A life-changing experience

It's been a rocky road for Justyn Lewis. But the graduating senior says his whole life has changed at Iowa State. Now the political science major has set his sights on a noble goal: Being elected governor.

Considering all Justyn has overcome to beat the odds and achieve his college degree, his future aspirations should surprise no one.

Learning disabilities slowed Justyn down throughout his schooling in Des Moines. Grades of D and F, behavioral problems and special ed classes were commonplace. But he worked hard to improve. He persevered. By his senior year at East High, Justyn was earning As and Bs. He was captain of the football and track teams. And he wanted to attend Iowa State.

Even though his mother hadn't finished high school and his father attended trade school, they instilled the importance of higher education in Justyn and his two younger siblings. They just couldn't afford to pay their way.

So Justyn applied for scholarships. His powerful essay about becoming a role model for the young black men in his community -- rather than a statistic "caught up in the street life"-- earned him a full-tuition Multicultural Vision Program Scholarship at Iowa State.

College proved tough for Justyn. His reading disability reemerged and he couldn't keep up with the reading assignments. He "spiraled down a bad path," making poor choices, landing on academic probation, losing his scholarship.

Many students don't find their way back after hitting bottom. But Justyn was determined. With the support of his parents, church and university family, he got the academic help he needed and found the courage to succeed. Not only did he return to school, he flourished: Student government senator, Special Olympics soccer coach, church worship leader, newlywed.

Keep your eyes on Justyn Lewis. When he crosses that stage at commencement, he will become both a role model and a statistic: The first in his family to graduate from college.

ISU commencement details