Lewis Watkins ’07: Keeping Brooklyn Kids on the Basketball Courts and Off the Streets

Hyde graduate Lewis Watkins Jr.
Lewis Watkins Jr. ’07

We caught up with Lewis A. Watkins Jr, ’07, who started his own business, “Learners Always Win” as a way to help keep kids on the court and off the street.

Class Year: 2007

Campus graduated from: Bath, Maine

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Sports Played while at Hyde: Basketball, Football, Track

Favorite Hyde Memory: Reading my letter to my mother as my graduation speech.

Favorite Hyde Teacher: Ms. Truluck

Where are you living today? Brooklyn, New York

College: College of St. Joseph, Atlas Barber School

How has Hyde impacted what you are doing today? With the leadership skills I learned at Hyde, I am now able to run my own business [Learners Always Win] for the youth and I hope to pass the skills to them.

Any advice for the undergraduates? Never give up and go hard at whatever you do.

Lewis Albert Watkins, Jr. is wise beyond his 26 years, epitomizes all that is good in life and truly believes in “giving back.”  As a young boy of a single parent (his mother, Danette, died from an asthma attack when Lewis was just 13) growing up in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, he found salvation – and an escape from life on the street – playing basketball for the Boys Club of New York. Lewis was also a member of the Club’s Academic All Star program, and that is where he first learned about Hyde (www.hyde.edu), a leading independent school emphasizing, family-based character education with campuses in Bath, Maine and Woodstock, CT.

Lewis attended Brooklyn’s Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School where he found success playing basketball for the Lions but struggled academically.  When he was unable to pass his Regents Exams, thus preventing him graduating, his family starting looking at private schools that would challenge Lewis both in the classroom and on the playing field.

In the summer of 2005, Lewis attended Hyde’s Summer Leadership Program at its Bath campus and says he wanted to leave after the very first week, homesick and scared of someplace so foreign from his hometown and all that was familiar.   He decided to stay for the fall term but was so unprepared for New England weather (and the early, bitter cold Maine is renowned for) that he failed to pack a winter coat.

As the weeks passed, he became more comfortable in his new environment, played a new sport (football) and developed leadership skills that Hyde is known for instilling.  “Hyde taught me how to be a doer, a leader and not just a student, a follower,” Lewis says.   He also says that Hyde taught him the power of perseverance and never giving up. “You can always reach higher, be better,” says Lewis, echoing his teachers’ words.

Lewis graduated from Hyde in 2007 and attended the College of St. Joseph’s for two years but his family couldn’t afford to send him any longer. He decided to forgo his college degree to help kids just like him, struggling with life’s problems at a young age and took over a program his father had started called “Learners Always Win,” a favorite motto.  Like the Boys Club saved him a decade earlier, Lewis wants LAW to help keep kids on the court and off the streets.  In addition to running basketball clinics for 100 kids, LAW sponsors SAT prep classes, distributes Turkeys on Thanksgiving and sponsors a Toy Drive at Christmas.

Perhaps the best thing Lewis learned at Hyde was public speaking.  At Hyde, he was painfully shy – until the day he was first asked to recite Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the student body.  His teacher recalls him repeating the speech again and again until he was ready to recite it in front of the entire school community, including parents.  “I never thought about it again,” he said.

See Lewis (and Learners Always Win) in action: