As a counselor and community education advocate, Jovonia Lewis embraces and lives the saying of Dr. Maya Angelou, “When you learn, teach.” Her heart for education, empowerment and social justice led her to create a parent collective working for equity in the school system, Parents of African American Children – Durham (PAAC – Durham). As the PAAC Founder, she was determined to advocate for her three sons who attend Durham Public Schools and make sure all marginalized children are seen, affirmed and heard. Jovonia imagined a village that would stand in the gap for kids and their families without judgment. This vision expanded beyond the programming and advancement taking place in her children’s school. She created structures to support parents around the county. In less than 3 years, 1/3 of the schools in the District have a form of PAAC.
To support the work of PAAC, Jovonia began Empowered Parents in Community (EPiC) – a non-profit education advocacy group. Its mission is to dismantle systemic racial inequities through collective organizing and intentional engagement of African American parents and communities. The focus is closing the opportunity gap. Through EPiC, Jovonia continues to offer education opportunities, race equity conversations and forums for holding the school system accountable to policy and practice through Black Parent Empowerment Workshops. She began these workshops when she served as the Education Chair of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. As a result, policy and practice of race equity in the Durham Public School system has been discussed and changes have been implemented such as the practice to ensure classwork is being delivered to students who have been given in school suspension through restorative practice centers and additional resources for the equity affairs office for the equity champions.
In addition to her work with Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People’s Education Committee, Jovonia has served on the Board of Durham Council PTA, her sons’ school’s PTA, African American Education and Research Organization and Durham Public Schools Foundation sub-committee of Championing Public Schools. Because of her service within the school, she was asked to serve as a parent leader during the formation of the Durham Public Schools’ Strategic Plan. She has also served on the Equity and Whole Child Advisory Committee for DPS.
Jovonia is a wife, mother and nationally certified and licensed professional counselor. With her undergraduate degree in psychology and human development and family studies from UNC-Greensboro and Master of Science degree in counseling education with a specialization in family therapy from Georgia State University, her service has always been centered around education and a growth mindset to heal, empower and liberate. She has worked in the non-profit sector with adolescents, in a government agency with victims of domestic violence, and in community agencies doing in-home counseling until she began a private practice, Trinity Counseling and Consulting, in 2004. She works tirelessly to share her talents and gifts with others.