Paris HS senior wins $125K Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway, plans to study business at UT Dallas
Though he was born with a life-threatening congenital heart defect, Paris High School senior Tate Lewis has not slowed down, and his excitement proved so after winning the $125,000 Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway.
“This scholarship means everything to me, and as my reaction showed at halftime, I was thrilled,” Lewis said. “My parents have been my heroes since day one, and they have had to make sacrifices my entire life in order to keep me alive.”
Lewis was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome — leading to five open-heart surgeries, suffering a stroke, a paralyzed coal cord and numerous other medical issues. He said the left side of his heart is essentially undeveloped and “completely non-functioning.”
“HLHS is a huge financial burden, with my surgery costs far exceeding $2,000,000,” he said. “Winning this scholarship has really made up for years of sacrifices by my family. It’s awesome to take on college and be able to say, ‘Mom, I’ve got this one.’”
Lewis, raised surrounded by family who has instilled “giving up is never an option,” said he continues to fight to prove doctors wrong.
“Since I can’t do physical sports, I poured my heart into golf and made it to the state championship alongside the Paris High Golf team,” he said. “My family has been through a lot between my own medical issues and my dad being a stage-3 brain cancer survivor, but we have truly been blessed this year.”
Out of more than 111,000 students who submitted a 1-minute video, six students were chosen to visit Due Perfect headquarters and compete for the grand prize. Lewis said between the six, they were then split into random groups of two to “throw for the grand prize.”
“At that point, it was just the two of us competing to throw the most footballs into the Dr Pepper can,” Lewis said. “We went into it both having already won an amazing scholarship, but the final throw was to make it even greater.”
After graduating Paris High School later this year, Lewis plans to study business at University of Texas in Dallas. He said he has had a love of talking and learning about finances since he was a child, “and taking business classes in high school sealed the deal for me.”
“I got a little behind academically when I missed school for surgeries, but several teachers went out of their way to accommodate my needs,” he said. “This taught me that sometimes, people who are different just need that extra push or someone to believe in them. I want to use my career in business to prove this to be true by accommodating others like myself.”
As his story is unique, Lewis said he came across a Dr Pepper scholarship advertisement in a Facebook ad. The video’s prompt was for Lewis to tell his dreams, “and I have big dreams to make the voices of students like me heard.”
“That being said, honestly, with over 111,000 entries, I kind of felt like it would be a long shot,” he said. “I still can’t believe Dr Pepper picked my video, and I will never take it for granted. It feels like a dream. … Dr Pepper made me feel like my story was truly heard. They made every difficult day with HLHS worth it.”