Lexis Pearson was a self-described troublemaker when she was in seventh grade. Her poor choices led her to the office of social worker Brooke Davis.
But by her junior year, Pearson had turned herself around to the point of being named an Alpha Wolf 11, a character recognition from her high school for being an “11 on a scale of 10” in the areas of kindness, compassion and graciousness.
She said the role Davis played in helping her change was huge. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have graduated high school,” Pearson said. “She was that little bit of motivation I needed; actually she was a lot of motivation.”
Pearson, who graduated from Wyoming High School in the spring, is one of many students Davis has impacted over the years as a school social worker. Now splitting time between Kelloggsville and Kenowa Hills public schools — and, on top of that, providing consulting services for educators — Davis’ presence in the lives of young people, like Lexis, is having a wider impact.
Fellow educators say that what Davis does, for any student, in any way they can benefit, is steer them in the right direction. She offers a listening ear, helping hand, sage advice or just information to get them where they need to go.
Spreading Her Influence
Davis started her career as a counselor in Kelloggsville in 2004. She has returned to the district part-time as a social worker and trainer at 54th Street Academy, which serves students from several Kent County districts. She also works part-time as a social worker at Alpine and Zinser Elementary schools, in Kenowa Hills.
“Kelloggsville is so excited to have Brooke Davis back,” said Assistant Superintendent Tammy Savage. “Brooke has such a passion for working with students, staff and families and this comes through in everything she does. … Having Brooke back is just like finding a long-lost friend or relative; they have come home and everyone’s life is better because of it.”
When she’s not working with students, Davis is training staff members in various districts through her company, BTD Consulting, on how to reduce suspensions in their buildings. (Not one to shy away from work, she also works retail at Younkers department store.)
She said her roles are about being a servant leader in every aspect of her life. “You always have more to give,” Davis said. “I love being back at Kelloggsville because it gives me the opportunity to work with economically disadvantaged and culturally diverse students. It is really hitting that passion that I have.”
Her passion developed over time. Davis, originally from Detroit, received her bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Aquinas College. “I thought I was going to be a speaker and urban planner,” she said.
But when she began working at St. John’s Home (now D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s), which offered residential care for foster children, she fell in love with the work. She decided to return to Grand Valley State University for a master’s in social work. At St. John’s, she connected with a Kelloggsville principal who hired her to work as a counselor. Over the next five years she worked at the elementary and middle school levels there, then for 11 years at Wyoming Public Schools at the elementary and secondary levels.
“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have graduated high school,” – Lexis Pearson, Wyoming High School grad
Last year she joined the staff at Kenowa Hills and started her consulting firm to work with principals, superintendents and teachers to set up systems concerning student behavior, and to teach them how to look at data to address behavior.
Many students have a hard time re-acclimating to school after they are suspended, she said, which puts them at a higher risk for dropping out. “The nice thing about Kelloggsville is we still have an alternative program that really seeks to get those students into school, and to know the barriers that keep them from learning in a traditional program. It helps them overcome those barriers so they can transition back into a traditional program.”
The Ability to Connect
Davis said she was raised by good role models, but can relate to students with whom she works. Her parents emphasized education and demonstrated a great work ethic. Still, “I was a little tough as a kid — with really no reason to be be tough — but I was very verbose. I had two parents that loved me, and a great education, but coming from the city of Detroit, I want kids to have those same things that I had.”
At Kenowa, Davis works with the elementary students and does it well, said Alpine Elementary Principal Jason Snyder. “She is phenomenal,” he said. “The thing with Brooke is she has a passion for kids that is unmatched.”
She steps up to meet the needs of every child she works with, going “above and beyond” to make sure that child is successful. “She’s inspiring to me and pushes me to be a better leader,” Snyder said.
‘Little, Life-Changing Things’
Davis said she loves her jobs because she wants to serve others, to share knowledge and resources. That’s the “why” of it: “If you call me and I have it, I’m going to give it you,” she said.
That mentality is what made the difference for Lexis Pearson, the Wyoming grad who now is a certified nursing assistant and works in a nursing home. “To repay Brooke, I would have to give her the world,” she said.
Davis showed her possibilities. Pearson said she had a rocky life at home and was looking at the future through a narrow lens. “I grew up in a rough neighborhood. For me to see an African-American woman who was this successful … She is my inspiration.”
Brooke was just always present, she said. “When trouble came to find me, she was there to redirect me and let me know that the choices I was making were poor.
“It was the little things that counted,” she added. “Little things that, for me, were life changing.”