It’s what DuChante Davis has found more than anything in his educational journey at High Point University. It’s what he hopes to offer inner city school children he’ll teach this fall.
He just returned from visiting San Jose, California, where he met some of his future students that already remind him of himself at that age – children who come from families in challenging situations. Kids who need more real-life heroes to look up to and keep them on track.
Davis has walked in their shoes. His experiences led him to not only become a teacher, but to commit the first two years of his career to Teach for America. TFA is a nonprofit that selects only the most passionate, well-equipped educators to lead in high-need classrooms.
He fits the bill.
His quiet exterior doesn’t always show it at first, but his classroom leadership skills are sharp. Put Davis in front a group of students, and he shines.
“I want to be a role model for those who lack a role model in their lives,” says Davis. “It made all the difference for me.”
Davis grew up in Cleveland with a big family – eight siblings in all. His mother worked hard to raise him and two of his siblings by herself, but sometimes she struggled to help her children with their homework. She didn’t have the best schooling growing up, and she never went to college.
Then, when Davis was 12 years old, a teacher said something that blew him away.
She told him he should – he could – go to college someday.
“A teacher in middle school had faith in me and encouraged me to start thinking about college,” he says. “I had never thought about it before. That’s when I really started to excel in school and push myself.”
Davis’s mother eventually moved him from a crowded public school to a smaller, private school, where he was one of 36 students in his graduating class. It furthered his ability to excel.
When he started looking at colleges, he knew the value of one-on-one mentorship. His teachers had always been his second family. He wanted that at a university, and he found it at High Point University.
“My ability to feel like an individual instead of a number brought me to HPU,” he says. “How closely the professors help you and get to know you – that was a big selling point for me.”
When Davis arrived at HPU and thought about the different fields he could study, one tugged at his heart. His former teachers were the reason he was in college. He was here to be mentored by scholarly professors. Educators all around him were molding his life into something positive and promising. So he chose a field where he could make a significant impact, too.
He became a middle grades education major. He would teach.
And he knew that to be a teacher, you must also be a leader. He looked for leadership opportunities on campus and found many.
His sophomore year, he became a peer mentor – an upperclassman who mentors incoming freshmen as they adjust to campus life.
During his junior year, he was a founding member of HPU’s Bonner Leader Program that embeds students into the community through service. In the Bonner Program, he was tasked with completing 300 volunteer hours, recruiting area high school students as volunteers and finding ways to keep them engaged with local nonprofits.
This year, he continued the Bonner Program while also becoming a student-teacher at Archdale Trinity Middle School. He’s mentored many children there and strengthened their knowledge of the world, including a boy named including Jalin, who reminds Davis of his younger self.
“Jalin is one of the only African American students at the school,” he says. “He’s smart and polite. But he’s kind of the class clown. Whenever he got in trouble, he would ask me for advice. He would confide in me. I had the opportunity to help him, and that meant a lot to me.”
In every position, he’s learned to lead and communicate with diverse groups of people. He’s completed the metamorphosis from being mentored to mentoring others.
The classroom that Davis heads off to won’t be limited to a small number of students. It won’t always be the ideal setting for one-on-one mentorship. But he’s going to provide that anyway, no matter how many extra hours it takes, because he understands what can happen when students learn from caring people.
“The professors I’ve had here have catapulted me to the next level academically,” he says. “They made me into a better student, better learner and better leader. My future wouldn’t be possible without the things I’ve learned at this university.”
Those professors will watch him cross the stage on Saturday and bid a tearful farewell because they’re letting go of an extraordinary student. But they’re also sending an extraordinary leader into the world.
Just ask those who’ve guided him along the way.
“I first met DuChante as a freshman – soft spoken but determined to make a difference in the world,” says Dr. Beth Holder, assistant dean for student success and a former education professor who taught Davis. “In just four years, DuChante has made a difference at High Point University and the community. He has served as an outstanding mentor and leader to other students – as well as the children in our public schools. I am so proud of him for being accepted into the highly competitive Teach for America program.
“It will be bittersweet watching DuChante walk across the Commencement stage,” she says. “He is a friend to all and a great student will be leaving our campus. However, he is a wonderful person and humble leader, and will continue to make a positive difference – in and out of the classroom.”