Kaela Lewis '19

Kaela Lewis '19

Kaela Lewis ‘19 graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2022 with a B.A. in Political Science (Pre-Law) and Spanish. She completed her degree in just three years by taking 18 credit hours per semester as well as by enrolling in summer classes during the pandemic. Additionally,  Kaela studied abroad while pursuing her Spanish degree, traveling to Madrid, Toledo, and Valencia, Spain. After college, Kaela moved to Stamford, Connecticut where she began working for Synchrony Financial. She then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and continues to work for Synchrony Financial where she is a participant in their Business Leadership Program and is part of Synchrony’s Sales and Relationship Management track, from which she will graduate in July 2024. 

During her time at Whitfield, Kaela was a member of the Varsity Women’s Basketball Team and Varsity Women’s Lacrosse Team. Her brother, Nick, graduated from Whitfield in 2023. She is very close with her family and loves traveling, especially abroad.

What are you most thankful for from your Whitfield experience, both in and outside of the classroom?

I am thankful to Whitfield for teaching me the value of relationships and how integral people are to your journey. Oftentimes, we go through the motions and take people and opportunities for granted. I am still so close to the class of 2019, and some of my best friends are people I met at Whitfield. The older I get and the more I meet other people and learn about their experiences, the more I realize how rare and special Whitfield is. At Whitfield, you are truly a part of a family, and I think that because I was a part of such a special family at Whitfield, I learned to value people and experiences in my life. Not only do I think this has set me apart as I grow in my career, but overall it has made me a better person.

What opportunities did Whitfield provide you that you might not have had elsewhere?

First, the small classroom sizes allowed me to truly cultivate relationships with my classmates. Second, the family-like feel throughout the whole school made me feel very safe and included at all times. Third, I experienced unique and dynamic learning opportunities that allowed me to be open-minded about world views and prepared me for college.

Do you have any advice you would like to offer young alumni?

Yes! Here are three pieces of advice: 

1. Take advantage of the college preparation resources that Whitfield offers. I didn't realize how much of a unique opportunity I had until I got to college. I saw that so many of my peers lacked the knowledge and skills to make a schedule, fill out scholarship applications, and even have a discussion with their academic advisor.

2. Prioritize both professional and personal relationships. The majority of life and success isn't about what you know; it's about WHO you know. Never take a networking opportunity for granted, and leverage the relationships you have built whether that is with a former classmate, professor, teacher, friend, etc. Your connections can often be game-changers and open doors that wouldn't have been open otherwise.

3. Trust the process, and remember everyone's journey is different. Comparison is the biggest thief of joy. Being a recent graduate, whether of high school or college, can be an extremely vulnerable time. Don't compare yourself to others. You may feel that others are doing "more" than you or you are being hard on yourself because you aren't doing the same things your peers are: everyone's journey is different.

What are some of your favorite Whitfield memories?

I have A LOT of amazing Whitfield memories, but I will keep it to three:

1. Going to the Missouri State Championship in 2018 with the women’s basketball team was such an amazing experience. I played basketball pretty much all of my life, and this was one of those moments when I saw all of my hard work come to fruition. Although we lost, it was still an experience of a lifetime.

2. Homecoming Weeks: These were always my favorite weeks to look forward to. I loved dressing up for the different themed days with my friends and battling it out for the Spirit Stick during assembly. My favorite was probably the choreographed lip sync performances on Friday at the end of Spirit Week.

3. Senior Year Festivities: I loved every special event that Whitfield has for seniors. From the college announcement ceremony to the special one-pagers in the yearbook to senior internships at the end of senior year to our prom dinner, Whitfield really went above and beyond to make senior year the best year for us and make us feel special.

What were some of your favorite classes at Whitfield? Why?

English 12 with Dr. Hays: I love that he would take the time for us to have discussions about how the literature we were reading applied to our personal experiences as Gen Z and what was actually going on in the world. I think as a student you have to be able to relate your learnings to your life and what is relevant to you, and I feel like we always took time to do that.

American History with Mr. Coryell: I loved Mr. Coryell’s history class; it was my favorite class junior year. I was a Poli-Sci major, so it is no surprise that I am a history nerd. I loved the conversational/discussion style of this history class and that we were given the agency to learn via discussion and interactively rather than always through tests or quizzes.

History and Economics with Dr. Kwiecien: My all-time favorite teacher at Whitfield is Dr. K. I actually took two of his classes senior year at the same time and was the first student ever to do so. I took Social Change and Economics and absolutely loved both. I loved the class content, and I will always hold a special place in my heart for Dr. K and the care and hard work he always put into his teaching.

Describe your career thus far. 

I am a participant in the Business Leadership Program (BLP) at Synchrony Financial. I am a part of our Sales and Relationship Management track, and I will graduate from this program in July of 2024. Synchrony is such an amazing company and invests a lot of time and resources into its young talent. Because I graduated college early, I knew that I wanted to work for a company that would allow me to grow and develop skills through diverse experiences. BLP is the perfect program because it allows me to get three different dynamic experiences (rotations) within the business of financial services within the field of sales.

I completed a summer internship with Synchrony in 2021 (my sophomore/junior summer), and at the end of that summer, I was offered a full-time role in the Business Leadership Program to return in July 2022. It was a great feeling to go into my last year of college with a post-grad job secured, and it made me even more confident and excited about life after graduation.

In May 2022, I moved to Stamford, CT right outside of New York City where Synchrony’s headquarters is located. My first rotation as a BLP was a year long and on our Health & Wellness platform supporting our cosmetic/plastic surgery practices, ophthalmology/optometry, and our Allegro product. In those roles, I was able to travel to the medical practices that we support all over the country and equip them with everything they needed to offer our CareCredit product to their patients.

In August 2023, I began my second rotation with my new client team American Eagle Outfitters (AEO). In this role, I am on our AEO Client Development team and support AEO with their Real Rewards and Loyalty program and their AEO credit card powered by Synchrony.

I have about nine months left in the BLP program, and I will graduate as an Assistant Vice President (AVP) in Sales at Synchrony. I have had such an amazing experience with Synchrony over the past year, and I can’t wait to continue to grow as a professional throughout my career.