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Students Give Birthday Tribute To Baltimore Pioneer Reginald F. Lewis

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Christie Ileto joined WJZ's News Team in the fall of 2012. She...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A birthday celebration for Baltimore’s first black billionaire kicked off. But Friday’s event was more than just candles and cake.

Christie Ileto was at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum where local students walked away with life lessons.

Keep going no matter what. That was the credo for Reginald F. Lewis. And Friday, local students came to the museum that’s named after him to share their interpretations of what that motif means to them.

“I found that he’s a really ambitious person and that means a lot to me,” said Kimberly Davis, a high school senior.

College bound Davis says she was so inspired by Lewis–a Baltimore native and founder of the first black owned billion dollar empire– that she put it in writing to share with her class.

“The focus of it was no matter what your background, you can accomplish what you want if you put forth the effort,” Davis said.

And Davis wasn’t the only one. Friday, students performed dance and musical numbers, and their essays in a competition to express how his message of perseverance has touched them.

Something the would-be 70-year-old pioneer’s family says is important in continuing Lewis’ legacy.

“We hope to paint a picture that you can be whatever you want to be if you’re a good listener and persevere,” said Carolyne Fugett, Lewis’ mother.

That theme is depicted on the walls of the Baltimore based museum.

Director Skipp Sanders says his story is everyone’s story.

“It’s honoring the things he stood for: striving for excellence, the importance of education,” Sanders said.

It’s a message event coordinators say will help students surpass the milestones Lewis has already set.

“I know I want to be something important in life,” Davis said.

The museum says they plan to continue programs like Friday’s essay and performance contest in the hopes of expanding Lewis’ legacy. The event was funded through a grant from the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation.

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