In a community where every day is a fight to survive or stay out of jail, a group of ambitious east-side kids want to beat the odds. The Eastside Dreamers Academy is raising the next generation of movers and shakers by encouraging them to dream big.

On a recent trip to Washington D.C., 14-year-old Eric Lewis established an impressive stack of business cards.

“While we were in Washington, we met with congressmen along the lines of Will Hurd, Lloyd Doggett, Henry Cuellar,” Lewis recalled. “I use those cards to the fullest extent. I email them, or my secretary does.”

His secretary, and by that, he lovingly means his mother.

“Eagles soar above the storms,” Scharlena Lewis, Eric’s mother, said. “I mean, if I showed you his bio, you could see he accomplished something every single year.”

“I mean, our kids have dreams of becoming physicians and attorneys and judges and school teachers,” said Winslow Swart, the creator of the Eastside Dreamers Academy.

Swart partnered with the city to create the academy and says it’s his job to help the eagles soar. That’s why they went to the nation’s capital, to sit at Lincoln’s footsteps, to perform a mannequin challenge at the Smithsonian lawn, and to see the achievements of those who walked their path.

“You go and see the artifacts of slavery, but then at the very end of the exhibit, you see the Oprahs and the Obamas,” Swart said. “They were having that experience at the [National Museum of African American History and Culture] like, ‘Wait a minute. These people are us.’”

For Lewis, who dreams of becoming an Olympic swimmer, that was a sobering and inspiring message.

“If they fought for me this hard, I have to keep going forward, keep the dream alive, keep doing what they fought for,” Lewis said. “I also have to give back. If this stays the same, there will be no tomorrow. There will be no tomorrow.”