By Jamie Shoaf, ‘11

Armed with a set of books and a notebook, Kenneth (Andre) Davis, C‘06, prepares for another typical day of school. Today he’ll cover five different subjects; in the classroom, students are already bustling as the start time nears. Remembering when he once sat on the other side of the desks, he begins teaching his lesson while a room full of motivated eyes and ears follows.

Davis earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree from the School of Continuing Studies in 2006. Now, he works as an Intervention Coordinator for the GED Program at the Mount Vernon Adult Education Center in Henrico County. In this position, Andre helps students to earn their equivalency diploma. He relates well to these students he works with, as he once sat in their seats as a former GED graduate.

While many strive to earn their GED and some to further their careers beyond the diploma, few have taken the less-traveled path of Andre Davis. In high school, Davis remembers that he “struggled mightily” as a result of a learning disability and eventually dropped out in 11th grade as he fell so far behind.

Relentless in advancing his education, he studied hard to earn his GED on the first attempt. After jumping this first hurdle, Davis paved his own way for a life of education.

Davis continued learning by building a foundation at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, where he completed several credits in core courses. With aspirations of earning his bachelor’s degree, Davis decided to test the waters of Westhampton Lake and enroll at the University of Richmond in 2001.

“It took me a few years after community college to make the decision of applying [to U of R],” he says. He attributes this short gap in his education to being “very intimidated by the lure and prestige of U of R.”

Not far from Richmond’s campus stands a statue of Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue. The statue’s namesake inspired Davis to find his future role in society after reading Arthur Ashe’s autobiography, Days of Grace. Ashe’s personal and professional accomplishments in such a short career sparked in Davis a recognition of his own untapped academic potential. He was so motivated by this recognition that, between 2003 and 2006, Davis immersed himself in his studies.

“I averaged five classes a semester, went to summer school every session, and graduated in 2006 with a 3.2 GPA,” he recalls.

“The commencement ceremony was so emotional. To this day, I think of all of those early days getting up during the summer, going to class, and staying late on campus in the depths of winter.”

Professors at Richmond were a key to Davis’ success. He recalls that they “woke up an academic curiosity in me that was seemingly laying dormant until they came into my life.”

Just as Davis enrolled in a wide range of classes in his academic journey, he encourages his own students to venture broadly in their studies, helping them attain proficiency in five different subject areas. “Just call me a jack of all trades, master of none,” he jokes. In addition to this work, he has implemented a career component in the program to give students a sense of real-world direction that Davis once could not find. Last year, he graduated 33 of 34 students, a 97% success rate.

As he sees himself in the students he teaches, Davis reiterates, “If you dream big and set your goals, anything is possible.” Though this may sound like a quote from Arthur Ashe, Davis’ academic journey embodies this ideal.

From high school dropout to University of Richmond graduate, Andre Davis helps students who share his early experience and frustration realize that possibilities are endless when passion aligns with education.