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Rising above circumstance

Omar Davis graduated valedictorian from C. I. Gibson, awarded full university scholarship
Omar Davis, 17, C.I. Gibson’s 2018 valedictorian, during graduation. The young man, who saw his father take his last breath on his doorstep, will attend Central State University, Ohio in the fall on a full scholarship. He graduated high school with a 3.55 cumulative grade point average. PHOTOS: OMAR DAVIS

On paper it seems Omar Davis Jr. may have had everything stacked against him. He said that at an early age he knew his dad was into illegal activity; then he witnessed his father take his last breath on the doorstep of their home after he was shot eight times. He grew up in the Kemp Road community, which many people refer to as ‘the ghetto’, but he rose above his circumstances to graduate valedictorian of C.I. Gibson’s class of 2018, and will be the first person in his immediate family to attend college on a full scholarship.

“I’m not defined by the community I grew up in, because it’s not where you start — it’s where you end.” With that statement, Davis, 17, said people can look forward to hearing great things about him, and he issued an open invitation to anyone wanting to, to attend his graduation in 2022 from Central State University, Ohio, where he will enroll in the fall on a full scholarship from CSU and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. He will study finance.

Davis, who graduated with a 3.55 grade point average (GPA), has one of those stories that will bring tears to your eyes, and make you want to pull for him to succeed at all costs.

He’s a young man who has seen death and illegal activity up close and personal. At the age of 12, he watched his father, who he said was a drug dealer, take his last breath on the front porch of their home.

“Growing up wasn’t a walk in the park for me. I grew up in Kemp Road, which most people refer to as the ghetto,” said the son of Gia Whymms and the late Omar Davis Sr. “My father was involved in some illegal business, causing our door to be kicked down many nights by the police, and me being interrogated by them, but I never let that affect the purpose of my life,” he said at the recent Ministry of Education Public Scholars Award Ceremony.

“Even though my father did bad things, I never once looked at him as if he were a bad person. My father was like my best friend. It is often said all good things come to an end — and in this case it was my father’s life.”

On June 1, 2013 around 10 p.m. Davis recalled about nine gunshots going off, eight hit his dad, and one entered their house.

“My father was murdered right on my doorstep. Could you imagine your best friend being shot right in front of you? Watching him take his last breath left me heartbroken and scarred. Sometimes when I close my eyes I imagine his lifeless body just lying there.”

Despite his illegal activities, Davis said his dad did not want that life for his son. In fact, he says his dad always spoke to him about doing the right thing, and of not being like him at all. He also spoke to his son about being a role model to his younger sibling, Omarion Davis.

“He said it, but did the opposite. He would always say to me ‘Short man, don’t ever be like me when you grow up.’ My father was trying to make a living, and I knew what he was doing was wrong, therefore I made it my goal to find another way, which was through education.”

Davis recalls seeing his father deal drugs inside their home, but his father trying to protect him by telling him to go into his room and close the door when he did.

“I personally thought that it wasn’t good. He wasn’t practicing what he was preaching, but then I realized he didn’t want me to go the road that he went, so I just tried to do my best to make my mommy proud since she became a single parent.”

Davis says his dad wanted him to be a lawyer, but his passion is numbers, which was why he decided to pursue a degree in finance.

But getting to this day where he’s approximately six weeks away from beginning his freshman year at college hasn’t always been easy for the teenager, who remained an honor roll student throughout his formative years.

“[Over the years] I often had thoughts about dropping out of school or even doing drugs to calm my nerves, but his [dad’s] voice kept playing in my head — ‘Short man never be like me when you grow up.’ These words motivated me to be strong for my mother and my brother, to strive for excellence and to do my best. Now that same boy from Kemp Road who is going to be just like his dad, like they once said, graduated valedictorian from his high school, will be the first person from his immediate family to go to college, and is a 2018 Public Schools Scholar. By God’s grace I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me. It isn’t where you start, but where you end. Look forward to hearing great things about me, and God’s willing, you all are invited to my graduation in 2022 from Central State University,” said Davis.

Davis began his education in the private sector, having spent his primary school years at St. Bede’s Catholic School before he moved on to Temple Christian School. He entered C.I. Gibson in ninth grade

“My dad paid my school fees, and my mom thugged it out until I reached ninth grade, but then she could not afford it anymore, so she put me in public school.”

The transition, he said, wasn’t a big deal for him, because he knew people at the school because of the community he grew up in. And he said the work remained normal to him. “It wasn’t hard. I just studied and stayed on top of my game.”

He believes he gets his smarts from his dad and says getting his education means everything to him.

“I want to make myself a better person so that I can provide for my family, especially my mommy, because I saw how she struggles.” He recalled the many times his mom, a kitchen steward at Atlantis, was denied assistance from government ministries because they said his father did not make contributions. “So it means that I will have to do my best to make sure they straight.”

Davis also credits his mother with ensuring that he did the right thing. He said she always told him to be on top, and he made it his goal to graduate as valedictorian. It is his goal now to fulfill his promise to her. He also wants to hold himself up as an example to his nine-year-old brother.

Omar helps Omarion, a student at Uriah McPhee, with his homework, and talks to him about their father; just like their dad said to his older son, Omar tells his younger brother to never be like their father and that if he needs a role model, to try to look up to his sibling.

“And if he see me doing something wrong then he could tell me about it, and I correct him if he does anything wrong.”

“I’m very proud of him,” said Davis’ mother. “I made sure he did homework. There was no time to play. I always remind him that he has to be better than his parents.”

Davis wrote eight Bahamas General Certificates of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams — English language, mathematics, biology, office procedures, bookkeeping and accounts, commerce, keyboarding and religious knowledge. He’s still awaiting his results.

Davis began a summer internship at KPMG on Monday doing data entry. He got the job through his Junior Achievement (JA) advisor, Shaneska Kemp, a partner at KPMG.

Kemp said she observed Davis’ growth over the past three years as a student in the JA program, and she believes he will perform exceptionally well in his academics at university and future endeavors — both professionally and personally.

“KPMG is pleased to have Omar working as a summer intern, and we look forward to his annual return and our sustained relationship as we continue to mentor him to achieve his full potential and to live his purpose,” said Kemp.

While Davis’ scholarship covers tuition covered, he still needs financial assistance to the tune of approximately $8,000 annually to help defray costs associated with airfare, health insurance, books, clothes, food and toiletries.

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