October Champion: Josh Davis
Josh Davis is our American Graduate Champion for October here at MPB. An Oxford native, Davis attended the University of Mississippi to receive his Bachelor’s degree. Also, he graduated from the University of Memphis with a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Since 2010, Davis has worked with Delta Health Alliance (DHA) as Vice President of External Affairs providing fundraising and management of federally funded programs. He has shared best practices and information about lessons learned through field practices in health and education. Specifically, he is now working with Indianola Promise Community (IPC) in Indianola, Mississippi.
The DHA’s program with IPC is exciting because it uses a model from Harlem, New York to address the poverty cycle that impacts education so heavily. The model’s concept works by pulling together all the different entities and parents that play a positive role in a child’s life from birth through college completion. In Harlem, they were able to produce data unique to Harlem. Focused on data to validate that the IPC efforts are a model for rural America, Davis said, “If you can figure out the system of support that you are going to require, you have to focus on a common goal and you have to determine how you will track your performance measures.” The measurement is critical to ensure that the process works and will produce desired results. Davis stated, “What we are attempting to do in Indianola, is construct a pipeline that is unique to our setting in a small town in the rural Mississippi Delta that is different from Harlem’s. Our vision is to create the rural model for the college entry pipeline. A lot more of America is like Indianola rather than (like) Harlem. Our vision is to be the rural model of what a cross-community looks like.”
The system requires a lot of participation from the entire community. Instead of simply pursing individual goals, they must share the vision of creating the pipeline and developing the cross-community approach to work on poverty and education. It is a new way of operating for most involved and new policies and practices abound. . The program provides support by working with the parent all the way from the child’s birth into this world through the formative years of their lives, 0 to 5, helping them get prepared for a rigorous kindergarten curriculum on to a K-12 system. The results so far have been stunning. Davis said, “What we saw in the fall of 2014 was, compared to the baseline for 2013, the increase over the baseline was 19%. There was a relative 19% increase in kindergarten readiness. We went from 25% readiness in 2013 to readiness of 44% in 2014. That’s a large bump up.” IPC is anxious to see the data for 2015. Ideally the data will continue to rise significantly or plateau, meaning no decrease in readiness.
Josh Davis’ work with Delta Health Alliance and IPC is a personal commitment based upon his own experiences. “I think what motivates me is that my family looked a lot like the families that I now (serve) with the solutions for them to find some equitable footing,” explained Davis. “My philosophy is that education is the biggest equalizer for so many factors of the quality of life. Education is the equalizer.”
Davis’ mother was an example to him. She worked to support her family while attending college classes to get her degree. “I watched my mom for eight years. I was lucky enough to have a support system, both black and white, in my community that held my family together. My mother wanted to help herself support her children. That is possible if a family and children can receive the support they need when they have a goal in mind,” said Davis speaking of his family.