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Scholarship helps Dillard University student achieve goals at age 63

LaVerne Robertson Davis is completing her education with the help of Allstate and radio personality Tom Joyner

LaVerne Robertson Davis starts her day with the early risers.

At 4 a.m., Davis begins her routine of preparing for the long day ahead. The 63-year-old mother of two and grandmother of seven takes her grandchildren to school before making her way to Dillard University — one of three historically black universities in New Orleans — where she is enrolled as a nontraditional student majoring in vocal performance. The end of August marked the start of Davis’ senior year, and the 10 courses in her curriculum are a balancing act in itself.

Through this journey, Davis has learned there’s nothing she can’t handle, and balancing work and school is a challenge she gladly accepts. Forty-two years after attending college for the first time, but failing to graduate, Davis is determined to earn her degree from Dillard with help from Allstate and the Tom Joyner Foundation’s Quotes For Education (QFE) program.

For each insurance quote Allstate gives, $10 is donated to the Tom Joyner Foundation scholarship fund, which supports historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) by providing financial assistance.

Davis applied for the scholarship in late 2014 and was surprised to learn she was the recipient when she attempted to pay a balance that had already been taken care of. Besides earning the $2,000 scholarship, Davis was selected as one of the 2016 QFE student ambassadors through a special interview process.

“I’ve taken on the responsibility of getting the word out and letting young people know this program is available,” Davis said. “When I initially mentioned to students that I had received the scholarship, they didn’t know about it. I want to spread the word and make sure they know this is available and it’s not difficult, you just have to apply. “

The scholarship plays a key role in Davis’ collegiate career. With its help, Davis is completing a journey that is long overdue.

After graduating from high school in the 1970s, Davis began taking courses at the University of New Orleans. Shortly after enrolling, Davis realized the coursework and atmosphere were a bit much to handle. She struggled to apply herself.

“I was rather young, the youngest person in my graduating [high school] class, so therefore the maturity level wasn’t really there for me to be going to college in the first place,” Davis said. “I didn’t do as well as I should have.”

After leaving the university, Davis got married and started a family. She found work in the legal field, taking on jobs anywhere from legal secretary to law office manager. As successful as those jobs were, Davis still longed to complete her education and remain true to her passion for music.

“I always had that nagging regret that I did not graduate college and that I did not attend an HBCU,” Davis said. “Both of my parents attended Dillard University right out of high school, but because of finances, neither one of them graduated.”

Once the time was right, Davis didn’t hesitate to enroll in courses. She began her studies at Delgado Community College in New Orleans before enrolling at Dillard.

At first, she felt a little out of place as the oldest person in her classes, Davis said, but quickly established friendly relationships with her classmates, and the loving, familial atmosphere made it easier to attend Dillard. During her time there, Davis has joined the university’s concert choir and will serve as its president during the school year. After graduation, she hopes to be able to use her degree to work more with the young people in her community through music, or to become a teacher and offer private piano lessons.

Davis has made it her mission to not only spread the word to other college students, but to also set an example that her family can be proud of, especially her grandchildren.

“I think about the fact that my parents attended [Dillard] and they couldn’t complete their education because of finances and that I returned after all this time,” Davis said. “My father is deceased now, but he was a music major when he attended Dillard. I’m there now and studying music. I’ve always intended to go back to school and now I’m completing it. I can see myself graduating in May of next year. I’m going to be an example for my grandkids, and that’s the most rewarding part.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.