A Shining Star: Kareem Davis

East Side House literally changed my life— Kareem Davis


Kareem Davis has come a long way since he first set foot in our partner school, the School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH.) He entered the school academically unprepared, uninterested in school, and with no plan for his future.

Kareem describes his early days at STH:

Entering high school, I thought that I’d just be able to breeze by like I always had before. But once I started 9th grade, my mentality wasn’t there and school wasn’t my party.”

At home, Kareem was a child of a hardworking single mother who often struggled to keep the family together while his father was incarcerated. In his family’s world, the name of the game was survival—putting food on the table and a roof over their heads took precedence over schoolwork. Kareem remembers how relatives saw him as a troublemaker who not much was expected of.

With no clear vision for his future and no motivation to rise to meet the rigor of high school, Kareem began to turn away from his academics and adopted the persona of a class clown. He became known for his classroom disruptions and hallway antics. It soon all caught up to him.

By the end of freshman year, he’d failed almost all of his New York State Regents examinations and was placed in the lowest academic track at school. Kareem was disappointed in himself; he knew he could do better.

It was really rough. I felt left out and after screwing up so much freshman year, I just felt like dropping out,” he says.

Just when he thought his high school career was over, his East Side House Advisor stepped in. The Advisor noticed the change in Kareem’s demeanor and academic performance. He took the time to talk one-on-one with Kareem, connecting him to Regents Prep classes. Kareem felt supported by ESH staff members, who helped him channel is energy into becoming a school leader rather than a clown.

He soon began an internship, which he’d later find would help position him for the college application process.

I was never a person to look at college as an option—I thought school wasn’t for me. But my Advisor took us all on a trip to SUNY Albany, and he make me believe that, yes, I could go to college. I saw my Advisor as somebody who’s from the same background as me, who understood me, and I began to see him as a role model,” Kareem explained.

By the end of 10th grade, Kareem has caught up substantially and began working as a group leader of at ESH’s elementary after school program at Patterson Community Center. Instead of being written off as a problem, he became known as trusted employee who would stay late to get the job done and a role model to the younger children, who looked up to him.

Today, Kareem has been accepted into multiple colleges and is carefully weighing his options! His mother, he reports, is extremely proud of him and what he’s been able to achieve. Three years ago he never saw college as a possibility for himself, but now says that he sees himself entering a helping profession so that he can “help others the way East Side House has helped me.”