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Scholars Speak

In her own words: 2022 ISP Scholar - Skye Lewis

Skye Lewis ISP Scholar and Tiffany HighTower Executive Director ILBC

As an ISP Scholar, Skye Lewis is appointed with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus/Black Caucus Foundation. Her work is significant in looking at culturally responsive healthcare for underserved communities in Illinois and enhancing her own knowledge and expertise so that she is a better steward for Black and Brown communities. Skye shared some thoughts with me about the ISP program, and her work so far.

Why did you apply for the Illini Science Policy Program?

I applied for the Illini Science Policy Program because I knew that I would receive a quality hands-on experience to be a great servant to Illinois' underserved and underrepresented communities.  This program's opportunities allow me to gain more profound knowledge and have great experiences that will add to the invaluable education I have received from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign within my dual degree program of study: BS-MPH.

Tell us a bit about what you hope to accomplish as a result of being a 2022 Scholar.

I hope to build on the knowledge and skills that I have obtained within my MPH degree to work creatively on solutions for improved change within underserved communities of Illinois.  I believe that we all have a part in how we survive and grow within our communities.

Tell us a bit about the project you are working on for your host agency.

I mainly wanted to work with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus/Foundation (ILBCF) due to their excellent work to increase the quality of life of Black communities across Illinois. Within this role, I work with ILBCF Executive Director Tiffany D. Hightower with the “Representation Matters Townhall Series” and the ILBCF “Annual Black History Month Soiree.” Here are a few ILBCF highlights, and accomplishments of 2021: Annual Golf Outing and Scholarship Reception, providing laptops and tablets to 600 families, increasing their Digital Footprint (4 million social media impressions), Proving PPE – 250,000 masks to African Americans communities throughout the state to fight against COVID-19.

ILBCF Executive Director Tiffany Hightower: About | ilbcf

Tell us a bit about the project you are working with your Extension Mentor?

I have begun a “Parent Development” certification with my mentor Sherri Ambrose of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).  With this credential, I will expand my knowledge, skills, and ideas to reach the younger generations by educating their parents to create a holistic learning environment.  Parents are the first teachers of their children, and the environment they create has a lasting impression on them.  Creating a loving, caring, safe environment in the home is the first step of the change we want to see in the world.

Illinois Extension-EFNEP Sherri Ambrose: Sherri Ambrose: University of Illinois Extension

What makes the work you are doing as an ISP Scholar meaningful to you? 

The work I am doing with Sherrie Ambrose of EFNEP and ILBCF both allows me to focus on the most underserved communities in Illinois. Unfortunately, there are many communities like the ones I serve throughout the nation.  Receiving the “Parental Development” credential will allow me to help other parents to raise and guide their children to model good behavior.  My intentions are to find a position where I can be impactful and make change for the greater good. 

What is one thing that you have learned since becoming an ISP Scholar that has made an impression on your transition from graduate student to career individual?

I have learned since becoming an ISP Scholar that the power of networking is an essential piece to doing great impactful work. It further shows that we need each other to change the world. I have had my name mentioned in rooms with esteemed and influential people in creating, impacting, and achieving change in the lives and communities they serve. Some of these people have reached out to me and extended their willingness to assist me in anything that I may need in the future. I am building a great network of individuals that I can utilize in my career all because of my ILBCF host Executive Director Tiffany D. Hightower and my extension mentor Ms. Sherri Ambrose.

Why is/are the issue(s) important to the communities with which you are working?

The issues that I am working on are essential to the communities that we serve because they are unrepresented and underserved.  These communities lack resources or the means to access them due to cyclical behaviors going on for decades.  The system needs restructuring, and that is what I believe all of us scholars are working on with our host agencies and mentors.  We all have the same goal, to improve people who struggle the most in our society.  Helping meet the communities, we serve basic needs is the minimum task where there is so much more work that we need to do to help them improve holistically.

Who is impacted by the issue(s) you are working on?

With the issues and work that I am doing we are impacting underserved, underrepresented families, and communities within Illinois. However, I feel that it affects all of us in ways that may not be physically impactful but definitely societal affects have been felt in waves!

What is the most unexpected thing about this program so far?

With the issues and work that I am doing, we are impacting underserved, underrepresented families, and communities within Illinois. However, it affects all of us in different ways.  These ways may not just be physical but also societal effects as supported through the many issues, including social justice reform, of the legislative bills of the ILBC.

If you could do one thing through this program and think “Wow, I did that,” what would you like it to be?

I want to create a resource that the underrepresented communities could use to increase their lives holistically: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. A resource where they will feel valued and served from health professionals that represent them culturally.

Anything else you’d like to share?

This opportunity has been a true blessing in my life, and it has given me the desire to continue on the path of partnership and service for my future endeavors.  It’s excellent that University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have opportunities for graduates to embark on and gain further experience.


More information about the Illini Science Policy Program is available on our website.Keep reading to learn more about Skye's colleagues in the of 2022 ISP Scholar Class.

The Illini Science Policy Program is supported by University of Illinois Extension through the Illinois' Office of the Provost Investment for Growth program, participating host offices, the University of Illinois Office of Government Relations, and PepsiCo.