Terence Lester to Receive 2020 American Express NGen Leadership Award

Founder of Love Beyond Walls uses storytelling and digital media to provide voice for people experiencing homelessness and systemic poverty

(WASHINGTON, October 7, 2020)
– Independent Sector announced today that Terence Lester, founder and executive director of Love Beyond Walls, is the recipient of the 2020 American Express NGen Leadership Award.

The American Express NGen Leadership Award honors an accomplished charitable community leader age 40 or under who has demonstrated significant impact in addressing society’s critical needs. For 10 years, Independent Sector has presented this prestigious award to one emerging leader whose creative and collaborative leadership is helping to solve an intractable community challenge.

“Terence Lester’s commitment to social justice and efforts to continually raise awareness about issues regarding homelessness, poverty, health, and economic equality are in perfect accord with our Upswell Summit’s focus on anti-racism and COVID-19 recovery,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “His work to address systemic poverty, mobilize thousands of people to serve those that are vulnerable and forgotten, and create solutions to help individuals rebuild their lives is an admirable illustration of how collaborative leadership can accelerate transformative social change. We are proud to honor him as the winner of the 2020 American Express NGen Leadership Award.”

Lester is a speaker, activist, author, and thought leader in the realm of systemic poverty. He’s known for nationwide campaigns that bring awareness to issues surrounding homelessness, poverty, and economic inequality. His unique approach combines storytelling and digital media to help illustrate social justice issues with practical approaches to solving these challenges.

In 2013, Terence founded Love Beyond Walls, a nonprofit that provides dignity to the homeless and poor by providing a voice, visibility, shelter, community, and grooming and support services to achieve self-sufficiency in the city of Atlanta and beyond. The organization has helped hundreds of individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty rebuild their lives. Additionally, in 2019 he launched the first museum in the U.S. that represents homelessness out of a shipping container called, Dignity Museum, using interactive technology, research, storytelling, exhibits, and thought-provoking questions that enable visitors to confront their ideas of homelessness and what it takes to escape it.

In addition to supporting the NGen Leadership Award since 2010, American Express has partnered with Independent Sector to offer the NGen Fellows Program, part of the American Express Leadership Academy that provides training, networking opportunities, and skills-building resources to social purpose leaders.

“Terence’s mission to raise awareness about the homeless, creatively find ways to get others to walk in their shoes, and develop solutions to help them transition out of homelessness exemplifies the amazing work underway by emerging changemakers across the nation,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “We are pleased to recognize his extraordinary efforts with this award.”

Terence was among a pool of more than 80 nominees considered by IS staff and our Selection Committee. In addition to Terence, the group of finalists included:

All of the American Express NGen Award finalists will be featured in sessions during the Upswell Summit, October 14-16. Terence Lester, the award winner, will be featured on Thursday, October 15 at 2:00 pm ET during the Main Stage 2020 Leadership Awards.


Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs working to ensure all people in the United States thrive. Learn more at independentsector.org.

About American Express’ Leadership Initiatives
One of American Express’ three philanthropic platforms is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognizes the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit and social purpose sectors, American Express makes grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century. More than 125,000 emerging nonprofit and social sector leaders worldwide have benefitted from American Express leadership programs, including the American Express Leadership Academy. For leadership journey stories and additional resources, visit LeaderStories.org.

Types: Press Release
Global Topics: Civil Society, IS Member, IS Staff, Leadership Development, Organizational Relationships, Race, Equity, and Inclusion, Upswell