When Kiawa Lewis graduated from George Washington High School in 2004 he didn’t know what he was going to do with his life. Lewis commented “just graduating from high school was a feat for me given the obstacles I dealt with growing up.” Lewis briefly studied at a medical college but found that it wasn’t for him. In the next few years, Lewis held jobs at Wal-Mart, a cleaning company and a telemarketing firm. Lewis bluntly says, “I hated those jobs.” Hoping for a better job, Lewis sought out help from the Denver Westside Workforce Center. A counselor at the workforce center suggested Arts Street, to which Lewis replied to the counselor, “I don’t want to learn to make art, I need a job.” However, after learning that the Visual Informatics Program offered by Arts Street was in fact a job training program that focuses on Web site design and programming, video production and publishing, and GIS mapping, he decided to give it a try.
At Arts Street, Lewis found that he had a passion for Web site design and GIS mapping. Through the program, Lewis was able to learn industry-leading software programs like ESRI’s ArcView, ArcCatalog and ArcMap. Lewis worked on several community service projects while in the program. One of the projects required staffing a booth at STEMapalooza, a two-day event designed to create urgency and enthusiasm about the importance of science, technology engineering and math (STEM) education. While on a break during the event, Lewis began talking with other exhibitors. When one exhibitor heard about Lewis’ interest in GIS, they gave him information about a contact they knew at TechniGraphics, a multi-national GIS company headquartered in Fort Collins. Lewis called the individual at TechniGraphics that day and told her about the GIS skills and experiences he was attaining at Arts Street. The representative was so impressed with what Lewis was learning and his passion for GIS that she scheduled a job interview with him the next week. Lewis traveled to Fort Collins for the interview and was offered a job the very next day.