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2015 Young Memphis: Kela Jones-Lewis, Peer Power Foundation

The following is a feature from the previous issue of Memphis Crossroads MagazineClick here to view the full issue.

Young professionals see a future in Memphis – their future. They believe in what Memphis is and what it is becoming. They want to be a part of what others are doing and to offer their talents, energies and dreams to make the city an even better place to live. They talk of loving Memphis, and the ways this city draws them are as diverse as Memphis’ population. Perhaps, in a word, they picked Memphis because of opportunity. Career opportunities. Opportunities to play and relax. Opportunities to connect with family and peers. Opportunities to make a difference.

And making a difference is key, as this generation prioritizes following their passions and leaving the world a better place. Memphis offers plenty of ways to connect with their peers and create transformational change in their community. There’s SoundCheck, the Young Professionals Council of the Greater Memphis Chamber, which connects these YPs with experienced business leaders and involves them in critical issues facing Memphis. There’s also leadership programs like Embark by New Memphis Institute and the FastTrack Program by Leadership Memphis. And that’s only the beginning.

The 10 featured work as entrepreneurs, professionals, nonprofit employees and creative types. But their jobs aren’t the only way they put their mark on the city. They put energy into causes like homelessness, education and civil rights. While sometimes their jobs and what’s dear to their hearts overlap, volunteerism is strong among these young professionals. They look outside of themselves and reach out to help others. While they are making lives for themselves, they are making life better for others. Memphis is in good hands with these young leaders on deck.

At the end of the work day, Kela Jones thinks of the children’s hugs. They are the best reward. She is director of development at Peer Power Foundation, a tutoring program that pairs high-performing young people with students who want to enrich their own studies. To date, Peer Power has hired more than 1,000 tutors who have reached more than 10,000 youth. The nonprofit relies on donations to function, and it is part of Jones’ responsibilities to convince potential contributors to get involved. She takes them to the schools to see the tutoring in action and its results. They get goosebumps, she said, like she does “every time - being able to see the kids and being a part of their lives … it brings me enjoyment and excitement.”

The 33-year-old graduate of the University of Memphis stayed in her native city in part because of relationships she’d formed working first as an intern at Memphis Motorsports Park and then in fundraising for the Memphis Redbirds. “I got to interface with a lot of corporations here,” said Jones, also a Junior League of Memphis volunteer. “Those relationships are very intricate to my life. For me, this is home.”

Story by: Toni Lepeska
Photo by: Troy Glasgow

Posted: 12/22/2015 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Foundation, Jones-Lewis, Kela, Memphian, Memphis, Peer, Power, Professional, Young

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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (