The drive to transform neighborhoods, create nonprofits and support close-to-the-heart causes makes these individuals stand out in the eyes of their peers.
Duane Davis has made it part of his “life walk” to become a mentor for children in South Philly.
Davis is the founder and director of Rise1, 1442 S. 22nd St., a youth and community development center that was grounded Oct. 1, 2011, but has roots dating back to 1982.
“The first location was a traveling location,” Davis said. “We would go to schools or homes of individuals requiring services.”
The Point Breeze inhabitant funded the initial year of Rise1, which stands for “Respect, Integrity, Service, Education” with “1” referring to every individual involved, at 22nd and Dickinson streets with $35,000 — money that Davis saved during his 10 years working with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
“During that time period [with the Archdiocese], I developed skills in working with hard-to-reach children,” Davis said. “All of our youth are at-risk, so with that understanding it’s just about being patient and [making them] feel comfortable to share with me, so that I can say, ‘Hey, try this.’”
The native of 22nd and Oakford streets said Rise1 has accomplished “a great deal” in terms of making a difference in the community through youth development.
“A community is changed, either positively or negatively, by the individuals who live in it,” Davis, 47, said.
He said the area witnesses issues with high dropout rates, teen pregnancy and drug problems.
“There’s a need for change, and that change is understanding how to change,” Davis, who resides at 18th and Wharton streets with wife Michele and son Phillip whom he cyber schools, said.
At the center, Davis provides tutoring, life skills education, awareness programs, recreational activities, community outreach initiatives and parental development opportunities to those age 5 to senior citizens.
“My youth are the ones who give me the strength because I see that there can be a change if, in fact, we’re all on the same page,” Davis said.
He uses a teaching strategy that empowers the older participants to teach the younger children in the program. With this incentive, he said he hopes to create a “continuing cycle of each generation helping another.”
Davis aims every day to become a better father, while engaging as a mentor with those who are not his children.
“My need is just a walk and an understanding,” he said. “If you can do something, you should and if you don’t, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Contact the South Philly Review at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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