From inner city life to inner city work

KNOXVILLE — Beginning in the fall, Thomas Davis Jr., a senior at Johnson University, majoring in Journalism and Digital Mass Media, will begin working with the Knoxville Fellows.

“We are very excited for Thomas to be coming into our program,” Rick Khulman, Director of Knoxville Fellows, said.

Davis will remain with Knoxville Fellows for one year.

Knoxville Fellows is a Christian organization located in downtown Knoxville.

There are multiple components to the program, living on site: Which includes partaking in community service, touring and visiting other Fellows from neighboring cities.

The Fellows work Monday through Thursday at the site while they are pursuing their graduate degrees.

Davis currently works with a radio station and hopes to stay with them throughout his Fellows experience, but he said he has also considered working with Emerald Youth in their communications program.

The last component is the master’s program. Davis will continue to take classes in pursuing a higher education.

“We are looking for servant leaders, and I think Thomas really brings that,” Khulman said. “He also brings a different life experience. In fact, we look at that in all our Fellows. We want very different types of people with different life experiences. He also has a willingness to be all in.”

Khulman said when they go through the interview process to choose the Fellows, they look for somebody that is going to be devoted to the program. Khulman said the reason for this is because there is a lot to do.

“There are a lot of things to attend, and studying, and service, and work,” he said. “It’s easy to start out with great motives, but then to stay the whole time. We think Thomas has that desire and passion to stay with us and to really add a lot to the program.”

The Knoxville Fellows’ main mission is to help the inner city.

Davis moved to inner city Knoxville after his seventh grade year in school. His father is African-American and his mother is Caucasian. Davis’s mother raised him after his parents separated.

Davis said he felt like he “became a statistic” of African-American fathers not being in their sons’ lives.

Davis said his mom was always there though.

“She was my angel,” Davis said.

Davis mother, Sandy Knight, is a registered nurse. They developed a very close relationship through the years.

“I’m a momma’s boy,” he said.

When Davis was accepted into the Fellows program, Knight said she was “so excited and proud of him, because it’s a big accomplishment for him to be able to graduate from school and then go on to better his education.”

Having grown up in the inner city, Davis  said he feels his experiences will help him better understand the needs of those in similar circumstances. The Fellows program should give him this chance.

“What we hope will happen, is that Thomas will go back and he will be known by the people that he grew up with and that he can go and tell them the experience that he has gone through in our program and hopefully create an excitement in that community for more people to get involved,” Khulman said.

Davis said he believes the move into inner city Knoxville helped mold who he is today.

“I am able to see what life is made for now,” he said.

Knight said she has seen the growth Davis has experienced while at Johnson.

“When he initially began school he was on the younger side,” Knight said. “As school went on, and him being at Johnson, he learned more about Christ and how to let himself go and believe and have faith that pushed him along through all these years.”

Fourteen students participate in the Knoxville Fellows each year.

Caylee Carter, a 2016 graduate of JUTN, is currently in the program.

“We are looking for someone with a proven track record of success,” Khulman said. “We look for someone that has the academic capability to take our classes. We look for someone who will be an important part of the community.”

The program also offers mentors, prayer groups and other facilities that help the Fellows reach their full spiritual abilities.

“This will be a chance to learn about myself and be around other Christian people, like here at Johnson, but more interactive,” Davis Jr. said.

This is accomplished through a series of retreats, classes, and a whole bunch of different activities and opportunities.

“While Thomas is here we hope he will develop a love for our city, we hope he will learn more about who God created him to be, and we hope that he will know more of what God’s plan for his life is,” Khulman said. “The key is Thomas’ attitude. Thomas has a very positive attitude, he’s got a willingness.”

Davis said he feels blessed to have risen above his situation by meeting difficulties with endurance.

“My biggest passion that I have, my biggest gift that I’ve been blessed with by God, is resiliency,” Davis said. “I have been able to fight through a lot of things that I have been through, throughout my life.

“God blessed me, in choosing me to be able to get out of that situation [inner city life]. To go out and get my college degree and on to a masters’ program,” he added.

Knight said she is most excited to see her son succeed and be happy in life. She believes this program will help him in that.

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