Brooke Davis is the new director of diversity, equity and mental health services at Kenowa Public Schools. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet Your Administrator.
Kenowa Hills — After five years serving students and staff as a social worker at Zinser Elementary, Brooke Davis is the district’s new director of diversity, equity, and mental health services.
In the role, Davis’ will focus on how students’ lives outside of school influence their time spent in school. She will lead initiatives to help students of all ages, backgrounds and learning abilities feel comfortable in the classroom to discover their strengths and reach their full potential.
“Our district is being culturally responsive and living up to our mission to ‘cultivate and graduate globally competitive citizens.’ This means all students, not just the dominant class. I aim to give a voice to the students, staff and community regarding what they think is important,” said Davis, who has also served as coordinator for the district’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports and positive behavioral intervention.
Superintendent Jerry Hopkins praised Davis for her previous work in the district.
“We have witnessed Brooke live out her passion for mental health, diversity, belonging and inclusion at Kenowa Hills and there is no one better suited to hit the ground running in this newly created role,” Hopkins said.
Why her role matters
Davis said discussion and action surrounding diversity and inclusion cannot be separated from mental health. “As we begin to build sustainable programs, we have to foster both ideas for our students, staff and community to be prosperous and healthy,” Davis said. “Mental health is about feeling connected; it includes our social, emotional and psychological well-being. Our need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance is vital to who we are.”
“I aim to give a voice to the students, staff, and community regarding what they think is important.”— Brooke Davis
As students spread the majority of their days in school, Davis plans to utilize her new role to create inclusive educational environments.
“Having an environment where you can thrive by being your true self is the foundation … It is more important now than ever to provide them with a process that helps them be successful when they leave us,” Davis said.
Learn more about Brooke Davis in the following excerpts from her interview with SNN.
Previous positions held in education:
“I always describe my career in education to people as ‘I was born in Kelloggsville, and raised in Wyoming.’ I was a social worker/school counselor in the smaller Kelloggsville district before moving on to Wyoming (Public) Schools, where I grew my focus on cultural leadership and spent time coaching volleyball. I decided I wanted to eventually transition to part-time behavior consulting for different districts, including Kenowa Hills.”
“I received my bachelor of communication arts from Aquinas College and my master’s in social work from Grand Valley State University. My time at Aquinas is really the roots of when I found myself and discovered what I wanted to do with my life. I worked at St. John’s Residential Program while I earned my masters and felt like I got the attention I needed to excel, alongside diverse educators and mentors.”
“I come from a small family; it’s just my dad, mom and me. I’m very much a daddy’s girl. My mom would always say I’m ‘a force to be reckoned with’ and from an early age, I know I was passionate about social justice and it was important for me to make my mark.
I am not married, but I have a brother who is also a teacher, one niece heading off to college and I get to spoil my best friend’s three kids. I love how my life has turned out, and I have no regrets.”
Hobbies and interests:
“On the weekends, I work at Pine Rest and facilitate entrepreneurial classes in Grand Rapids. I always tell people working is my stress relief. Connecting with my friends is also important and I find the time to maintain my connections.
This year, I am celebrating 10 years as a member of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Phi Rho Zeta Grand Rapids Chapter. We do a lot of work in the community, such as work with youth virtually, and hosting a Blue Table Talk speakers series with African American presenters. Additionally, I chair our domestic violence efforts. This has been a huge part of my life and I feel constantly loved and taken care of by my sisters. It fulfills me and I don’t ever feel like I’m alone.”
The biggest lesson you have learned from students is…
Relationships matter. My role in their lives matters, and we can’t take that lightly. As educators, we are an important part of their development.
The biggest lesson you have learned from your new role is..
I am a very driven person, so I have to keep myself grounded in what is realistic. My goal is to create access for students to receive mental health care, by breaking down barriers of finance and stigma. My job is all about acknowledging who students are and what they need, putting them first and making them feel like they’re part of the process.
Favorite memory from Kenowa Hills:
“At Zinser, I celebrated my birthday month every year, like a national holiday, and the students and staff joined in celebrating with me. Kids love celebrations and having fun, and it felt so authentic that they all invested in me and accepted me; I felt part of a family.”
Reflections on starting a new position during the pandemic:
“When we went online for the pandemic, we had already established a district mental health team, so we just kind of fell into place to be preventive, not reactive. Equity issues became glaring with everything going on outside of school, so I leaned into the district diversity team. I strive to be an advocate for students and administrators and I firmly believe that diversity, belonging, equity, and inclusion and mental health cannot be separate. Mental health is about feeling connected in an equitable and inclusive environment where students can thrive by being their true selves.”
If you walked into your new school building to theme music by a favorite artist or band, what would the song be? “Oh, easy! The Wonder Women theme song. I love Linda Carter as Wonder Woman with her lasso of truth. She’s like me! I gotta save the world!