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Coach Andre Williams-Lewis

Family. That’s how 25-year-old Andre Williams-Lewis views people at the Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex in Fort Washington, Maryland. The lean, 5-foot-11-inch basketball coach often doubles as a customer service representative, calling the complex a special place where “even the bosses are great.”

Williams-Lewis, known as “Dre” to coworkers and “Coach” to his 13- and 14-year-old players, came to the $17.2 million complex shortly after its June 2013 opening.

There is something for everyone at the environmentally friendly facility, including two pristine basketball courts, a climbing wall, exercise areas equipped with cardiovascular equipment, a multipurpose room, recording studio, science lab, and two cafes.

But it isn’t the glitzy glass-paneled facade adorning the 37,000 square foot structure that keeps Williams-Lewis coming back. “My number one passion is the kids,” he said. They motivate him to give back to the community.

Growing up, Williams-Lewis says his role models were athletes or people on t.v., “like Michael Jordan, Jay-Z, or Kobe Bryant.”He  laments the absence of stars returning to his community as a child. He enjoys being someone young people can admire today.

The Northwestern High School graduate was employed at the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Maryland when he was recruited to the new facility. “He sets a great customer service example,” Project Associate Angela Jones told the AFRO. She said he is easy to work with, proactive and reliable.

As the youngest of six children, Williams-Lewis is big on family.  “I treat the older ladies like they’re my mom,” Williams-Lewis said.

He said his parents taught him responsibility early. They had been married 40 years when his father passed away from cancer in 2011. “Seeing my dad get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to go to work and not coming home until 9 o’clock at night, it really showed me how much I had to do,” Williams said.

But, he says, he doesn’t claim sainthood and owns his mistakes, admitting it took him a while “to get it,” so that he could help the youth avoid similar pitfalls.

Williams-Lewis and two friends are developing an early childhood educational video game. He said his business plans include a return to college. “When my dad passed away, I was mentally shot,” Williams-Lewis said.  At that time he dropped out of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and never returned, spiraling into a depressive state.

When he passed away, I said I wanted to do something to make him proud,” Williams-Lewis says. “So hopefully, what I’m doing now is making him proud.”

As a young child, he actually loved baseball, but a late-night teenage hoops injury put a swift end to high school baseball and major league basketball aspirations. Two surgeries and months of rehab later, Williams-Lewis remade himself as an AAU basketball player; he also watched old films and paid close attention to coaching styles.

Meanwhile, the 16-year-old began work at a football day camp for 5-to 13-year olds; he has remained a Department of Parks and Recreation employee for nine years.

“Coach” began playing golf last summer, learning the game with the help of friends, and most recently shooting an 85, which is a good score.. Williams-Lewis said he finds the sport peaceful, fun and relaxing.