The Deby Lewis Foundation is helping pave the way to higher education - brick by brick.
The nonprofit was founded to honor and memorialize longtime Eastwood High School educator Deby Lewis. After graduating from Eastwood in 1970 and the University of Texas at El Paso in 1974, Lewis began her 36-year career as a beloved teacher, tennis coach and student activities director. She served on the Ysleta Independent School District School Board from 2011-2015, before she passed away in 2015.
With the help of the Paso del Norte Community Foundation, Lewis' mother, Betty, founded the Deby Lewis Foundation to raise money and provide scholarships for Eastwood High students.
"At the time we started, we had no idea what we were doing or what we were getting into," said Betty Lewis. "The Paso del Norte Community Foundation has been our guide. They helped us set up the fund and a website. A lot of people have helped us along the way."
Betty Lewis says that having the Paso del Norte Community Foundation overseeing processes, donations and finances adds a level of transparency for the Deby Lewis Foundation and its board.
"The Paso del Norte Community Foundation handles all of the money, and that's the way I wanted it," Lewis said. "It gives us a level of transparency. I don't make any money from this, all donations go straight to the foundation."
Since it was founded in 2016, the Deby Lewis Foundation has awarded 16 college tuition scholarships to deserving students.
With Eastwood High currently undergoing extensive renovations, Betty Lewis saw an opportunity to raise more money to send kids to college and honor her daughter's memory.
"Years ago, Deby and I were in San Marcos and they have a park there with a sidewalk that has names engraved in the concrete," Lewis said. "Also, when Deby went to the Olympics in Atlanta, she brought back souvenir bricks for relatives and for Eastwood Student Council members. When we were in San Marcos, she mentioned she would love to have something like that at Eastwood."
And now there will be.
The Deby Lewis Foundation is selling commemorative bricks that will be used to build a walkway at the school. A donation of $100 buys you a brick with room for three lines of engraved text, which can include a name, graduating class, high school legacy, groups, teams or a personal message.
So far, about 550 teachers, students and alumni have purchased a commemorative brick. Proceeds from the donations will go to fund more scholarships for students.
"Eastwood was Deby's life; she wanted to make it the best place she possibly could," Betty Lewis said. "Her goal was to see that every student would become what they were capable of being. When people asked her if she had kids, she always said she had 2,200 of them."
To learn more about the Deby Lewis Foundation or to purchase a brick, visit debylewisfoundation.org.