WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The students and staff at a Wichita school have a lot to celebrate tonight. They got an inspirational message from a VIP while in the school’s new gym, they got new sports equipment, and they found out they could get a scholarship to go to college.

Chequan Lewis, COO of Pizza Hut U.S., speaks to students at Holy Savior Catholic Academy on Sept. 22, 2022. (KSN Photo)

Holy Savior Catholic Academy, 3000 E. 13th Street, welcomed Chequan Lewis, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Pizza Hut U.S., on Thursday afternoon. He was joined by one of the Wichita co-founders of Pizza Hut, Dan Carney and Dan’s wife Gayla, and by local Pizza Hut franchisees Gene and Yolanda Camarena.

He said Thursday’s visit was not his first time at Holy Savior.

“We’re a brand that comes from Wichita,” Lewis said. “The first time when I met this school, I was actually in town visiting some of our franchisees and some of our restaurants, and I was meeting with some folks like Mr. Carney, folks like Gene Camarena and Yolanda, his wife, and they brought me to this school because they know I have a heart for community, I have a heart for schools that reach out and help kids become all that they can be.”

He met with Dr. Delia Shropshire, the school’s president, and was impressed with what the school was doing. When he heard about the new gym the parish built for the school and the student’s progress, he promised her that he would come back.

“It’s unlike many places I’ve been,” he said.

Lewis wants to inspire students that they can be anything they want to be.

“I’m going to talk to the kids about my story, some ways in which maybe my background is very similar to some folks that are in this school right now, and encourage them, not just to think about where they are, but where they want to go and how they can get there together,” he said.

Lewis said he spent the morning talking with pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade teachers.

“I’m seeing results and growth in what the students are doing from a math perspective, from a science perspective,” he said. “It’s exciting to know that they’re not just creating a nurturing environment but an environment that’s driving results.”

Lewis said that spending time with children is a game-changer for him.

“They’re an amazing set of kids — incredibly friendly, ambitious, focused, and honestly, what can be better than spending time with folks like this,” he said.

When Lewis got in front of the kids during the afternoon assembly, he told them the four keys to success — heart, hustle, hope and home. Before the end of the assembly, the students were chanting those words.

After Lewis spoke, the Carneys presented the school with new sports equipment for the gym.

Then, Yolanda Camarena announced the Beacon of Light Scholarship. The Camarenas and the Carneys are funding the scholarship for any student who graduates from Holy Savior Catholic Academy and then from high school. The scholarship will help the student pay for either a two-year or four-year college or a technical college.

Camarena, a parishioner at Holy Savior, said they chose the name because of something the bishop always says when he visits Holy Savior. She said the bishop points out that the school is on a hill and is a beacon of light for the community.

The first round of scholarships will be awarded in the fall of 2023.

“I’m obviously here from brand Pizza Hut, but in this city, we’ve got a set of franchisees who have been invested in these communities, folks like Gene … who recognize they have a role to play in communities like Wichita and communities all across the country,” Lewis said. “I’m proud to stand with them, behind them, next to them, as they recognize our brand’s called to be something special in this country, and these folks are making it real here in Wichita.”

Shropshire said there are 279 students at Holy Savior Catholic Academy, and this was the first assembly in the new gym. She said Lewis’ message was very important for the students to hear.

“Sometimes students see the path to success through the channels of entertainment and sports,” she said. “This visit by Mr. Chequan Lewis, a Howard University and Harvard Law School graduate, demonstrates that the opportunities to be successful are many and that education is key.”