Jackie Fowler-Lewis doesn’t know much about the circumstances that led to his placement in a group foster home.
He must have been about 8 or 9 years old, he says.
“Honestly, I don’t really have much memory of it. I just know that my mother passed away, and my father is gone with the wind,” Fowler-Lewis said.
He’s 25 now, going to college, working at a restaurant, launching his own nonprofit and working towards one day being a police officer or firefighter.
And he could use some help this holiday season.
Fowler-Lewis wishes for a laptop that he could use to write school papers to and help get his nonprofit off the ground. His purple 1995 Nissan Sentra is also in need of repairs. If he turns on the air conditioner, it breaks down. A sponsorship to attend a police academy would be a boost on Fowler-Lewis’s path toward a career in public safety.
“I believe in service,” Fowler-Lewis said.
He was nominated for the Miami Herald’s Wish Book by SOS Children’s Village in Coconut Creek, where he spent most of his formative years.
SOS is an international organization that fosters children in a home setting that includes lots of kids living under one roof with a staff of caretakers. The set up gives children, who are placed there by the court system, “a sense of a true family-life,” said Vickie Walter, community relations director for SOS.
“The goal here is, it gives them a home,” Walter said.
Through most of his life, Fowler-Lewis has had the support of his case manager, Lashonda Cross.
Walter calls Cross “Super Mom” because of the way she stays on top of her charges. She and Fowler-Lewis speak almost every day. She checks in to make sure his fridge is full and his budget is in shape. Cross called Fowler-Lewis humble and responsible.
“He has a very sweet spirit,” Cross said. “I think that’s something we all gravitate to.”
Fowler-Lewis lived at SOS until he was adopted by his house parent at age 15. There were plenty of rough patches in between, though.
“At that point in my life, I didn’t know how to be a leader. I was looking for someone to follow. And the people who I was following weren’t exactly going down the right path,” Fowler-Lewis said. “Like, they’re the ones who did drugs and had arrests records and things like that… it was just to be around them, to be accepted.”
One placement with a family he hoped would lead to adoption fell through before Fowler-Lewis finally joined the Lewis family. Dad, William, is a preacher. Mom, Nikitress, is a high school teacher. Fowler-Lewis took on his adopted family’s name a a decade ago when he moved in with them. He became one of eight children living in a sprawling yellow home in a tidy Coconut Creek neighborhood.
“It gave me a sense of pride,” Fowler-Lewis said. “Everything changed.”
The home is usually bustling. Family photos cram the living room, where dozens of trophies are on display. A graying cocker spaniel greets visitors with a sniff and tail wag.
Today, at age 25, Fowler-Lewis shares a rented apartment and takes on a full load of classes at a nearby campus of Broward College, where he is studying criminal justice. He has to use the library at the college to write his school papers.
He also works hard at filling out applications to get into a police academy. But the academy is expensive and he is looking for a sponsor.
When he’s not working, studying or filling out police academy applications (or playing Dragon Ball Z on his PS3 video game console,) Fowler-Lewis works on his newly formed nonprofit, The Royal Nature Mentoring Group. He picked the name after a sermon he heard in church.
“The pastor was saying that we’re all royal by nature,” Fowler-Lewis said. “Meaning that we have to potential to be royalty -- like, we’re the son of God and he’s the king, so technically we should all be royalty.”
He hopes to teach young, at-risk kids “how to be productive members of society.”
“We that them to understand and realize that it’s not OK to be drunk, lazy and high. It’s OK to actually go to college and participate and be active members in your society,” Fowler-Lewis said.