "You have to be able to understand where the behavior comes from in order to try to change it."
Lewis wanted not only to be inspired, but also to bring back tools to encourage students she works with in taking on their own leadership roles, she said.
"It's hard to get our young people to step into leadership," Lewis said. "I want to find some ideas to light that fire, to bring that leadership out that they all possess."
Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.mole...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.