Derek Lewis believes that “education is the great equalizer.”
After all, what he’s learned inside and outside of the classroom has helped shape who he is today, which includes being director of Red Arrow Digital College in downtown Halifax.
The 37-year-old Millbrook First Nation member founded the private career college five years ago, recognizing a need in HRM for a school that offers hands-on information technology experience, as well as a need in his own life to pursue success despite any obstacles along the way.
In late 1990, for instance, Lewis said he ended up in hospital close to death after being stabbed repeatedly while trying to break up a fight inside a Dartmouth apartment building. He was a high school student at the time.
“After you’ve been on a respirator, after you’ve learned how to walk again, after you continue to live with a disability, there are so many different ways that you can sit there and say ‘how poor my life is,’ ” he said yesterday. But instead of moping, Lewis said he looked at each day as a new challenge.
“It’s all up to you,” he said. “Just win the day.”
That’s the philosophy Lewis hopes to instill in his students, who each receive a copy of The Pledge of Success, something he learned while playing football.
Lewis himself went on to earn his high school equivalency certificate (GED). He has also majored in English at Dalhousie University, earned a certificate in adult education and now has an ever-expanding wall full of computer training and repair certifications.
“I just want to know as much as I can and I’m looking for students who have that.”
At first, Lewis was teaching his classes out of the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre. Now, the college has a Grafton Street home, and he and his staff have a diverse group of students — natives and non-natives with computer skills that range from basic to advanced.
“There (were) challenges,” he said. “But there was one (thing) that was a saving grace, and that was my education.”