Connecting to community

Gerald Davis Jr. works with some of the most vulnerable people in Columbia and does it all on top of taking classes at the University of South Carolina. But his real passion lies with opening doors at the university to connect the community to campus.

Davis, a recent graduate of the social work program and incoming master's student, has dedicated eight years to St. Lawrence Place, a local organization that helps families overcome poverty and homelessness and where Davis oversees children's programs.

"Someone taught me how to lead others and so I wanted to give back to someone else in return," he says.

As a student, Davis brought his work to campus with him, connecting the university's Office of Student Engagement, the South Carolina Honors College and various service-learning programs to St. Lawrence Place.

One program he helped create, for example, brings Carolina students to teach music to kids after school. Another program coaches teenagers to pursue higher education with lessons on how to prepare for college and prep courses for the SAT.

"I wanted to give these kids access to what they wouldn't have otherwise so they won't be falling back into the cycle of homelessness," Davis says.

Davis was recently recognized for his work with the Outstanding Service Professional Award, which honors a staff member of a local agency for their work with UofSC students, faculty and staff. The Columbia native knew he wanted to work with children. But it wasn't until he began working with the homeless that he discovered a passion for helping families.

"I know these families are going through tough times, and my family has gone through tough times," Davis says. "I turn to the motivation I had growing up in what I do now. I know where they are coming from."

Davis has been able to put what he learns in his social work classes into practice as he works with groups of teenagers and or builds rapport with individuals. After he finishes the master's in social work program, Davis says he wants to continue working with at-risk populations.

"I've been doing individual work and working with families for so long that I want to take a bigger step to work with policies to change action at a bigger level," he says.

Learn more

Visit Carolina's Promise to find out how you can help support our students in community service activities. 

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