Christian Leadership to Change the World
Helping Others Find Change
CBN.com When seemingly disparate directions converge, Michelle Lewis finds purpose and destiny. Some people follow a linear path from point A to point B. Not Lewis. Her rich and dichotomous experiences include an undergraduate degree in theater arts coupled with 12 years with the National Park Service (NPS) and training in how to track and rescue both people and animals. After serving as an interpreter and educator for the NPS, Lewis was selected to become a law enforcement officer, a unique role for a female within the park service. Lewis reveals something of her character by graduating from the Federal Law Enforcement Center the same week she graduated with a master’s degree from Regent University. Now uniquely tying together diverse interests and areas of training, Lewis is at Yale University in a dual master’s program for divinity and environmental science.
Though Regent University wasn’t originally in the sights of this creative ranger, with an undergraduate degree in theater arts and a love for filmmaking, Lewis turned her focus toward Regent in 2001. It was while working for the NPS in Hatteras, N.C., that she realized she was at a crossroads. Though interested in environmental issues, a lifelong career with the park service didn’t seem to challenge her creative bent. Lewis prayed for direction, which eventually led to an application and acceptance into the School of Communication & the Arts at Regent.
Lewis faced some irrefutable realities once the decision was made to go back to school. Still with the park service on Hatteras Island, she was more than three hours from Virginia Beach — one way. She needed to work. However, in partnership with Regent, Lewis successfully scheduled her classes back-to-back, from early to late. “When I got off work in Hatteras, I’d drive halfway to my parents in Manteo and spend the night. The next morning I’d be up at 4:00 a.m. and drive on to my 8 o’clock class.” With determination to accomplish her goal, Lewis camped out on the floors of area family and friends after evening classes, making her education just a little more affordable.
“Regent was good for me — a positive environment,” states Lewis. “My professors valued creativity.” The first film she made while at Regent won a Communicator Award of Distinction in 2002 for the Park Service. Lewis’s entry about Cape Hatteras Lighthouse took the top award over 3,500 other entries. She knew she was in her element.
After graduation from Regent, Lewis was assigned to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio where she took part in management training (Intake Training Program). “While I was there, I made another film about the importance of law enforcement. It won the Cutting Edge Award,” Lewis explains. Though she made films in her free time, Lewis longed for more opportunities to create. “You can reach more people through film,” Lewis proffers.
She moved to Atlanta to work at the National Historic Site for Martin Luther King. One holiday, in a crowd of 5,000 people, Lewis struck up a chance conversation with a well-known environmentalist. After hearing of Lewis’ interests and background, the gentleman suggested she apply to the School of Forestry at Yale University. She did. The doors opened quickly and Lewis was soon on her way to New Haven, Conn.
Now earning her master’s degrees in divinity and environmental science, Lewis envisions her future. Confident of the power of film, she plans to use it as a positive tool in urban communities. “Young people don’t feel like they have a stake in their communities,” Lewis says. “Working through the churches, I want to use popular media like film to help identify environmental justice issues and enable people to change their situations.”
In the meantime, Lewis engages daily life by loving those around her. “People are hurting and the world is full of darkness,” she muses. In the fall of 2010, Lewis headed to an interfaith dialogue in Saudi Arabia with 12 other students from the Yale Divinity School. “God is opening an amazing life. The doors He wants me to walk through, He opens, and the others, He closes,” she states. It is apparent that Michelle Lewis’ life will never be boring.
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